The Pittsburgh news anchor fired over what WTAE said were racially insensitive comments about a mass shooting alleges she was actually let go "because of her race." In a federal lawsuit filed Monday, Wendy Bell, who is white, says she wouldn't have been fired, "much less disciplined," if she had "written the same comments about white criminal suspects or had her race not have been white," reports the AP. Following the fatal shooting in Wilkinsburg on March 9, Bell wrote in a March 21 Facebook post that the killers were likely young black men with prior arrests and "multiple siblings from multiple fathers." (Full text of post here.) WTAE found the post "inconsistent with the company's ethics and journalistic standards," though Bell's lawyer, Sam Cordes, says it "was not intrinsically racially pejorative," per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"What she said was benign at best. President Obama has said similar things," Cordes tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He adds WTAE didn't fire a staff member who allegedly made lewd comments to interns or another who was arrested for propositioning an undercover police officer. Those acts are "at least as egregious" as Bell's, Cordes says. He adds Bell—who wants her job back, plus back pay and punitive damages—was encouraged to use social media and WTAE was able to edit and delete her posts. Her attempts at finding a new job have been stymied by a noncompete clause that WTAE is enforcing; it runs through March 30, 2017. WTAE has yet to comment. Two suspects have been named in connection with the shooting but not charged.