OKLAHOMA CITY — A local news anchor issued a tearful on-air apology to her co-host after she compared him to a gorilla on television.
USA Today reported that KOCO morning show host Alex Housden, who is white, made the racist comparison of co-anchor Jason Hackett, who is black, to a gorilla in a segment about one of the animals at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
The Washington Post reported that Housden was specifically reporting on Fin, the zoo's baby western lowland gorilla, who was seen taking selfies during an Instagram takeover by one of his caretakers.
"As you can see, Fin was fascinated," Housden said, wrapping up the report.
"Definitely ready for his close-up there," Hackett said.
The segment cut to a traffic report and when it returned to the co-anchors, Housden said to Hackett, "Kind of looks like you when you take a picture."
Hackett hesitated and then responded, "Yeah it does, actually, yeah. Very close to the camera."
Many viewers took issue with her remarks because of the racist historical association of black people with monkeys and being animalistic. The Post reported that viewers called in to the station and wrote complaints on Facebook, saying Housden's comment repeated racist stereotypes.
Housden tearfully apologized the next day, Deadline reported.
"I'm here this morning because I want to apologize, not only to my co-anchor Jason but to our entire community," she said as Hackett sat beside her. "I said something yesterday that was inconsiderate, that was inappropriate, and I hurt people. And I want you to understand how much I hurt you out there and how much I hurt you.
"I love you so much, and you have been one of my best friends for the past year and a half, and I would never do anything on purpose to hurt you, and I love our community, and I want you all to know from the bottom of my heart: I apologize for what I said. I know it was wrong, and I am so sorry."
Hackett used the apology as a teaching moment.
"I do accept your apology, and I do appreciate your apology," he said before turning to the camera.
"I want to let everybody out there know that Alex is one of my best friends. We do what we do here and, you know, it's not as if we see each other here, and then we leave, and we go home. We talk every day or almost every other day... I do appreciate you and I love you.
"All that being said -- and Alex would be the first to say this to you -- what she said yesterday was wrong. It cut deep for me, and it cut deep for a lot of you in the community."
He continued, "Coming out of this, I want this to be a teachable moment. The lesson here is that words matter. There's no doubt about that," Hackett said. "Changing demographics in this county -- the demographics are changing, we're becoming a more diverse country and there's no excuse. We have to understand the stereotypes. We have to understand each other's backgrounds and the words that hurt, the words that cut deep. We have to find a way to replace those words with love and words of affirmation, as well."
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