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Detroit TV station owner under fire for meme sent to African American pastor

Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

DETROIT -- A meme seen as racially offensive that was sent last month to an African American minister by the white owner of a religious TV station aimed at black audiences has sparked controversy, with the Detroit chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists condemning it Monday and calling for a boycott of the media outlet.

But the owner, Kevin Adell, told the Free Press that he didn't create the meme -- which depicted him wearing a fur coat like a pimp surrounded by black male pastors, including the pastor he forwarded the meme to, Bishop George Bloomer.

Adell said he was merely sharing it with Bloomer, a North Carolina pastor who once had a show on Adell's TV station, The Word Network, and knew Adell for eight years. Adell also is CEO of WFDF-FM (910) in Detroit, and WADL-TV (Channel 38).

"I didn't create it," Adell said of the meme he texted to Bloomer. "I had nothing to do with this meme."

A petition on Change.org calling for a boycott of The Word -- which says it's the largest African American religious TV outlet -- had garnered more than 3,800 signatures as of Monday evening.

Adell said he's considering legal action against the Detroit NABJ for their statement and letter released Monday that read in part: "This image is repulsive as it utilizes racial stereotypes and denigrates community leaders in the process. It is doubly disturbing because your station's marketing materials promote the Word Network and the 910-AM radio station as home to Black voices. Being complicit in sharing racist materials is both offensive and a betrayal to the audience base you court and claim to support."

 

The statement from Detroit NABJ also calls for a boycott, apology, diversity training, and plan not to repeat such actions.

Adell said that NABJ is "defaming me" with their letter and statement.

He said that more than 95% of his 160 employees are African American and stressed that he was merely sharing the meme with Bloomer to make him aware of it: "To say that I need diversity training, to say that I need to apologize, apologize for something I didn't do? ... Why would I apologize for something I didn't do?"

On Monday, his attorney, William McHenry, sent a cease and desist letter to Detroit NABJ warning of possible litigation for trying to portray Adell in a "defamatory or false light."

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