Former Pittsburgh news anchor Wendy Bell claims that if she were Black, she would not have been terminated for her comments. (Photo Courtesy WTAE)
A White Pittsburgh news anchor filed a federal lawsuit against her former employer, WTAE and Hearst Stations after being fired for posting controversial comments on the company’s Facebook page. She now believes, according to her lawsuit, that she was the victim of racial discrimination, and that if she were Black, she would not have been terminated.
Wendy Bell, the former news anchor, came under fire this March after a Facebook post made two weeks after a mass shooting that claimed the lives of five Black adults, and an unborn child in Wilkinsburg, Pa. Bell wrote in part: “You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts. 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. They know the police. They’ve been arrested.”
Immediately after the post, which was subsequently taken down, Bell and the station were hit with an online backlash.
“This is the perfect example of back-patting, well-meaning White obliviousness,” said
Damon Young, a Black Pittsburgh native, whose commentary on Bell’s statements, made on his blog VerySmartBrothas.com, has drawn nearly 200,000 views, according to The Associated Press.
According to news reports, WTAE’s management held a meeting with the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation to discuss Bell’s actions and issues of racial diversity on March 30. And, on that same day, according to Bell’s lawsuit, she was terminated. Neither Bell’s attorney, the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation or WTAE responded to AFRO inquiries by press time.
“These are my neighbors, and these are my friends,” Bell told The Associated Press in April of the motivation behind her statements. “The story is we have a problem: African-Americans being killed by other African-Americans. I know it, and it makes me sick.”
In the lawsuit, Bell’s lawyer challenges WTAE’s statement that Ms. Bell’s posts violated the company’s ethics. According to the lawsuit, Bell said that she was told that her comments on the Facebook page were “inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Bell’s lawyer claims that “the decision would have been very different,” had she not been White. In the lawsuit, Bell is also asking for attorney fees, back pay and that Hearst be permanently enjoined from discriminating or retaliating against her.
On June 23, police arrested Cheron Shelton, 29, and Robert Thomas, 27, as suspects in the March 9 shooting, according to The Associated Press. The African-American men were in jail on unrelated charges when they allegedly told another inmate that they had perpetrated the shooting in retaliation for the 2013 slaying of a friend, authorities said.