Arkansas’s KATV anchor Chris May and meteorologist Barry Brandt wore Afro wigs in honor of temperatures dropping into the 70s, after a week of incredibly hot temperatures.
The station, based in Little Rock, quickly suspended the two news anchors and fired their boss after the evening weather report aired at 10 pm on September 16th. “Swift action was important to hold the responsible parties accountable,” a spokesperson told AdWeek of the newscast.
The New York Post reported that May posted a picture on Twitter of their outfits for the segment titled “return to the 70s”, which has since been deleted. The segment was seen by African American activist Dr. Anika Whitefield, who issued a complaint to the news station.
She wrote that this segment perpetuated “systemic racism” to have a “European American man” wearing an Afro wig. After no response from the station, Whitefield reached out to John Seabers, who is the Sinclair Broadcast Group vice president and group manager in charge of local Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma stations.
Seabers issued an apology stating, “We apologize to all viewers who were rightfully offended by the segment, and we promise to enact and enforce new measures to prevent future incidents from occurring.” As a result, both May and Brandt were indefinitely suspended. Both had worked at the station for more than 20 years (the Daily Mail).
Longtime news director Nick Genty, the boss of May and Brandt, was also fired as a result of the segment. Seabers told Whitefield and other members of the Central Arkansas Association of Black Journalists that he was especially disappointed with the station, as staff members had undergone six weeks of racial sensitivity training prior to airing that segment.
KATV is now pledging to implement “further training for sensitivity and workplace conduct, in line without commitment to ensuring events like this don’t happen again,” their spokesperson stated. Additionally, the station will be working to add more African Americans to their staff.
However, the station’s response was not universally applauded. One commenter stated, “I’m African American and I saw the weather report with the wigs. I really didn’t think too much about it. Everything is not racism. There were white men in the ’70s who wore Afros just like blacks. I think sometimes we go overboard. It’s a shame someone had to lose their job over this.”
ARTICLE: JILLIAN WEIDNER
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK POST
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