THE CALAMITY

Lawsuit Filed Against WHEC TV

Statement Regarding The Lawsuit...

"The decision to file a lawsuit against the station was a difficult one.  However, we felt it was a necessary one considering the damage done to my reputation, career and the future livelihood of our family.  I believe this could have been avoided if the station had shown any real effort to work with us towards a resolution."   

"This lawsuit is necessary, not just for the defense of myself and family, but for the next person who comes into a similar circumstance.  In my opinion, injustice that goes unaccounted for only breeds more injustice.  Someone has to stand up in order for it to stop."

Media Interviews

“Imagine a single event so chaotic, yet so powerful it immediately changed the course of your life….”


Being an on-air meteorologist, Jeremy is accustomed to presenting unscripted and sometimes lengthy monologues, as was the case when he was reporting live on Friday January 4th, 2019, speaking in reference to a viewer submitted photo taken that afternoon at the nearby Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Park. 

Although Jeremy had uttered the words "Dr. Martin Luther King Junior" hundreds if not thousands of times before during his nearly 20 year broadcast career without incident, on this particular occasion, he jumbled his words into an obvious mispronunciation.  Not uncommon for any on-air personalities, scripted or not.  After quickly correcting himself, he moved on.

That moment, the moment a common mistake, that initially went unheard, but later became a "calamity" of sorts, causing such immediate divisions and drawing such powerful reactions...

You see, no one heard anything – initially. Then a viewer the following day, ‘heard’ something. Something they decided was both intentional and offensive. Instead of garbled words that had been the utterance of sounds, they heard a racial slur. And they posted a short video clip onto Facebook that included a slanderous and false narrative that grossly mischaracterized Jeremy and the station. From there a mob of social media users became outraged at this narrative and sent the clip pinging around the internet contending a simple verbal stumble was instead an intentional racist statement made against the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  And the social mob along with the help of certain local political figures demanded not an investigation, but an immediate conviction and sentence... and unfortunately they got it. 

48 hours after the moment it occurred and less than 12 hours after Jeremy and the station became aware of it, Jeremy’s employment was terminated. The sentence was handed down and carried out without an utterance of explanation or defense – not even a rational review of the evidence. Jeremy was prosecuted and his sentence executed.  Jeremy immediately asked to apologize for the blunder as soon as he understood how it had been interpreted by some, yet he was silenced by the station. 

And if the private conviction wasn’t enough, the Rochester Mayor, Lovely Warren, publicly demanded justice in the form of Jeremy’s immediate and unwavering termination. Whether she influenced the decision, she readily got what she wanted.

That moment, these events, have changed Jeremy’s career path and life, but they have not defined him.  Both Jeremy and his family believe in a God who is much bigger and much stronger.  HE is their ultimate defender, and the Kappell's know HE has a greater plan for the them.  

Jeremy and Lisa pray for others who have been harmed by injustices such as the one they've experienced.  For the sake of our kids and future generations, they hold out hope that a lesson can be learned here so that we could live in a world where grace would be offered and not an immediate conviction when mistakes are made.

For God knows the plans He has for us..

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 And so it is that Jeremy and Lisa have found themselves following a different path than they expected. Instead of being a television meteorologist, Jeremy and Lisa have announced the formation of WxLIVE at 945, an online weather/talk program that allows them to continue to share his passion for weather while ALSO sharing their personal lives and the journey that God has them on. You can tune into their Facebook Live broadcasts, be informed and engage as they open their home to yours. Welcome to the WxLive family!



A Conversation with a Meteorologist in the Middle of a "Racial" Storm


This morning I woke up with something on my mind so I often write in the quiet hours before the family awakens. Recently, a television meteorologist named Jeremy Kappell lost his job for allegedly uttering a racial slur. Was this a slip of the tongue or a deliberate racial prank involving one of the nation's most important and historic figures, Dr. Martin Luther King? To be honest, I am struggling to understand why Jeremy would basically commit career suicide by deliberately saying a racial slur on television.  Al Roker defended Kappell, and Dr. King's daughter Bernice has also questioned Kappell being fired. However, enough people were offended that we have to deal with this and not sweep it under the rug. To be crystal clear,  the term at the center of the controversy is highly offensive and has been used by many racially-insensitive people or groups. I watched the video and have done enough broadcast work to know that verbal slip-ups happen. TV meteorologists, unlike other newscasters, are unscripted and ad-lib for a living. As we approach Dr. King's holiday, I reached out to Jeremy Kappell for a candid conversation about the controversy and race. I present his perspective for you to evaluate for yourself. I am not writing to change your viewpoint. However, as an African-American scientist within this field, I do see this as a teachable moment on race and an opportunity to highlight some very real issues.

Marshall Shepherd: My gut sense is this was a slip of tongue. You've acknowledged that. I believe you based on previous interactions with you. What do you say to people that saw it is offensive?

Jeremy Kappell: First, I want to reiterate the apology I've made to ANYONE who may have been offended by my unintentional verbal blunder. I've had people reach out to me to say you don't have anything to apologize for and while I appreciated the support in those responses, they are wrong. I do have something to apologize for. It's like when you are driving and you get into an accident. Say you rear end someone. You didn't intend to hit someone with your car. It was an accident, but you still hit someone with your car. So for anyone I accidentally hurt, I am sorry.

Marshall Shepherd: Many of have said, even if this was a mistake,  it rolled off so naturally that you likely have said this before. How do you respond to that?

Jeremy Kappell: That is just plain wrong thinking. We are all shaped by our environments and our personal experiences. Essentially, whether we want to admit it our not, we all have inherent biases through which we see the world. We are ALL biased and to some degree prejudiced by the lens of beliefs that may be far from the truth. For those that heard "that word", I think it speaks more to the biases of the listener than it does from those who made the verbal stumble. Keep in mind, this exact same stumble over the words "Dr. Martin Luther King Junior" have been made at least three times on air over the last 15 years. There's a reason for that. Something I've learned since, is a term known as a "spoonerism". This is the combining of two words into one. In this case, as in the other three cases mentioned, I made accidentally combined the words "King + Junior". Now had I completely the spoonerism, I would've arrived at "Kunior". Unfortunately for me, I stopped myself halfway through before correcting to "King Junior." It was a rather unfortunate, and now costly mistake to me and my family.

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate, was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS) and is Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program