A former anchorwoman in one of the country’s major markets has sued the station that fired her over what’s being called a “racially loaded” Facebook post. The lawsuit by Wendy Bell alleges that WTAE-TV, the Hearst Television-owned ABC affiliate in Pittsburgh, would not have fired her over the post if she were black, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
“WTAE fired Bell in March after she wrote a post on her WTAE-sponsored account that speculated on the race and family background of the suspects who killed five people and an unborn child in Wilkinsburg, saying how upset the killings made her and contrasting her idea of the suspects with a black busboy she and her family encountered later,” the paper reports. “The post — and WTAE’s eventual reaction — caused a firestorm that garnered national attention, with Western Pennsylvanians arguing over whether it was racist, insensitive or merely the longtime, Emmy-winning anchor using her freedom of speech to speak her mind.”
Bell’s federal lawsuit was filed Monday in Pittsburgh. Her attorney, Samuel J. Cordes, said the station violated the Federal Civil Rights Act when it fired Bell. Cordes said after the filing: “Had an African-American journalist said the same thing, it wouldn’t have generated the same quote-outcry-unquote. What she said was benign at best. President Obama has said similar things.”
Bell’s original post was later edited, and then deleted. According to the paper, the original post read, in part: “You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday. … They are young black men, likely teens or in their early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs.”
“In the same post, she said she was given ‘hope’ by a hard-working black busboy at a SouthSide Works restaurant who ‘moved like a dancer with a satisfied smile on his face. … He’s going to make it,'” the report adds.