A television news anchor in Mississippi has been suspended after using a slang word for a racial epithet during a morning news show last week.
The incident happened during a broadcast of WLBT’s (Channel 3, NBC) morning program “Today at 11” after Barbie Bassett and co-anchor Wilson Stripling read a news story about a new white wine being launched by rapper Snoop Dogg.
At the end of the segment, Stripling and Bassett engaged in some casual banter about Snoop Dogg and his wine, with Stripling suggesting that the station’s culinary host should join forces with the rapper.
“She’d have a Snoop Dogg tattoo on her shoulder,” Stripling said.
Bassett turned to her co-anchor and quipped, “Fo’ shizzle, my nizzle,” a phrase commonly uttered by Snoop Dogg.
Bassett appeared somewhat unaware that “nizzle” is a slang term associated with a racist word that also starts with the letter “N” — you know, that one. But others at the station clearly knew what had just happened, including morning show meteorologist Patrick Ellis, who was sitting next to Bassett and whose face became visibly distraught the second she uttered the word.
It was not the first time Bassett had drawn controversy over her use of a racial phrase. Last year, during a segment with a Black reporter, she referred to the colleague’s grandmother as “grandmammy.” (Coincidentally, both Stripling and Ellis were on set for that unfortunate moment as well.)
In a statement posted to WLBT’s website on October 31, Bassett apologized for her use of the word “grandmammy,” asking viewers for forgiveness and affirming her commitment to receive “training, so I can better understand our history and our people.”
It wasn’t clear what that training involved or when it was completed, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the latest on-air incident, one that has resulted in Bassett’s suspension.
Her absence might have flown under the radar had it not been for a tornado outbreak last Friday that generated a significant amount of local media attention in Mississippi. In addition to her morning show duties, Bassett also serves as WLBT’s chief meteorologist, and viewers expected to see her on television covering the severe weather outbreak.
Bassett hasn’t commented publicly on her suspension — her social media accounts have gone dark, and emails sent to her work address haven’t been returned. Her biography has been pulled from the station’s website, and officials at WLBT aren’t commenting on the matter, citing privacy reasons.
WLBT is owned by Gray Television, which also operates Jackson’s local Fox affiliate, WDBD (Channel 40).