A newscaster fired three months ago for a racially insensitive Facebook post after a shooting is now suing her former employer, claiming she was terminated because she is white.
Wendy Bell, a former anchor for WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, covered a March 9mass shooting at a backyard barbecue that left four people dead and six injured in Wilkinsburg, a predominantly black borough just outside Pittsburgh.
Two weeks later, police had not yet released names or descriptions of suspects, nor had they made any arrests, but Bell took to her professional Facebook page alleging the crime had been carried out by young black men.
— Beverly Simcic (@BeverlySimcic) April 1, 2016
“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday,” Bell wrote in the Facbook post that was later deleted.”… They are young black men, likely in their 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.”
Bell’s comments immediately began circulating the internet, critics decrying the veteran journalist as being racist and demeaning, accusing her of having a white savior complex.
Two days later, Bell deleted her post. A week after that, the station fired its veteran anchor.
But Bell isn’t going quietly.
On Monday, the former anchor’s attorney filed afederal lawsuiton her behalf claiming that she was fired because she was white. If she was black, her post wouldn’t have been seen as grounds for termination.
“Had an African-American journalist said the same thing, it wouldn’t have generated the same quote-outcry-unquote,” her attorney, Sam Cordes,told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “What she said was benign at best. President Obama has said similar things.”
The lawsuit alleges that WTAE-TV, of Hearst Television, violatedthe Civil Rights Act when it terminated Bell, who hadjoined the station in 1998.
“Had Ms. Bell written the same comments about white criminal suspects or had her race not been white, Defendant would not have fired her, much less disciplined her,” the suit claims, pointing to instances in which the station had downplayed other instances of employees’misconduct because of their race or gender.
Bell wants her job reinstated and to be compensated for backpay and attorney fees.
Her attorney told thePittsburgh Post-Gazettethat his client is looking for a job, but is facing a noncompete clause in her contract with WTAE-TVthat ends on March 30, 2017.