Louisiana meteorologist Rhonda Lee defended her short hair after being insulted on Facebook, only to be fired ... and receive a groundswell of support online.
A viewer took Lee, of Shreveport's KTBS, to task October 1 for having short hair, rather than for any job-related issues. Lee, 37, responded in the comments.
Instead of backing her up or deleting the offensive post, however, the network fired Lee, saying she had violated the company's unofficial social media policy.
Now, her fans are furious.
Nearly 1,000 people have signed a petition asking that KTBS rehire Lee, saying she was victimized twice, once by the viewer "and again by KTBS."
"Rhonda Lee deserves to have her job back," the petition reads. "Her eloquent response to the bigoted and sexist remarks of viewer Emmitt Vascocu were warranted."
"Employers such as KTBS-TV should stand by their employees and on-air talent whenever they are verbally attacked based on their looks, values or merit."
"I would never have dreamed in a million years that I would get all this support," Lee told the Daily News.
"It's been a tough go at first to not be angry. But mostly I'm just sad. I genuinely loved where I worked. I loved my viewers. I made my home here."
For its part, KTBS says Lee "was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance" but rather for the repeated violation of the company policy.
"Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance," the ABC affiliate said.
"If harsh viewer comments are posted, there is a specific procedure to follow."
Rhonda Lee, however, says she never saw the policy in question, and that when she asked for it following her termination, higher-ups told her no.
KTBS, on the other hand, says Lee received an email outlining the procedure, which states that it is "best not to respond at all" to viewer complaints.
What did Lee write, and in response to what, exactly?
"The black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. the onlt [sic] thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair," wrote Emmitt Vascocu on October 1.
"im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but its not something that i think looks good on tv."
Days later, when KTBS still hadn't respond to the Facebook post on its page, Lee did.
"Hello Emmitt I am the "black lady" to which you are referring. My name is Rhonda Lee. Nice to meet you," she wrote on October 6, in the comments.
"I am sorry you don't like my ethnic hair. And no I don't have cancer."
"I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn't grow downward. It grows upward."
"Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don't find it necessary."
"I'm very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. As women we come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty."
"Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society," the TV personality concluded.
"Little girls (and boys for that matter) growing up in this world need to see that what you look like isn't a reason to not achieve their goals."