Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fired Wtae Anchor Bell Files Suit for Reinstatement Claims Dismissal Was Racial Discrimination

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fired Wtae Anchor Bell Files Suit for Reinstatement Claims Dismissal Was Racial Discrimination

Article excerpt

If former WTAE news anchor Wendy Bell were black, her attorney said, she would not have been fired for controversial comments she posted on Facebook about the mass shooting in Wilkinsburg.

Sam Cordes made the comment Monday - the same day he filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf. Ms. Bell claims race discrimination against Hearst Stations and is seeking reinstatement.

"But for her being the race that she is, the decision would have been very different," Mr. Cordes said. "The comment was not intrinsically racially pejorative. It was interpreted to be that way."

Neither the general manager at WTAE nor a spokesman for Hearst could be immediately reached.

Two weeks after the March 9 shooting in Wilkinsburg that killed six people, Ms. Bell wrote on WTAE's Facebook page: "you needn't be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago ... they are young black men, likely in their teens or early 20s."

Later in the same post, she wrote about a young African-American employee at a South Side restaurant, talking about the rhythm in his step as he worked and wrote, "I wonder how long it has been since someone told him he was special."

The post was immediately divisive and controversial. Many called for Ms. Bell to be fired, and others praised her for being unafraid to speak what she felt.

However, according to the lawsuit, it wasn't until March 30, the same day as a meeting with the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation to discuss Ms. Bell and issues of racial diversity, that she was terminated. She was told that her comments on the Facebook page were "inconsistent with the company's ethics and journalistic standards."

The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation said at no time did the organization suggest or ask for Ms. Bell to be fired.

Mr. Cordes challenges WTAE's statement that Ms. Bell's post violated the company's ethics, noting in the complaint that two other high-profile on-air personalities at WTAE committed acts that were "at least as egregious" as Ms. …

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