Iowa broadcasters fired after on-air criticism of 'Español people'

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Two Forest City, Iowa radio announcers were fired for broadcasting racist remarks during a game between Forest City High School and Eagle Grove High School. (Twitter)
Two Forest City, Iowa radio announcers were fired for broadcasting racist remarks during a game between Forest City High School and Eagle Grove High School. (Twitter)

If you’re a broadcaster in front of a hot microphone, you have a lot of power. On Nov. 28, two radio broadcasters in Forest City, Iowa decided to use that power to make racist remarks about Hispanic high schoolers.

The setting was a high school basketball game between Forest City High School and Eagle Grove High School. The two broadcasters, host Orin Harris and producer Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt, were commenting on the game via an online stream from radio station KIOW. At one point, Harris and Kusserow-Smidt got into a conversation about several players from the opposing Eagle Grove team, calling them “Español people” who should “go back to where they came from.”


The segment never aired on the radio, but the clip above was heard online, and caught by an eagle-eared listener who posted it on Twitter. The transcript, from Deadspin, is below:

Harris: The first three names we gotta remember are Enzo Gebara, Spencer Espejo, and Nikolas Padilla for Eagle Grove. They have a lot of … um, apparently…

Kusserow-Smidt: Español people.

Harris: Español people in Eagle Grove.

Kusserow-Smidt: Gee, I wonder why that is?

Harris: I wonder why.

Kusserow-Smidt: But the latest there is that they’re just going to gradually come into town, yeah right.

Harris: Uh huh.

Kusserow-Smidt: Uh huh.

Harris: Gradually work their way in.

Kusserow-Smidt: Gradually work their way in … so, who are these people again?

Harris: Oh, you wanna know the names? Enzo Gebara, Spencer Espejo, and Nikolas Padilla.

Kusserow-Smidt: They sound like they’ve been here a while, given the first names.

Harris: Yea, I think they’ve been there. Padilla, I think that’s P-A-D-I-L-L-A.

Kusserow-Smidt: Yea, Padilla.

Harris: Padilla, something like that.

Kusserow-Smidt: Yea.

Harris: The there’s Chase Blasie, he sounds like he’s not a foreigner. Could be though.

Kusserow-Smidt: Yea.

Harris: They’re all foreigners.

Kusserow-Smidt: Exactly, all foreigners.

Harris: As Trump would say, go back where they came from.

Kusserow-Smidt: Well, some would say that, yeah, some days I feel like that too.

It’s the most obvious thing in the world to say that if you’re anywhere near a microphone, don’t say stuff like that. But it’s not like they were accidentally caught with a live mic, sharing their racist thoughts during a commercial. They were in the middle of broadcasting the game and said these things as part of their “commentary.” They believed the term “Español people” belonged in their broadcast about high school kids who were just playing basketball. It’s beyond disgusting.

Harris and Kusserow-Smidt were fired, and deservedly so. KIOW also released a statement about the incident:

On Tuesday, November 28th, two employees of KIOW made comments that were insensitive, thoughtless and degrading to others. These comments were deplorable, and the staff and management of KIOW in no way condones or supports these comments.

These comments never aired on KIOW Radio. They did, however, appear on a video feed that appeared on a school website.

That night when we learned of these comments, we were in contact with the Eagle Grove School District and gathered information about the incident. 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.

KIOW Radio has a long history of promoting and supporting student athletes, coaches and schools. As a company, we take great pride in spotlighting the great efforts of our local citizens, schools and communities, and we will demand that all company employees adhere to this policy.

That statement hit the nail right on the head. These kids, no matter their nationality or heritage, are not just students, but members of that community. They deserve to be treated with respect, something that Harris and Kusserow-Smidt, who are now unemployed, obviously disagreed with.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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