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A White News Anchor, A Facebook Post, and A Suit for Race Discrimination

Wendy Bell used to be a news anchor for Pittsburgh TV station WTAE. In March 2016, she reported on a backyard barbecue in a mostly black area that ended with four people injured and six dead. Two weeks later, Ms. Bell posted on her Facebook page the following:

"You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday. They are young black men, likely in their teens or in their early 20’s. 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."

Ms. Bell then recounted a story about a young black busboy man in a restaurant she was eating at with her family. She complimented the young man. Ms. Bell stated that, "It will be some time before I forget the smile that beamed across that young worker’s face-or the look in his eyes as we caught each other’s gaze. I wonder how long it had been since someone told him he was special.”

Many people who read Ms. Bell's words called them racist and accused her of having a white savior complex. In response, Ms. Bell removed the post and apologized. Within a week, she lost her job, as the radio station considered her post be inconsistent with "the company’s ethics and journalistic standards."

Ms. Bell has now filed a suit for race discrimination. She has argued that if she were black then the fallout would have been very different. If Ms. Bell had similarly commented about white criminal suspects, she claimed she would not have even been disciplined. She wants her job back as well as back pay and attorney’s fees.