A Pittsburgh TV station cut ties with one of its longtime anchorwomen on Wednesday over a controversial Facebook post that many consider racist.
Wendy Bell, who had been with WTAE for 18 years, had speculated about the likely profiles of the gunmen who killed five adults and an unborn baby at a barbeque in Wilkinsburg, Pa., on March 9.
“You needn't be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday. I will tell you they live within 5 miles of Franklin Avenue and Ardmore Boulevard and have been hiding out since in a home likely much closer to that backyard patio than anyone thinks,” she wrote on Facebook. “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. These boys have been in the system before. They’ve grown up there. They know the police. They’ve been arrested.”
A spokesman for WTAE’s parent company, Hearst Television, emailed the following statement to Yahoo News but declined to comment further:
“WTAE has ended its relationship with anchor Wendy Bell. Wendy’s recent comments on a WTAE Facebook page were inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.”
Many people were offended by the Emmy-winning newswoman’s post, and characterized the views she expressed as racist and condescending. Her employer agreed.
On March 24, WTAE officially apologized for her words and sympathized with the viewers who took offense to them.
“Wendy has since apologized for what she wrote and acknowledged it was insensitive. Wendy is sorry for the words she chose, and so are we. It was an egregious lack of judgment,” WTAE President and General Manager Charles W. Welfertz III said on behalf of the editorial board. “WTAE regrets it happened and is committed to making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
He said WTAE would take appropriate action after a comprehensive examination of the incident.
I have removed a post that I initially placed here on Monday. I sincerely apologize for that post about the... https://t.co/SPdfljNykO
— Wendy Bell (@WendyBellWTAE) March 23, 2016
On the day of her dismissal, Bell told the Associated Press that she did not get a “fair shake” and that the story was about “African-Americans being killed by other African-Americans” — it was not about her.
“What matters is what’s going on in America, and it is the death of black people in this country,” she said to the wire service. “I live next to three war-torn communities in the city of Pittsburgh, that I love dearly. My stories, they struck a nerve. They touched people, but it’s not enough. More needs to be done. The problem needs to be addressed.”
Authorities have not made any arrests or publicly identified any suspects in the shooting.
Bell’s WTAE Facebook page has been deleted, and her bio has been removed from the station’s website.
According to her now-deleted bio, Bell is originally from Calabasas, Calif., has a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and had worked for WTAE since September 1998.