This March, Wendy Bell, an anchorwoman at Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV, was fired for posting a rather bizarre missive to her Facebook page, in which she decided to go all Criminal Minds and whip herself up a profile of the type of people she thought probably committed a recent crime. Her "profile" determined that the suspects were "young black men" with terrible fathers and whatnot.

“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday. … 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."

Then, based on the thing she just made up, Bell went on a weird tangent about how there is hope for the black community after all, because she saw a bus boy who had a lot of rhythm and was a real hard worker.

But there is HOPE. and Joe and I caught a glimpse of it Saturday night. A young, African American teen hustling like nobody’s business at a restaurant we took the boys to over at the Southside Works. This child stacked heavy glass glasses 10 high and carried three teetering towers of them in one hand with plates puled high in the other. He wiped off the tables. Tended to the chairs. Got down on his hands and knees to pick up the scraps that had fallen to the floor. And he did all this with a rhythm like a dancer with a satisfied smile on his face. And I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’s going to Make it... “I wonder how long it has been since someone told him he was special.”

Pretty much everyone agreed that this was a very weird and racist thing to do, and Bell was fired from her job at WTAE-TV, because news anchors are generally supposed to appear to be trustworthy and not like jerks. It's part of the job, quite honestly. Heck! It is even part of my job! If I started being really horrible on Twitter or something for some reason -- so horrible that no one wanted to read this site because I was such a jerk -- it would probably make sense to fire me. Because making people not want to read a site I work at is basically the opposite of my job. Just as making WTAE-TV a television station that people do not want to watch is the opposite of what Wendy Bell's job is.

But Wendy Bell doesn't see it that way! She is now filing a racial discrimination lawsuit against Hearst Stations, requesting reinstatement and claiming that she was not fired for representing her station poorly and making people not want to watch it, but rather for being WHITE.


Yeah, so her thinking on this is that if she had been a black person saying the same thing, no one would have thought she was racist and she would have been allowed to go on her merry way with no controversy whatsoever. Her lawyer, Sam Cordes, who filed the suit on her behalf, explained “But for her being the race that she is, the decision would have been very different... The comment was not intrinsically racially pejorative. It was interpreted to be that way.”

This ignores a very important rule of the journamalism, and also life -- consider the source! For instance, it would be a very different thing for me, a white person, to say "Man, white people are the worst" than were I to say the same about black people. Obviously. Also, I could say I'm a hideous monster who will probably die alone and be eaten by cats, but if someone else were to say that about me, it would be pretty mean! If I were to say "I am the Queen of England" it would sound bonkers, but if Queen Elizabeth were to say that, it would sound fairly reasonable! Things sound different when they are said by different people.

Bell is also filing another suit for gender discrimination, saying that several male on-air personalities did things just as bad as she did, but did not get fired or otherwise disciplined. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that this "included one man who made lewd comments to interns, causing the newsroom internship program to end, and another who was arrested for propositioning an undercover police officer."

Now, intern guy should for sure be fired, no question about that. Someone should look into that, as that is messed up. The propositioner? Eh, who cares? It's weird that sex work is still illegal anyway. But I'm gonna say -- AS AN OFFICIAL, REGISTERED FEMINIST PERSON -- that the difference between Ms. Bell's action and the actions of other on-air personalities is not so much that she is a woman, but that her comments caused a national shit-show and she made the station look real bad. She almost definitely would not have been fired for saying those comments in private, directly to her bosses. Heck! They probably would have smiled and nodded at her, and had literally no idea that it was a thing people would think was racist. However, she did make her comments public, and things just tend to move a little faster when you are a national embarrassment.

The Post-Gazette reports that "in addition to reinstatement, Ms. Bell is also asking for back pay, attorney fees and that Hearst be permanently enjoined from discriminating or retaliating against her."

That seems like a thing that will happen.

[Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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