CLAIMS: Former KTBS-TV presenter Rhonda Lee
A BLACK TV presenter claims she was fired from her job after asking her bosses to investigate racially-motivated remarks made about her on the station's Facebook page.
KTBS-TV's Rhonda Lee, who hit back when a viewer said her short Afro hair resembled that of a cancer patient, reported the exchange to her bosses, but was given her marching orders.
She claims her employers said she had "violated" the station's policy in her response.
A viewer, identified as Emmitt Vascocu, took to the social networking site on October 1 writing: "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. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq)."
Lee, who presents the weather on the US news station, responded: "Hello Emmitt--I am 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. I'm a non-smoking, 5'3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I'm in perfectly healthy physical condition.
"I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn't grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don't find it necessary. I'm very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn't a reason to not achieve their goals.
"Conforming to one standard isn't what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
"Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching."
However, when Lee presented Vascocu's distressing post to station bosses at KTBS-TV, she found herself out of work the following week.
She told Journal-isms: "I was the one who brought it to their attention after they let it fester on the page for 6 days, but was then chastised for responding at all. I sent a screen grab to my boss via e-mail telling them that I'm ok with the anti-Rhonda commentary sometimes, but what has been posted at the time was . . . racist, and I asked them to please support me in removing the ones that didn't encourage thoughtful, respectful and civil discourse on our FB page. I never got a reply, only punished. To this day the posts are still there."
The 37-year-old claims that she was called into a meeting with her news director days after the confrontation and told that "there were a few unclear things in the policy" that she should be aware of.
They informed her that she would be called into a meeting with the station's general manager to discuss further the following week.
Instead, she says there was no meeting and claims she was unceremoniously fired. She has since had a meeting with the stations bosses, but has not been reinstated even though the policy she allegedly "violated" was not written down.
She said: "So when I asked what rule did I break, there isn't anything to point to."
Adding: "Race has been the issue with me since I started. That much is VERY true. Weather is an older white boy business and arms have been less than open for a young black girl -- a polar opposite.
"As reported I've had more problems here in the south than I have anywhere else in my 25+ years in the business. Perhaps there is a pattern, but I am a glutton for punishment (ha, ha), and I want what I deserve as any professional would so if I have to fight for it I will."