KTBS Meteorologist Rhonda Lee Says She Hasn’t Seen the Facebook Policy That Led to Her Termination
Following her termination from KTBS-TV, Rhonda Lee has taken the opportunity to tell her story to a national audience. The meteorologist says she was fired for violating KTBS' social media guidelines by replying to an offensive comment left on the station's Facebook page.
According to Media Bistro, a viewer posted the following on KTBS' Facebook page: "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. Im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but its still not something myself that i think looks good on tv."
Lee, who was fired on November 28, addressed the comment, writing to the viewer that she was quite healthy and had even run a marathon recently.
In the interview with CNN's Soledad O'Brien, Lee claims she wasn't even aware of the social media procedures cited by KTBS management in her termination, but adds that this isn't the first time her hair style has been a focal point of criticism during her professional career.
"I've been denied job interviews because of my hair," Lee told O'Brien. "I've been asked if I'd be wiling to grow my hair out. I've even had a news director once say that my hair was 'too aggressive' for Sacramento, so I wasn't even allowed to interview at that point."
KTBS released a statement about Lee's termination on its Facebook page:
Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow.
Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.
"I have yet to see this policy," Lee said, adding that her attempt to see a copy of the guidelines was met with a terse "no" -- twice.
Yesterday, KTBS posted a heavily-redacted internal email previously sent to station employees which outlined a "starting point" for social media best practices on their Facebook page in an attempt to assuage viewer backlash. In it, an unknown employee recommended that "it's best not to respond at all" to negative viewer feedback or simply provide a canned response with the station's contact email address.
It didn't help. Subsequent news stories posted to the station's Facebook wall are full of remarks about Lee's firing, few of them very nice.