A veteran Pennsylvania news anchor who was fired over a racially charged Facebook post said her aim was simply to highlight a problem.
Wendy Bell, a nearly 20-year veteran of Pittsburgh’s WTAE-TV, came under fire last month by critics calling her Facebook post about a shooting in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg “tone deaf” and “racist.” Now, Bell claims that her critics may have misunderstood her point.
“These are my neighbors, and these are my friends,” Bell recently told the Associated Press. “The story is we have a problem: African-Americans being killed by other African-Americans. I know it, and it makes me sick.”
She said she didn’t get a “fair shake” from the station, which ended its relationship with the anchor in weeks following the incident saying that Bell’s comments were “inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.”
In the more than 600-word post, uploaded on March 21, Bell began by writing that she was “hurting” as a result of the shooting, and offered a description of the gunmen.
“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday,” she wrote.
“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.”
At the time, Pittsburgh police had neither made any arrests nor publicly identified any suspects in the shooting that killed five people, including a pregnant woman, The New York Times reports.
Continuing the since-deleted post, Bell mentioned a young, African-American man “hustling like nobody’s business” at a restaurant where she ate with her family.
“I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He’s going to Make it,” she wrote, praising the man. “I wonder how long it had been since someone told him he was special.”
The veteran news anchor quickly received backlash, with many deeming her post insensitive, patronizing and even selfish. However, others said the journalist should not have been fired for voising her opinion.
Bell issued an apology, writing on her now-deleted Facebook account: “I now understand that some of the words I chose were insensitive and I could be viewed as racist. I regret offending anyone. I’m truly sorry.”
Bell joined the station in 1998 and has 21 regional Emmy Awards, according to the Times