OPINION: How a Single Errant Syllable can Cancel a Career
10 million. That’s roughly how many words or utterances that former WHEC-TV Rochester, New York weatherman, Jeremy Kappell, estimates he spoke on air during his decades-long career.
But it was just one of 10 million, one slip of the tongue, that was responsible for the death of Kappell’s career and reputation in January of 2019.
It was during a live broadcast that Kappell miss-spoke when describing the weather at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in downtown Rochester. This is when he stumbled over his words.
“Martin Luther “k’un” King Jr. Park,” he said, forming a singular errant syllable which created a mispronunciation that could sound like the word “coon.” Kappell caught the flub and immediately corrected himself.
Two days later, Kappell was fired.
He was not given the chance to apologize or explain on air.
He was ruined. A career lost. A reputation was destroyed. He was forced to sell his home and uproot his wife and children.
Compare his fate to that of Rochester Mayor Lovely Ann Warren, a key figure in the story of Kappell’s firing. In the past two years, Warren was indicted on felony campaign finance charges. Both she and her husband Timothy Granison were also charged with possession of firearms and child endangerment. In addition, Granison has been accused of participating in a drug trafficking ring.
Add to that the hundreds of demonstrators that took to the streets to protest Warren’s role in a cover-up in the death of Daniel Prude, who died while restrained in police custody.
All of this, and Warren is still in office.
Felony charges. Still in office. A report showing she “knowingly suppressed” information in the death of Daniel Prude. Still in office.
And Kappell? He unintentionally flubbed his words during a news broadcast and lost everything. How does this make sense?
A well-liked TV personality in Rochester, Kappell was a 20 year veteran of the news business. His sporty good looks and family-man feel made him an in-demand personality in markets from Kansas to Texas to upstate New York.
Kappell never intended to say a racial slur. A respected newsman with a “boy scout’s” record, according to Rochester-area news blogger Richard Gagnier, Kappell had no history of racist or other adverse behavior at work or in the community.
Had he been an “undercover racist,” Gagnier said, there would surely have been evidence to surface by now from his decades-long career in the industry. In fact, the only damaging evidence against Kappell one can find is the quite unintentional tripping over words during a live newscast.
But Warren, with her damning very recent history of felony charges, remains employed. While she was defeated in the recent June primary, she is for the time being, still in office.
Interestingly, it was Warren herself who drove the push for Kappell’s firing after the video of his word flub was posted to Facebook. Warren, who was at the same time being investigated by Kappell’s colleagues for her role in multiple felonies.
Think about that.
And how many of us have tripped over a syllable while public speaking? It happens so often and is so easily understood and forgivable that we might not even remember. But in the case of Kappell, a viewer caught his mistake on their DVR, sent it to someone else who posted it to Facebook, and a second-long bungle became a viral scandal...
Meteorologist, Speaker, Talk Show Host, Blogger and American Patriot