A TV meteorologist who was fired after he was accused of using a racial slur on-air said Tuesday that he believes people "read into" an accidental "sound" he made.
"Of course I don't harbor any racist thoughts. And for people to make that assumption goes to show you their shallow level of thinking," said Jeremy Kappell, who was fired from his position as chief meteorologist on WHEC when he appeared to say "Martin Luther Coon King Jr." when referring to a park named for the civil rights leader.
Kappell told "Today" that people are outraged over "two words mashed together incorrectly."
"What I said wasn't even a word — it was a sound. And people, I believe, read into that," Kappell said.
The weather report in question aired Friday, but wasn't addressed by NBC affiliate WHEC until Sunday when the station announced Kappell was fired.
"These words have no place on News10NBC’s air, and the fact that we broadcast them disheartens and disgusts me; that it was not caught immediately is inexcusable," WHEC general manager Richard Reingold wrote on the station's website.
But Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who is black, said the station waited too long.
"It took the station nearly two days to apologize, and only after the station was shamed into doing so by a backlash on social media," she said in a statement.
While many on social media were outraged, some supported Kappell, who posted a video to Facebook with his wife to thank his supporters, repeat his defense and say he had been judged too quickly by the leadership at WHEC.
Kappell's wife also defended him on "Today."
"For him to be called a racist, it just makes me very sad. I was sickened. We teach our children the message of loving others," Lisa Kappell said.
"Today" meteorologist Al Roker also defended Kappell on Wednesday.
"I think @JeremyKappell made an unfortunate flub and should be given the chance to apologize on @news10nbc," Roker wrote on Twitter. "Anyone who has done live tv and screwed up (google any number of ones I’ve done) understands."
"Today's" Craig Melvin expressed the same sentiment on the show.
"Anyone who’s done this as long as we’ve done it, on air, you flub. You make mistakes. It would seem as if the guy made a genuine mistake," he said.
When a Twitter user responded to Roker, accusing Kappell of slipping and using the word because he's done so "with friends behind closed doors," Roker said that unless "some friends or acquaintances come forward with that, you can’t make that assumption."