Iowa Radio Station Employees Fired After Racist HS Basketball Commentary

A local Iowa radio station fired two employees Monday after their racist remarks about high school basketball players during a game were broadcast on an online video feed used by local schools.

While reading the roster of players from Eagle Grove High School last Tuesday, KIOW radio announcer Orin Harris (pictured above) told board operator Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt, according to KIMT: “They have a lot of…”

“Español people,” Kusserow-Smidt said.

“Español people in Eagle Grove,” Harris agreed.

“Gee, I wonder why that is,” Kusserow-Smidt said. “But the latest there is that they’re just going to gradually come into town. Yeah right.”

“Gradually work their way in,” Harris said sarcastically.

Later, Harris read another name on Eagle Grove’s roster and commented, “Sounds like he’s not a foreigner. Could be, though… All foreigners.”

“Exactly, all foreigners,” Kusserow-Smidt responded.

“They oughta, as Trump would say, go back where they came from,” Harris said.

“Well, some would say that, yeah,” Kusserow-Smidt relied. “Some days I feel like that, too.”

Harris agreed.

The Des Moines Register reported that a video stream recording of the exchange, which went viral on Facebook, “appears to capture a conversation during a radio commercial break.”

These comments never aired on KIOW Radio,” KIOW management wrote in a statement on the station’s website Monday. “They did, however, appear on a video feed that appeared on a school website.” Harris told KIMT, in interview Monday, that the exchange was “unintentionally broadcast.” 

The Des Moines Register also reported that the Forrest City School District had placed Kusserow-Smidt, who is also a 3rd grade teacher, on paid administrative leave.

That night when we learned of these comments, we were in contact with the Eagle Grove School District and gathered information about the incident,” KIOW’s statement read. “On Thursday morning, November 30, a letter of apology was sent to school officials, along with details of our actions in regards to the two employees involved.”

“As a result, both employees have been fired from their positions with the station.”

In an interview with KIMT Monday, Harris apologized and said of his comments: “I’m surprised they came out the way they did. It was just off-the-cuff talking about the names from Eagles Grove. And I wasn’t trying to make fun of them. I’ve talked about them for a couple of years. But it just mushroomed out of hand, with the way we were talking. And it just didn’t sound right, it wasn’t right, and I apologize.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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