Longtime Today show weatherman Al Roker has had an eventful 2020. He loves working from home so much that, early on during the pandemic, his wife had to ask him to stop wearing sweatpants. Over the summer, he also released another book, this one a series of stories from his life called You Look So Much Better in Person. More recently, however, Al Roker has had to undergo shoulder replacement surgery, from which he is still recovering.
Before his surgery, however, Roker was making the publicity rounds to promote his book while sharing stories from his life (not unlike the story about the time he pooped his pants at the White House). On Justin Long’s Life Is Short podcast, he told a story about an incident early in his career when he was confronted with racism at work. In this case, the racist incident occurred live on air.
“I had an anchorman who was quote unquote “mugged” by an older homeless black guy,” Roker said on the podcast. “Everyone knew him, and he was fairly harmless. And [the anchorman] wasn’t really mugged. This guy came up and swatted him on the back of the head with a rolled-up newspaper, which is pretty much the same thing that most of us who worked with him wanted to do.”
“Anyway,” Roker continued, “he was married to his co-anchor. And they were about to introduce me live [to do the weather], and he’s about to start, and he says [to Roker], “I don’t know if you know this, but last night, one of ‘your people’ attacked me.'”
Roker was stunned into silence. “Time kind of stands still” after an objectively awful remark like that, Roker said. “And I wonder, do I go after him? Do I ignore him?
“So, I just looked at him, and I said, ‘Doug, why would a weatherman attack you?'”
Well played, Al Roker.
Not only was it a “brilliant deflection” to a racist remark, as Justin Long noted, but according to Roker, “the switchboard lit up. People were livid, and he was suspended and then eventually fired.”
“It was one of those things — it happened, there’s no point in dwelling on it and I kept moving. Listen, there are people who have suffered far greater insults, slights and biases that it’s hard for them to move on because it affected their careers. Doug didn’t affect my career, so I was able to keep moving. But there are others that have had to suffer far greater things. It taught me there are degrees in ways in which you react. I think I reacted in the way it needed to be.”
Interestingly, however, the man who made the racist remark, the late Doug Adair, was a friend of Al Roker, who served as his best man when he married his co-anchor.
Source: Life is Short with Justin Long