Wendy Bell: Pittsburgh’s Racist Poster Girl
A March 29, 2021 article in Pittsburgh’s most prominent newspaper, the Post-Gazette, notes that the western Pennsylvania city is a “hub” for white supremacists. If Pittsburgh shelters white supremacy, it will come as no surprise to many of its residents that local radio host Wendy Bell is their de facto queen.
At one point in her career, Bell was affiliated with both KDKA-TV and KDKA Radio. Prior to her affiliation with KDKA, she worked for Pittsburgh station WTAE-TV but was dismissed from that station after racist comments on her personal Facebook page.
Her post was deleted, but if you’re curious, there was a brutal shooting in one of Pittsburgh’s poorer neighborhoods. Of the shooters she wrote:
“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday, They are young black men, likely in their teens or in their early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs. These boys have been in the system before. They’ve grown up there. They know the police. They’ve been arrested.”
She had been to a local restaurant with her husband and sons shortly after the shooting. She’d engaged with a young, pleasant, African-American male working there. She passed on a compliment to the young man’s manager and wrote this about him on her page:
“It will be some time before I forget the smile that beamed across that young worker’s face — or the look in his eyes as we caught each other’s gaze. I wonder how long it had been since someone told him he was special.”
The backlash was swift and fierce. The television station fired her, pointing out that her words were not in line with their views. Bell dug her heels in. She filed suit.
After she was dismissed from WTAE, and later moved on to KDKA, Wendy found a strong following in ultra-conservative folks. There are plenty in the rural outer-bands of Pittsburgh. Drive not more than an hour outside the city (maybe even just 30 minutes), and you’ll find strong support for the 2nd amendment, anti-maskers, and a host of other Trump-era mindsets. Pittsburgh, geographically, is a city surrounded by farming, and a city that was born out of a strong industrial working class.
The white supremacist sentiment is increasing nationwide, triggered in large part by the “Unite the Right” rally which took place in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. Media personalities like Wendy Bell capitalize on the feeling of displacement and add that to the economic stress of the pandemic to cultivate a sentiment that something has been ‘taken away,’ and her listeners must be forceful, stand up for their rights, and take it back.
Bell herself participated in a Pittsburgh rally targeted at mask regulation and election results, tying both to economic struggles felt across her listenership. She managed to whip some 150 marchers into a stir over issues ranging from queer identity to whether COVID-19 was a hoax to the validity of election results, all in a single protest march.
These days, Wendy has moved on to a new radio station to whip her followers into a frenzy and even launched her own website. She has shifted from a substantial, popular, and well-respected Pittsburgh media outlet to a small conservative radio station so far down on the dial it’s hard to find, and peppered her website with exclamation points and sponsorships in order to entice those who stumble into the clear conservative band to listen to episodes titled things like “The Pandemic of Fear.”
Wendy has found her niche in those who do indeed fear not just the pandemic, but who evidently also fear people like the 2016 shooters. In a region like Pittsburgh, those listeners evidently aren’t hard to find. As long as they have a voice like Wendy, they’ll be able to stoke their conservative fires for a very long time.