The Rhonda Lee Story: Meteorologist Fired for Defending Natural Hair on Facebook
This is all kinds of wrong. Meteorologist Rhonda A. Lee is drawing tons of attention after being discarded over a Facebook comment about her natural hair.
Lee, an African-American meteorologist at ABC affiliate KTBS-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, claims she was fired for responding to a racially charged post blasting her short do.
The exchange took place in October. A viewer named Emmitt Vascocu left a comment on the KTBS Facebook page blasting Lee’s appearance: “The black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that”
Lee’s response followed shortly:
“Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals. Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that. Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”
Vascocu replied that Lee was right but “this world has . . . certain standerd [SP]. if youve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?. . .”
Miss Lee’s response is relatively innocuous compared to what most of us would’ve said. I know it would’ve taken every fiber in my body to remain that graceful and classy. But it wasn’t classy enough for Lee’s employers. KTBS fired her after that exchange. Even more perplexing, KTBS couldn’t cite a valid reason for her termination. She told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien that the company could not reference a documented rule that she violated.
“I have yet to see this policy,” Lee told CNN. “Upon my termination I asked, ‘Could I see it?’ and I was told, ‘No.’ I pled for my job again just this past Friday and asked to see the policy and was told that there isn’t anything written down.”
In the wake of the PR fallout, KTBS-TV swiftly issued the following statement citing the company’s social media policy:
“Typically this station does not comment on personnel matters, but due to the publicity and interest about this issue, the station has included the following statement.
On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated violation of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country.
Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow.
Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.”
The Huffington Post obtained a copy of the letter in question and it clearly spells out the company’s “do nothing” social media policy, which you can see below.
KTBS-TV, you’re so wrong on this one. So wrong. Word has it that Lee is contemplating a lawsuit, so I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this story.