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News Anchor Fired Over Racist Facebook Post

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WTAE’s staff photo of Wendy Bell. 

A Pittsburgh news anchor has been fired over a controversial Facebook post about a mass shooting in the city earlier this month. “You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday,” Wendy Bell wrote in the March 21 post about the March 9 shooting, which killed five adults and an unborn baby. “They are young black men, likely in their teens or early 20s,” she wrote, per the the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which has the 650-word post in full. “They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs.” She went on to praise a young black restaurant worker in what many thought was a patronizing manner, the AP reports.

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Bell, who is white, deleted the post after a backlash and admitted it was “insensitive and could be viewed as racist.” In a statement, the station’s parent company said Bell’s comments were “inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards” and the station had ended its relationship with her. No suspects have been identified in the mass shooting, and media experts tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that while the case raises tricky issues, Bell crossed a line by presenting her opinions as fact on her anchor Facebook page. Bell, who won 21 regional Emmys during her 18 years at WTAE, tells the AP that she didn’t get a “fair shake” from the station, and the story should be about “African-Americans being killed by other African-Americans,” not her.

WTAE EditorialWe at WTAE would like to apologize for the actions of one of our anchors earlier this week. Wendy Bell posted a message on her Facebook page that offended many of our viewers.Her post offended us. Wendy has since apologized for what she wrote and acknowledged it was insensitive.Wendy is sorry for the words she chose, and so are we.It was an egregious lack of judgment.WTAE regrets it happened and is committed to making sure something like this doesn’t happen again.Now that the post is down, WTAE management is initiating a comprehensive examination of the issue and will take appropriate actionWe are committed to working with local community organizations to further the dialogue around these important issues.We believe what happened at WTAE this week should be something we all learn from.We can and will be better.

Posted by WTAE-TV Pittsburgh on Thursday, March 24, 2016

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