Kevin Adell, the white owner and CEO of the Word Network billed “the largest, African-American religious network in the WORLD,” refused to apologize for sharing a meme which depicts him pimping popular black preachers.
The refusal comes amid a recent petition signed by more than 100 prominent black clergy calling for a boycott of the network until he apologizes for his alleged racial insensitivity.
On Monday, the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists also joined that chorus calling for a boycott of the network, demanding that Adell meet with Detroit NABJ and other organizations, issue a public apology, commit to undergo diversity training, and create a plan to “avoid such egregious actions in the future” before the boycott ends, according to a statement posted on Twitter.
“This image is repulsive as it utilizes racial stereotypes and denigrates community leaders in the process,” the statement from the executive board of the Detroit NABJ to Adell says. “It is doubly disturbing because your station’s marketing materials promote the Word Network and the 910-AM radio station as home to black voices. Being complicit in sharing racist materials is both offensive and a betrayal to the audience base you court and claim to support.”
Adell is pushing back against this narrative.
“I didn't create it. I had nothing to do with this meme,” Adell said in a Detroit Free Press report Monday.
"To say that I need diversity training, to say that I need to apologize, apologize for something I didn't do? ... Why would I apologize for something I didn't do?" he asked.
At the center of the allegations against Adell is Bishop George Bloomer, 56, a longtime televangelist and founder of Bethel Family Worship Center, a multicultural ministry in Durham, North Carolina. Bloomer alleges that in September, Adell texted a photoshopped image of himself dressed as a pimp surrounded by well-known black clergy he called “hoes” to various staff members, many of whom are black, according to a Change.org petition.
While Bloomer said he told Adell that the meme wasn't funny and to get rid of it, Adell allegedly responded by saying Bloomer was being too sensitive.
Bloomer recently left the network as a result of the meme controversy but Adell disputed that charge as well.
Adell told the Detroit Free Press that Bloomer really "quit the network … because he wanted more air time" and that Bloomer didn’t want to make adjustments to the show as suggested by staff. Bloomer, Adell argued, was trying to stir up controversy with the meme "to get support to hopefully make changes so he could get back on the air."
Adell further noted that more than 95% of his 160 employees are African American. The CEO said he shared the controversial meme with Bloomer to make him aware of it. The Detroit Free Press reported that Adell’s lawyer, William McHenry has threatened the Detroit NABJ with a cease and desist letter, warning of a lawsuit for trying to paint Adell in a "defamatory or false light."
"Adell has already disavowed the Meme in question by publicly stating that he had no prior knowledge of the Meme and confirmed that it was not created by him,” he warned in the letter.
Adell is now expected to meet with the Detroit NABJ’s executive board.