An online petition calling for the firing of a Weather Channel anchor who made a profoundly inappropriate comment on the possible impacts of Hurricane Matthew on Haiti has reached over 13,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening.
The Weather Channel's Jennifer Delgado said deforestation on Haiti may increase the impact of the storm there — accurate, as deforestation has stripped many areas of the country of their water-carrying capacity since 1980 and resulted in floods that sweep away agricultural operations and threaten lives.
But Delgado didn't stop there, tying the deforestation to Haiti's well-known problems with food insecurity and malnutrition: "That's because this whole area has been essentially deforested. They take all the trees down, the burn the trees. Even the kids there, they're so hungry, they actually eat the trees."
Trees, of course, are not digestible, as wood is primarily composed of the polymer cellulose, which the human digestive system can't handle.
But beyond that, the statement seemed to perpetuate uneducated and ugly stereotypes about the Haitian people, as well as blame them for the consequences of deforestation, which began in the French colonial era and was perpetuated by succession of exploitative governments.
For her part, Delgado has apologized.
"I want to apologize for a statement that I made yesterday that was inappropriate," Delgado wrote in a Facebook post. "My intention is always to provide relevant information to areas impacted by severe weather and I wanted to spotlight the incredibly difficult conditions that the people in Haiti continue to face, particularly in light of Hurricane Matthew. I deeply regret and apologize for any statement that I used on-air that was offensive."