A KOCO anchor compared her black co-anchor to a baby gorilla, and she got to keep her job. But it’s 2019 and a white supremacist-enabling narcissist is running the country, so we can’t be too surprised.
Despite being one of the more diverse news stations in Oklahoma City (which really isn’t saying much at all), KOCO employees could definitely benefit from some intensive diversity training. Oh, and accountability. That would be good too.
Morning anchor Alex Housden seemed to think it was harmless to compare co-anchor Jason Hackett to a baby gorilla during a segment meant to be fun and entertaining. It didn’t seem to be intentionally harmful or racist, but that is part of the problem. It is no longer acceptable to be tone-deaf or ignorant to historically racist tropes and stereotypes — especially when working in broadcast news.
“Kind of looks like you when you take a picture," Housden said at the end of the segment where a baby gorilla was shown taking a video selfie.
Hackett reacted with an awkward laugh and simply played along because that’s what is usually expected of black and brown people in the face of blatant racism — particularly during a live broadcast. Being the professional that he is, Hackett appeared with Housden the next day. Housden tearfully apologized and Hackett accepted but said he hoped it would be a teachable moment.
“The lesson here is that words matter,” he said. “We have to understand the stereotypes, we have to understand each other’s backgrounds and the words that hurt, the words that cut deep.”
Asked if Housden was disciplined, general manager Brent Hensley told The Washington Post through an email that “personnel matters are private.” So, no. No consequences beyond an on-air apology.
Hackett and Housden seem like genuine friends and (hopefully) Housden simply made an honest mistake, but it’s still one that affected many viewers personally. The racist comment also underscores the need for more people of color in leadership roles within editorial and management departments, which are predominantly white.
Hell, it would even be good to have more than two or three reporters or anchors of color per station. Just take a look at KOCO, KFOR, News 9 and OKC Fox’s news team pages and try not to be blinded by the white.