Warning: The following video contains explicit language.
News anchor Sharon Reed responds on air to a viewer who calls her the N-word. This Atlanta Mayoral race has people fiesty tonight. pic.twitter.com/Vgri3oXnGN— Billy Michael Honor (@BillyMHonor) December 6, 2017
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, the city of Atlanta was anxiously awaiting the results of a nail-biting mayoral election between two city councilwomen. The election between Mary Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms was shot through with racial and historical implications, as a win from Norwood would have been the first time Atlanta elected a white mayor since 1969.
Bottoms ended up winning the race by fewer than 800 votes, and as the local CBS 46’s news anchors discussed the results, Sharon Reed, Ben Swann and Alicia Roberts discussed how the shifting racial demographics of Atlanta played a part in the election.
Then, in the middle of the broadcast, Reed, the only African-American panelist, put a concerning email from a viewer up on screen.
“A woman by the name of Kathy Rae emailed me. We’re going to put that email on the screen and then I’ll comment after it. I think it’s fair for people to see what she wrote,” Reed announced.
The comment flashed up on the screen, and Reed read the note.
“You need to be fired for the race baiting comment you made tonight. It’s o.k. for blacks to discuss certain subjects but not whites. Really??? you are what I call a N— not a black person. you are a racist N—. you are what’s wrong with the world,” the viewer email read.
Reed stared directly into the camera and stated she never said white people couldn’t talk about race.
“Quite the contrary, we think that race is an authentic discussion to have. It’s one we’re having tonight because it’s one that you are talking about at home and it’s one that has clearly entered the Atlanta mayor’s race. That’s why, behind the scenes, my colleagues and I — white and black — we decided, hey let’s go for it,” she said.
She continued: “When arguing with somebody you have to be careful not to mischaracterize their viewpoint, so I won’t mischaracterize your view either, Kathy Rae. I get it. On Dec. 5, 2017, you think it’s okay to call this journalist a ‘n—.’ I don’t. But I could clap back and say a few things to you. But instead I’ll let your words, Kathy Rae, speak for themselves. And that will be the last word.”
In a public response Reed wrote for The Huffington Post, she said she chose to display and respond to the racial slur so she could use it as an "opportunity" to show what African-American journalists deal with on a daily basis.
"Black journalists, including yours truly, actually do get attacked by racist trolls. I could use this email to show anyone watching what we deal with ― sometimes every single day," she wrote. "To hide it or censor it ― in my view, on that night ― seemed inherently wrong and the height of fake news."
Reed went on to say that the strong response to the racial slur is in part because it's not always publicized, like in this case.
"Every single day, journalists of color get emails like the one I got. Most of us continue to do our jobs with excellence. You never even know. That seems like one of the reasons some people were stunned by how casually yet pointedly racist the email I got was," she wrote.0comments
Reed wrote that while she wished she could have had a few more minutes to gather her thoughts, she's glad she ad-libbed her response to the viewer's racial slur.
"To the next journalist who is subjected to any kind of personal hate, my advice is to be strong, be honest, and don’t overthink the moment. Trust your instincts. They’re probably spot on," she wrote.