Judge al­lows suit by ex-TV an­chor who was fired af­ter on­line re­marks

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

PITTS­BURGH (AP): A FED­ERAL judge has de­clined to throw out a law­suit filed by a for­mer Pitts­burgh news­caster fired af­ter her com­ments in a Face­book post about a shoot­ing were deemed racially in­sen­si­tive.

The Pitts­burgh Tri­bune-Re­view re­ports that the judge on Fri­day de­nied an at­tempt by Hearst Sta­tions Inc to dis­miss the law­suit by for­mer WTAE news an­chor Wendy Bell. She is seek­ing back pay, puni­tive dam­ages and her old job back.

Bell, who is white, had com­mented on the March 9 shoot­ing of five black peo­ple and an un­born child dur­ing a cook-out in the poor Pitts­burgh sub­urb of Wilkins­burg.

“You needn’t be a crim­i­nal pro­filer to draw a men­tal sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts,” Bell wrote March 21. “They are young black men, likely in their teens or in their early 20s. They have mul­ti­ple sib­lings from mul­ti­ple fathers and their moth­ers work mul­ti­ple jobs. These boys have been in the sys­tem be­fore. They’ve grown up there. They know the po­lice. They’ve been ar­rested.”

Bell’s com­ments sparked a back­lash from some who saw her words as racist, but also drew de­fend­ers who found her post hon­est. She was fired nine days later af­ter WTAE de­ter­mined her re­marks vi­o­lated the com­pany’s jour­nal­ism and ethics stan­dards.

Bell al­leges in the suit filed in June that the sta­tion vi­o­lated her rights in fir­ing her on March 30 be­cause if she had writ­ten the same com­ments about white crim­i­nal sus­pects “or had her race not have been white”, she would not have been fired or even dis­ci­plined. Her suit says her “post­ing of con­cern for the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity stung by mass shoot­ing was clearly and ob­vi­ously not in­tended to be racially of­fen­sive”.

Hearst filed a mo­tion to have the law­suit dis­missed in Septem­ber, ar­gu­ing that she had no ev­i­dence sup­port­ing her claim.

In her rul­ing, the judge wrote Fri­day, “Bell is en­ti­tled to pro­ceed to dis­cov­ery, and this mo­tion to dis­miss is de­nied.”

Cheron Shel­ton, 29, and Robert Thomas, 27, both of whom are black, have since been charged in the am­bush slay­ings at the cook-out. The Al­legheny County district at­tor­neys’ of­fice says it will seek cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment if they are con­victed of first-de­gree mur­der. Their lawyers say their clients are in­no­cent.

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