TV Meteorologist Rhonda Lee: Fired After Defending Hairstyle On Facebook

A Louisiana TV station has defended its decision to fire a black meteorologist, insisting that she repeatedly violated company policy by responding to comments on its Facebook page. But the woman says she had a right to reply to "embarrassingly racist" remarks, like one comparing her ethnic hair to a cancer patient's.

Many of her fans agree. An online petition urging KTBS-TV in Shreveport to rehire Rhonda Lee has garnered over 11,300 signatures. "I would never have dreamed in a million years that I would get all this support," Lee told New York's Daily News.

Viewers Tell Her To Wear A Wig Or Grow Some More Hair

Lee says she first spoke out on the Facebook page of KTBS-TV back in October, when a viewer, Emmitt Vascocu, wrote: "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."

"i'm not sure if she is a cancer patient," Vascocu continues, "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 [sic]."

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Lee replied the same day, according to Journal-isms, with deliberate constraint and courtesy, explaining that she does not in fact have cancer, that black hair was different from European hair, and that diversity is a good thing.

"I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair...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."

Lee told the Daily News that she alerted her boss to the exchange, who then urged her to refer any future controversial comments to the station managers, as opposed to answering them herself.

But Weeks Later, She Responded To Another Facebook Comment

A viewer asked why all of the children in one of the station's give-away segments "are people of color," the Journal-isms blog reports, and she responded by informing the viewer that the children were picked at random. Lee told the Daily News that she chided her boss, "I know you said you'd handle it, but you haven't."

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Lee also claims that she told her manager that the Facebook comments were "embarrassingly racist," and asked why the messages weren't just deleted and the users blocked. KTBS-TV then fired Lee.

KTBS-TV executives are emphatic that Lee was fired for no other reason than actively flouting the company's social media policy by responding to viewer complaints, adding in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday that another employee -- a white, male reporter -- was fired the same day for the same reasons. Veteran crime reporter Chris Redford confirmed to the Shreveport Times that he is the other reporter, but declined to comment further.

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"Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued," the statement explained. "Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure."

A Facebook Uprising

It also posted an email that was sent to all employees in August, which outlines the procedure for Facebook complaints from viewers. The email says clearly that it is "best not to respond at all" to viewer criticisms, and that "the only proper response" is to provide a specific KTBS employee's contact information to handle the concern.

But KTBS-TV viewers, or at least the individuals posting on the station's Facebook page (many of whom are from other parts of the country), are largely unsympathetic to the station and its procedures. Almost every news story the station publishes on its social media page has been slammed with scathing comments.

"You have lost all credibility. No one cares what you put up," a Virginia woman writes under a post advertising an upcoming segment, "Eat, Drink & Be Wary." "No one is here for the news. They are going to other stations for that. Quit ignoring us & correct your wrongful actions against your two workers."

If the KTBS-TV employee tasked with handling Facebook complaints wasn't busy before, as Lee claims, he or she probably is now.

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Sounds like they were looking for a reason to get rid of her. That's the corporate way. I hope she gets a great lawyer and wins a mint. Corporations are the devil.

April 22 2013 at 6:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The news, weather and sports should be about presenting the news, weather and sports. It should NOT be about the newscaster, weathercaster or sportscaster. Hopefully Ms Lee will learn from her mistake and shut up at her next job if she can even find one.

April 22 2013 at 6:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People commenting on here about Ms. Lee's reply to the man's comment about her hair are missing the point. She IS an African American woman and if SHE chooses to have her hair short or buzzed or whatever, that is HER business. She did not harp on the "black" issue, she mentioned it ONCE...what she was trying to point out was that the length of hair shouldn't determine whether you achieve your goals, that diversity....different people LOOKING different is a GOOD thing.
Also, she didn't get fired for THAT post. She got fired after her station failed to deal with comments that were racist, like a person asking why all contest winners were black, after they said they would adress them....and then she answered them.
When the station allows racist or objectionable comments to stand on their Facebook page unchallenged, they were not leaving their employees with any alternative. Either ADDRESS the issue, REMOVE the comments or allow your employees to RESPOND.

February 08 2013 at 10:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Rhonda Lee was dead wrong. As a black woman, I also find her response to the FB comment offensive. Having no hair is not, I repeat, not synonymous with being black. So if someone challenged the shortness of her hair, I'm not sure why that is considered an attack on her hair texture or race. Her response suggests that her hair is that short because she is black. That is misinformation, which I resent. That is not the extent to which our hair grows.

Also, what point in the man's initial FB comment was she refuting when she felt the need to explain the direction in which her hair grows? Not only is it not true that we need straighteners to get our hair to fall downwards, but it was irrelevant to the point of her hair's shortness. It may take longer to fall, but once it passes a certain length, it does.The fact that she's addressing stuff the man did not raise tells me that she used the FB comment to rant about an issue that she has been having. And it was unprofessional.

Also , why did she feel the need to put down other black women who choose not to wear their hair natural? In Rhonda's world, only black women who do nothing with their hair are proud.

In a public job like TV, criticism is par for the course. If your company says you can't respond, you can't respond. Simple. She violated company policy, she addressed an issue that was not raised, she insulted other black women and I'm not sure why so many people can't see this for what it is.

February 04 2013 at 12:07 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I believe that if a company doesn't need or want an employee they should have the right to let them go.

January 18 2013 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think she looks great butt what does short hair have to do with African American heritage?

December 23 2012 at 5:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Anomoliss's comment

Ha!! I said.."butt" Prob looks great too

December 23 2012 at 5:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why wouldn't the station respond by stating personal attacks won't remain posted?!

December 23 2012 at 4:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott Eno

Looks like a token ****** thought rules just for non blacks hahahaha looks like it wrong.

December 23 2012 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Scott Eno's comment
Scott's Pimp


show us on the doll where mommy touched you.

December 23 2012 at 5:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Rules are for everyone, not just white folk! You broke the rules and played your race card.
Why don't you apply to say, MSNBC - rule breakers and liars are all they hire!

December 23 2012 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to George's comment
Bahb Peters

you had me up til you trashed MSNBC....;0( Ha!!

January 01 2013 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That's what she gets for pulling the race card.

December 23 2012 at 3:30 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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