Miami TV host on leave after calling Dallas gunman a ‘martyr’

Kalyn Chapman James, host of ‘Art Loft’ on WPBT-2.
Kalyn Chapman James, host of ‘Art Loft’ on WPBT-2. Miami Herald File

Placed on leave as host of WPBT2’s ‘Art Loft’ after she called the man who shot and killed five Dallas police officers a “martyr,” Miami television host Kalyn Chapman James told CNN on Wednesday that she thinks “people latched on to one word.”

“Honestly, the video was me trying to reconcile my feelings, trying to understand why I felt that way,” James told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

Three days after Micah Johnson shot the Dallas officers during a street protest against police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, James took to Facebook, crying.

“I can’t stop replaying the image of these men being killed in my mind and my heart weeps, but I think more than anything I’m dealing with a bit of guilt because,” said the former Miss Alabama. “I don’t feel sad for the officers that lost their lives. And I know that that’s really not my heart — I value human life and I want to feel sad for them — but I can’t help but feeling like the shooter was a martyr.”

“While I detest the killing of those officers and the taking of innocent lives, I did, in a way, I understood what could drive the shooter to do something like that,” James told Harlow. “I don’t consider him a hero.” But, she said, her experiences as an African-American woman allow her to “understand what could drive the shooter to do something like that. I would never do it. I don’t condone it.”

Both James via Facebook message and a WPBT2 spokesperson via e-mail told The Herald James was still suspended. James told The Herald via Facebook message that the harrassment and threats she’s received haven’t been to her face, but “all online so far.”

Two days ago, WPBT2 announced that a contractor was put on leave and the next day a guest host appeared on ‘Art Loft.’

“WPBT2 South Florida PBS does not condone the personal statements made by one of its independent contractors regarding the events in Dallas,” the station tweeted on Monday. “It placed the contractor on administrative leave while it actively and carefully looks further into the matter and will determine additional course of actions based on its thorough review of the matter.”

After Johnson killed the five officers and wounded seven others, he died in an explosion after Dallas police robot-delivered a bomb.

“A martyr is someone who dies for their belief and that’s the context in which I used it,” James told CNN.

Tuesday, James responded on Facebook to the angry feedback on her original video.

“I'm being threatened, harassed and called awful names,” James said, adding that “Micah Johnson is NOT a hero.”

“I do not condone violence against anyone — I am against violence. I would like to see an end to black on black crime, white on white crime, black on white crime, white on black crime, ALL killing needs to stop!”

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal