PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s top-rated television news station declined to air an episode of its weekly public affairs show on Sunday after the host came under fire on social media this weekend for claiming that three incoming female lawmakers of color were striking a “fierce pose” in a picture taken on the steps of the State House.
NBC-affiliate WJAR-TV also removed from its website the episode of “10 News Conference,” which featured prominent anchor Gene Valicenti interviewing Rhode Island’s House and Senate leaders about the upcoming legislative session. News director Scott Isaacs said the show will run next week after more interviews are conducted.
“This building” has a way of devaluing the accomplishments & voices of young Black women. I, "this Tiara Mack," am excited to bring fresh, people-centered, progressive ideas to the State House w/ @bhenriesri & @Cynthia_Mendes_. Let’s show them how fierce we fight for all RIers. pic.twitter.com/yMdyMUzWgR— Tiara Mack (@MackDistrict6) December 31, 2020
“It is important to note that ’10 News Conference’ is a political talk show in which Gene frequently shares his own commentary and analysis,” Isaacs said in a statement. “However, after reviewing this week’s planned episode we determined that these particular topics required additional context and interviews with different voices. As a result, Gene and station management have decided to postpone broadcasting this episode until next week.”
Valicenti faced backlash on Twitter for asking the leaders of both chambers – incoming House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi, House Majority Leader Chris Blazejewski, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey about some of the “far-left” progressives who won seats in the General Assembly in November. He asked if the new lawmakers are coming to the State House to fight.
Valicenti showed the legislative leaders a picture posted online by Senator-elect Tiara Mack, a progressive Democrat from Providence, which shows Mack, Senator-elect Cynthia Mendes and Representative-elect Brianna Henries, both East Providence Democrats, posing on the steps of the State House with a caption that reads: “We don’t just want a seat at the table. We’re bringing the table back to where it belongs: with the people. This is our power. This is our house.”
Valicenti said the women were striking a “fierce pose” and also called the women “fierce-looking.” He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
Mack said she spoke with Valicenti on Saturday and agreed to appear on his morning radio show on WPRO-AM on Monday, and to sit for an interview with him on television later in the week. She said that Valicenti tried to explain his comments, but did not offer an apology.
“It’s always interesting when white men call Black women to tell them they are not racist,” Mack said. She called his comments “racist, ageist, and classist.”
Mack stopped short of calling for Valicenti to be fired, but said she doesn’t believe he should be delivering the news to Rhode Islanders. She questioned whether he should be reassigned.
Valicenti has been a staple in the Rhode Island media for nearly three decades. He is one of the best-known anchors in the state, and his radio show attracts thousands of listeners each day. He has been the host of “10 News Conference” for at least three years.