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When TV news anchor Jennifer Livingston received some very ugly criticism about her weight in an email from a viewer back in October, her station, KBTV in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, allowed her to respond on-air with a powerful editorial about self-esteem, body image and standing up to bullying. Kudos to Ms. Livingston and hats off to KBTV, a television station with guts and integrity.

Shreveport, Louisiana’s KTBS-TV, an ABC affiliate, on the other hand, clearly has no guts and absolutely no integrity. Shame on them.

When a viewer criticized meteorologist Rhonda A. Lee on the station’s Facebook page for having short hair, Lee defended herself. But instead of supporting Lee or even deleting the offensive Facebook post, KTBS fired her, saying she had violated the company's unofficial social media policy.

By my reckoning, Ms. Lee has been victimized twice, once by the dim-witted viewer and again by KTBS. More than 12,000 people have signed a petition at causes.com expressing their outrage at the station.

The controversy started on October 1, when the following comment was posted on Facebook:

"the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. the onlt [sic] thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv."
Five days later, when KTBS still hadn't responded to the Facebook post, Lee did:
"Hello Emmitt—I am the "black lady" to which you are referring. My name is Rhonda Lee. Nice to meet you. I am sorry you don't like my ethnic hair. And no I don't have cancer. I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn't grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don't find it necessary. I'm very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. 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. Conforming to one standard isn't what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that. Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching."
But while other Facebook users lauded Lee for her measured and eloquent response, KTBS was not pleased. After she politely responded to another racially tinged Facebook post on November 14, KTBS fired her, citing "repeated violations" of the station's social media policy.

"Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued," KTBS executives said in a statement posted on Facebook this week. "Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure."

According to Lee, "They told me the policy I violated isn't written down, but was mentioned in a newsroom meeting about a month-and-a-half prior. A meeting I didn't attend. So when I asked what rule did I break there isn't anything to point to.” KTBS has not made public any station policy regarding its employees and social media.

The controversial posts are still up on the station's Facebook page and, adding insult to injury, KTBS even gave the original post criticizing Lee a "like."

I can’t say KTBS’s actions are motivated by racism or sexism – although I have difficulty imagining a white woman (or man) being criticized for sporting a similarly contemporary hairstyle - but they certainly display a spectacular amount of insensitivity and sheer stupidity. Most television stations would be delighted to have an attractive, intelligent woman like Rhonda Lee among their on-air talent. KTBS must have other priorities than common sense, integrity and good ratings.

Interested parties can contact KTBS in a variety of ways; see this link.

KTBS can also be found on Facebook.

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