Democracy Dies in Darkness

Morning Mix

A viewer called Atlanta news anchor Sharon Reed the n-word. She responded on air.

By Kyle Swenson

December 7, 2017 at 5:52 AM

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Sharon Reed, a news anchor at CBS 46 in Atlanta, responded on-air Dec. 5 to a viewer who called her the "n-word." Editor's note: This video contains references to a racial slur. (WGCL-TV)

On Tuesday night all of Atlanta was anxiously waiting out the results of the city’s mayoral election, a nail-biter shot through with racial and historical implications.

Two city councilwomen — Mary Norwood and Keisha Lance Bottoms — were up for the city’s top job, with fewer than 800 votes giving Bottoms the win. But the election was significant because had Norwood bested the other candidate, it would have been the first time Atlanta elected a white mayor since 1969.

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 on the panel, pumped the brakes.

Warning: The following video contains offensive language. 

“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***r not a black person. you are a racist N***r. you are what’s wrong with the world.”

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 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.”

The anchor’s pointed takedown immediately caught fire on Twitter and social media.

“Just another day at the office,” Reed wrote later on her Facebook page. “Not the first time I’ve been called that word.”

The election results are set to be officially verified Saturday. Norwood would then have 48 hours to request an official recount.


Kyle Swenson is a reporter with The Washington Post's Morning Mix team. He previously worked at the New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Cleveland Scene.

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