Blount Memorial Hospital fired an employee Monday after racist and violent messages sent through Facebook on her account were made public days earlier.
BMH announced in a social media statement it had fired registered nurse Rachel Bowers, whose Facebook account included such phrases Saturday as “Kill urself now black boy” and “Pavement mfer.”
Her boyfriend has taken the blame for the offensive posts, however.
When outsiders sent a screen capture of the message to BMH, Bowers was suspended without pay Saturday and fired Monday.
As part of the firing, officials said they are also “referring details of this termination to the Tennessee State Board of Nursing for its independent review,” according to the hospital’s statement.
But some insist Bowers had nothing to do with the messages.
Fiance takes blame
In a Facebook post, a man named Richard Haun whom Bowers had identified in her own profile as her fiance declared he, in fact, sent the messages.
“I just want to start off by saying I’m truly sorry for the racial slurs I had made previously,” Haun wrote in a post Sunday. “Also, my fiance had absolutely nothing at all to do with this, it was me on her account who sent that guy a message bc he had sent her a rude message first,” he added.
Text messages between Bowers and Haun obtained by The Daily Times confirm she asked him at about midnight May 30 if he had been messaging someone with her account. He said he had and Bowers told him to “quit,” citing Knoxville riots and safety concerns for her family.
A handwritten statement dated May 30 and signed by Bowers was allegedly given to BMH supervisors. It details a timeline of events that began on May 29 around 5 p.m. with Haun allegedly posting racist things online before he sent the messages and was told to stop by Bowers.
“I have the text of this conversation, stating I did not message a man, and that Richard Haun messaged him on Facebook messenger,” the letter signed by Bowers read. It was shared with The Daily Times by her family.
Bowers’ family said this statement was given to those investigating the matter.
Furthermore, messages to hospital security Lt. Karrie Wilburn show Bowers asked on Sunday if there was any security footage of the night the messages were sent to prove she could not have sent them. “I remember being in a patient room close to the time said comment was made,” Bowers texted Wilburn.
Wilburn replied she would “pass this on to my director so it can be reviewed,” and told Bowers she could send along more information if she thought of anything else.
Bowers’ family also said Haun went to the hospital himself and told officials that he had written the posts.
‘Her life is ruined’
BMH still went through with the firing Monday, despite several sources claiming there was evidence Bowers did not send the messages. Officials said in a statement Saturday they would investigate the matter, speak to “concerned individuals” and speak with Bowers.
The Daily Times asked BMH officials if they knew about Haun’s admission or if they would reverse the decision to fire Bowers if they discovered she did not send the messages.
“We have nothing additional to add beyond our statement,” spokeswoman Jennie Bounds emailed. “Unfortunately, the comments made to the social media page of one of our former employees does not reflect our code of conduct or the values we have for our organization.”
Family members who did not want to be identified said Bowers is afraid for her safety and the safety of her two children, given the backlash online.
They also confirmed Bowers and Haun are no longer together.
“They are 100% not together,” one family member said, adding Bowers now has a lawyer, Haun has been “removed” from Bowers’ home and that there are orders of protection in process.
“At this point she’s laying low because her life has been ruined,” the family member said.
Tennessee’s Department of Labor & Workforce Development website states “Employers may legally terminate an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason without incurring legal liability.”
However, the family still has questions about how Bowers is being treated given that BMH not only fired her but also referred her nursing license to the state board.
No public statement from BMH used Bowers’ name, but officials did confirm in an email to The Daily Times she was the employee suspended without pay Saturday.
At the end of the written statement, Bowers expressed regret for the incident.
“I would never comment or speak any kind of racially degrading statement to anyone,” she wrote. “I value my job as an RN too much. I apologized to (hospital officials) for this and understand that the safety of the hospital is important, as well as its integrity.”