I recently asked a notable local radio personality for an interview, and she turned me down—Doesn’t she know who I think I am?—but in shooting the bull with her, she said something along the lines of, “It’s horrible what they’re doing to Jeremy Kappell. Someone turned him into the FBI.”
Now, I wrote an UncoverDC article featuring Kappell some time ago, and I was under the impression that his story had more or less run its course, and it didn’t involve the feds. The only possible loose end was that Kappell had an open court case against Rochester’s Mayor for her role in the termination of his employment. What would that have to do with the FBI?
For those unfamiliar with my article, “The Weatherman: Backdrop to Rochester Riots,” Kappell’s life was destroyed when he mispronounced the name of a public park on air while in his role as a local weatherman. Yeah, you heard that right. It sounded to some as if Kappell had thrown a racial slur into the mix. No reason, and no suggestion of an explanation, has ever been lodged for why a squeaky-righteous weatherman given to itemizing in an online blog his blessings from God would whip out a racial slur as part of a weather report. Even the nation’s weatherman Al Roker came to Kappell’s defense, explaining verbal flubs are a normal part of the work.
Rochester’s Mayor jumped into the Kappell controversy and called for Kappell to face the consequences for the alleged slur, and without an investigation by his station that involved him, Kappell’s employment was terminated. And so Kappell lost his job and was tarred in the press as a racist kingpin, and if you think Mayor Lovely Warren is the lone Rochester democrat to enjoy the privilege of retaliation via threatening someone’s employment, you might want to Google the terms “Joseph Morelle” “Sabrina LaMar” and “accusation.”
Most everyone felt bad for the suddenly career-less Kappell and family, and I couldn’t imagine any lowlife wanting to kidney-punch a guy who’d already been beaten to the floor of an alley, and what else could be visited on a guy who’d lost it all already?
Here’s where Kappell opened a new door to abuse:
Kappell, not one to stop living his life after his public shaming apparently, was one of the hundreds of thousands to visit Washington on the day of “the Capitol siege.” Kappell’s trouble didn’t begin in D.C. however, the trouble seems to have begun with Kappell’s platform choice to document his protest experience, Twitter. Twitter has now been purged of many of its conservative voices (including UncoverDC’s own Tracy Beanz and the subject of my first UncoverDC piece, Laura Loomer), leaving most conservatives remaining on the platform of the amateur variety. I don’t mean “amateur” as a criticism, and I’d class myself with them, just a statement of the fact that many of conservatism’s most influential voices have been unfairly censored from whatever debate takes place on the platform.
Kappell tweeted out photos of the sizable crowd in D.C., and when early reports of violence at the Capitol were disseminated, Kappell denounced the violence on Twitter the same day it took place.
You couldn’t ask for a more civil response from an elected official, and Kappell, not being an elected official, doesn’t have to be held to that standard. It looked to me like he did everything right. That didn’t make him immune from criticism, however. The most heated and commented on a collection of tweets came from a former regional reporter and current Monroe County legislator Rachel Barnhart. She tweeted:
Keep in mind that Barnhart’s sense of proportion is such that she advocated that a private citizen be exposed for dubious crimes against humanity (An interest in QAnon and flubbing lines on television?), while at the same time the democrat party in Monroe County makes a sick habit of targeting the employment of people they see as opposition, and at times with questionable charges of racism. Rochester’s dysfunctional Mayor Lovely Warren even recently implied that black men can, along with everyone else, enable racism against black women. A statement from the Mayor’s camp suggests that Malik Evans, the black man currently challenging Mayor Lovely Warren for her seat, is in a long line of “brothers that have been first in line to take on sisters” and is a disappointment to their common ancestors “looking down upon us and asking...when will our people learn?”
In addition to being attacked by Barnhart on Twitter, Kappell also attracted attacks from his share of other Rochester luminaries, such as notable employees of our daily newspaper and our talk radio station. Still, Barnhart’s tweets stood out in the seriousness of their charges.
I contacted Kappell this week about the dust-up on Twitter and the FBI’s interest in him. Beyond those two headaches for Kappell, however, Rochester’s daily newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle, very recently ran a hit piece on him. When it rains, it pours. With a couple of line changes in the article, the article might have read as comedy.
The first half of the D&C article, Kappell emerges as an aspiring right-wing social media influencer, presupposed that Kappell’s sudden loss of his career broke him mentally and sent him over the edge, or how else to explain Kappell’s support of Donald Trump and Kappell’s interest in QAnon? Midway through the article—and you may think I’m joking, but I’m not—the reporter introduced an associate professor, an “expert on extremism,” to weigh in on men like Kappell who have suffered traumatic life changes and how such experiences might drive them to do insane things, such as support President Trump. Yes, the article is that obviously a fraud piece of journalism, and nearly comedy, except that it’s frighteningly not meant to be funny.
Before I launched into a discussion with Kappell about the FBI and what life is like in the eye of a storm where your family is the one on the block designated as untouchable, I broached the topic of Rachel Barnhart. The three subjects wound up being inseparable.
Directly following Barnhart’s tweet describing Kappell as a white nationalist and disciple of QAnon, she additionally charged that Kappell was responsible for death threats against her. Despite my sympathies toward Kappell’s situation, I wasn’t sure what to make of that.
Kappell, when I asked him about any possible connection he might have to death threats, answered, “It certainly didn't come from this corner.” He then walked me through a more extended confrontation with Barnhart than the recent tweet storm might suggest:
“I’ll say this about Rachel, and, you know, after the—we call it "The Calamity"—which occurred January sixth, 2019—there were so many trolls, and people on Twitter especially, but also on Facebook, there were just so many people saying so many nasty things, calling you racist, calling you a white supremacist. I learned real quick to thicken my skin because when I was on TV for 18, 19 years, you had people that would email occasionally and send messages that were derogatory or nasty, but they were few and far between, but after this occurred, it was like we were overwhelmed with negativity and these comments, and I learned real quick to shelter my family but also, just don't listen to them. They don't know you. They don't know a thing about you, so why would I bother to listen to their snarky derogatory remarks? And so, I learned not to. Well, Barnhart's different because your average Joe that’s out there calling you a racist or whatever, your average Joe may have 100 followers. Well, she had 50,000.”
Kappell recounted that Twitter attacks from Barnhart and her followers continued for weeks and began to extend to Kappell’s family, including descriptions of the Kappell family as “alt-right.” Kappell’s wife decided to get involved at that point. She did so by opening a Twitter account and penning an open letter to Barnhart. Kappell recounted,
“My wife Lisa got really upset, extremely upset, and my wife took it upon herself to open a Twitter account so she could go battle against Rachel, and so she did, and she wrote an open letter and sent it to Rachel, and we put it out both on Twitter and Facebook, and that’s when Rachel started crying that she started receiving death threats. But Lisa's letter was so well received, and there was so much support that people pointed out the obvious hypocrisy with Rachel, and she didn't like that.”
Although I won’t call in an “expert on extremism” to buttress my contentions about Barnhart, she is an adversary worth psychoanalyzing. If he’d had a choice, Kappell could have picked someone much less formidable than legislator Barnhart to go to war with.