February 1, 1995 in Nation/World

Forecaster Fired For Racial Remark

Detroit Free Press
 

WDIV-TV weathercaster Michelle Leigh, who made a racially insensitive comment on the air Sunday, was fired Monday.

The end of Sunday’s 6 p.m. newscast featured a segment promoting an upcoming story on eligible bachelors. In the preview, a woman said her ideal man would have “chocolate skin.”

The promo was followed by a story about a 415-pound gorilla in Boston.

As the newscast closed and the camera returned to the anchor desk, Leigh, who is white, pointed to a monitor and asked anchors Asha Blake and Emery King, “Does that qualify as chocolate skin?” referring to the gorilla.

King, who is black, and Blake, whose family is from India, looked at Leigh in silence, then signed off.

More than 100 viewers called the station to complain. One caller threatened Leigh’s life. At 11 p.m., King apologized on behalf of the station. On Monday, Leigh was fired.

Leigh says it was all a horrible mistake.

“I was trying to tie stories together, make an improvisation, and my mouth got ahead of my brain.”

Several of Leigh’s colleagues said Monday they were sorry she was fired, but understood the station’s decision.

“Anchor chat is a very dangerous sport,” said WDIV reporter Mike Lewis. “You hate to see anybody lose their job, but we also hate to have our viewers offended. … She got what her remark deserved. It was incredibly stupid and insensitive.”


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