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Black TV anchor compared to gorilla accepts Oklahoma co-host’s apology. ‘Words matter’

KOCO TV anchor Alex Housden apologized to black co-anchor Jason Hackett for comparing him to a gorilla during a broadcast. Screengrab from Quinlan Report’s YouTube.
KOCO TV anchor Alex Housden apologized to black co-anchor Jason Hackett for comparing him to a gorilla during a broadcast. Screengrab from Quinlan Report’s YouTube.

A white TV anchor in Oklahoma City has apologized for comparing her African American co-anchor to a gorilla during a broadcast.

He accepted her apology with a lesson that “words matter.”

Alex Housden, a morning anchor for KOCO, finished a segment about a gorilla at the Oklahoma City Zoo by comparing the animal to co-anchor Jason Hackett.

“Kind of looks like you,” Housden said.

After a slight pause, Hackett responded, “He kind of does, actually, yeah.”

In a tearful on-air apology the next day, Housden sat on a couch next to Hackett and said she was sorry — at times reaching out to touch his arm, video shows.

“I said something yesterday that was inconsiderate, it was inappropriate, and I hurt people,” Housden said. “I want you to know I understand how much I hurt you out there and how much I hurt (Hackett).”

Housden said that she would “never do anything on purpose to hurt” him.

“I want you all to know from the bottom of my heart I apologize for what I said,” Housden said. “I know it was wrong, and I am so sorry.”

Hackett accepted Housden’s apology and said she’s one of his best friends — but that the comment hurt his feelings.

“What she said yesterday was wrong,” Hackett said. “It cut deep for me, and it cut deep for a lot of you in the community.”

Hackett said the apology was a “teachable moment” to say that “words matter.”

“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,” Hackett said. “We have to find a way to replace those words with love and words of affirmation as well.”

People on social media reacted with anger while others defended Housden.

“I’m shocked by your on air racism and disrespect for your co worker and all African-American peoples. Shame on you! Shame on your bosses. Shame,” one Facebook user wrote on Housden’s Facebook page.

Another person wrote that the problem is with how people “perceived” Housden’s comment.

“Those of us who don’t see the world in black and white (or other) are confused by what you said was ever an issue. But I guess a lot of people are still stuck in the dark ages. People are people, and if you said the same comment to a fellow co-worker of any other race, it wouldn’t have been an issue. The problem is the way people perceived the comment, not the comment itself,” the Facebook user wrote.

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Chacour Koop is a Real-Time reporter based in Kansas City. Previously, he reported for the Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News and Daily Herald in Chicago.
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