Rhonda Lee, a meteorologist at KTBS, a family-owned ABC-affiliated TV station in Shreveport, Louisiana, was fired after responding on the station’s Facebook page to a negative comment about her hair.
Thomas Roberts and Melissa Harris-Perry spoke with Lee about the incident.
Frankly, her response was more than nice — mine would not have been so cordial!
What do you think? Justified? Or should she sue them?
Unedited transcript via MSNBC:
>> lee, a meteorologist fired after responding to a rationally charged comment on her tv station’s facebook page. a viewer posted a comment saying the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. i’m not sure if she’s a cancer patient. what about letting a male have waist long hairdo the news, about what that? later, rhonda responded saying i’m the black lady to which you are referring. i’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. and no, i don’t have cancer. it is it about what being american is about. i hope you can embrace that. she joins me like from shreveport. joining us sound on is melissa harris- perry, host of nbc’s melissa harris- perry show. rhonda lee, your response is reasonable and perhaps kind and thanked them. explain, why did the explanation fire you. did they explain it properly is? was it just about this response issue?
>> well, initially, i was — i actually brought are that particular comment to the attention of management. i sent them a screen scrap at the time, and i told my manager, randy, at the time, well, you know, it seems like, i’m okay with not everybody liking me. that’s fine. but a lot of our comments as of late have come across more racist than anything. so i would like to help with getting a policy together so that we can, one, block offensive posts like this. and two, maybe start a good dialogue for educating people and getting a good discourse, going on the web. so then the next few days after that, i was called into our general manager’s office, and i was told that while we got lucky this time. and i got a little confused at first. i’m like, lucky, what do you mean? apparently according to the gm, it could have gone much worse. it could have gotten much more of ugly. so we got really lucky. he told me, next time if there’s a controversial post like this, what i need to do is thank the viewer and then bring it to the attention of management, and they would do something about it.
>> you did go — you thanked viewer within that statement. i want to get into the wtbs. saying on november 12th, wtbs dismissed two employees for repeated violation of station’s written procedure. miss rhonda lee was let go and warned several times if her behavior continued. were you warned about some type of ongoing behavior that was creating a file of marks against you that would lead up to termination?
>> no, sir, that first remark is the first time i’d ever replied, aside of giving a forecast. and the second one, the other reason — well, the main reason i was term theyinated was only the second time i ever replied in that way at all. the repeated part, i asked them during my termination, when was this repeated. there was the first time in october. and now there’s this time. that was it. that was all. i’ve never even seen that e-mail. as far as i know, as far as i can tell you, there is no written policy. that was my first and only time i’d seen that that.
>> melissa, i want to bring you in. when i first heard about this and rhonda, i was taken aback. i know you were, too. the evolution of black woman has been brought to the attention by people like chris rock.
>> is it signaling something to something? that you wear something, is that somehow signaling something? is that just working out our emotions? or is there something meaningful about as african-american women are trying to think true our self-preservation?
>> let’s talk about that the thinking through of the self-preservation. didn’t rhonda have a right to respond? the viewer asked questions, and rhonda provides answers.
>> i just want to be really clear the space we’re talking about african-american women and their hair is a very are fraught space. and the idea that rhonda’s employer was so aware to have a conversation about this. television, of course, is a visual media. we make all kinds of choices what we do and don’t wear. what we do with our hair. how much makeup we put on before we show up on television. the idea that there’s only one style of hair or one version of what would constitute beautiful or attractive hair has been an incredibly powerful tool for controlling african-american women self-presentation, in all kinds of spaces, especially corporate spaces. i’m not a fan of the chris rock film. one of the reasons is, i think it’s so important for black women to speak for themselves about their hair. so what i appreciate about what rhonda did here, in a very calm, consistent and i think educating manner, she spoke about what her hair is. what the choices were. the reasons for it. and then she thanks the viewer for having a response.
>> one thing i want to get out there, rhonda, jennifer livingston, an anchor was chastised by a viewer about her weight. she used an editorial to speak back. it was huge for her. why do you think they saw her in a different light, the moment to talk about you and your hair?
>> right. i honestly wish i had a good answer why. you know, as i said before, i felt like she got a platform and i got das boot. and i’m not clear why i couldn’t have used this as an educational moment. instead, it was very disheartening i will say i tried. i really did try. i don’t believe in having to chastise a viewer, saying bad viewer. clearly, the guy just didn’t know. i felt like if i was that a position to help him, i should be able to do so.
>> you know rhonda, i’m sorry this has happened to you. i think it’s the best thing that happened to you in the long run. who wants to work for a person like that. you can match melissa as she hosts the melissa harris- perry show right
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