Alex Housden, a white news anchor for ABC affiliate KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, issued a tearful on-air apology for comparing her co-anchor Jason Hackett, who is black, to a gorilla.
Housden made the remark on Thursday, August 22, during a story about a gorilla at the Oklahoma City Zoo. She said the animal looked similar to Hackett.
The comment prompted a major backlash on social media, as viewers called for Housden to be fired. The following day, she addressed the remark during the morning program. Hackett accepted her apology and added that he thought the situation could provide a teaching opportunity.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Alex Housden Remarked That the Zoo’s Ape Looked Like Jason Hackett
Alex Housden and Jason Hackett were co-anchoring the morning program on KOCO-TV on Thursday, August 22. They were reacting to what was supposed to be a light-hearted video from the Oklahoma City Zoo.
The zoo had shared a video to Instagram of an ape named Fin adorably getting up close and personal with the camera. Hackett and Housden were gushing over Fin and laughing when Housden ended the segment by remarking, “He kinda looks like you.”
It’s difficult to hear Hacketts’s response because of the traffic animation and music that followed. Hackett paused for a beat before answering, “He kind of does, actually, yeah.”
The moment was recorded by viewers and shared on social media. Facebook user Joy Shana shared the clip and it has been viewed more than 174,000 times.
2. Alex Housden Issued a Live Apology the Following Day, Holding Back Tears
Alex Housden and Jason Hackett addressed her remark the following day live on the air. In the video embedded above, you can see and hear Housden holding back tears as she apologized not just to Hackett, but to the station’s viewers.
“I said something yesterday that was inconsiderate, it was inappropriate, and I hurt people. I want you to know, I understand how much I hurt you out there.”
She then turned to Hackett and said, “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.”
3. Jason Hackett Accepted Housden’s Apology & Stressed That Words Matter
Jason Hackett said that he accepted Alex Housden’s apology. He confirmed her assertion that they are close friends outside of work.
Hackett then acknowledged that what Housden had said had hurt his feelings, even though in the video it appears he did his best in the moment to move past it. “What she said yesterday was wrong. It cut deep for me and it cut deep for a lot of you in the community. I’ve heard the phone calls and heard the Facebook messages.”
Hackett said that he hoped that some positivity could be gained from the situation. “I want this to be a teachable moment. The lesson here is that words matter. There’s no doubt about that… 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. And we have to find a way to replace those words with love and words of affirmation as well.”
4. Many Viewers Called on the TV Station to Fire Alex Housden While Some Argued That She Hadn’t Meant Any Harm
Alex Housden received many angry messages from viewers that were posted to her professional Facebook page in the aftermath of her remark. Some slammed the apology as “fake” and called for KOCO-TV to fire her.
The majority of the comments on Housden’s Facebook page expressed angry sentiments. For example, “How does this fool still have a job. Racism in full effect” and “Do all black people look like gorillas to you, just asking for a friend.”
But others came to Housden’s defense. One person wrote, “I don’t think you meant any thing by what you said and people need to get a thicker skin.” Another person wrote, “I think she was just joking and people got offended left and right. Love you Alex sorry for all the hate!”
Housden appears to be keeping her job. Neither she nor Jason Hackett commented further on the controversy on their respective social media pages.
5. Alex Housden Has Been Working at KOCO-TV Since June of 2017
Alex Housden grew up in a small town in Texas. She earned a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in political science from the University of North Texas, according to her bio on the TV station’s website.
Housden joined KOCO-TV in June of 2017 and currently serves as the weekend morning anchor. Before moving to Oklahoma, Housden was an evening anchor at KTEN-TV in Sherman, Texas.
She is married to husband Reagan, her high school sweetheart. They have two dogs named Bentley and Louis.