Community Rallying Behind Students After Racial Comments Made by Radio Hosts

EAGLE GROVE, Iowa  --  A long-time Forest City radio host who was fired on Tuesday for making racial comments towards the Eagle Grove High School basketball team has now apologized.

“Derogatory comments were made, and I sincerely apologize for the nature of the conversation that took place. That is not who I am,” says the former radio announcer Orin Harris.

A video clip from a boy’s basketball game between Forest City High School and Eagle Grove High School was posted to Facebook Sunday night. It contains racist comments by an announcer and producer. The clip is from a longer online broadcast of the Nov. 28th game, with audio provided by KIOW-FM in Forest City.

However, some are not accepting that apology. Eagle Grove resident Tina Baack says, “It’s bull. There is no way he did not mean to say those comments. They were filled with hate.”

The Eagle Grove School District superintendent says a quarter of the district is Hispanic and that number is growing.

“If it wasn't for diversity, we wouldn't be here. We’d be here, but we'd be looking totally different. Diversity has kept our schools alive and has brought more than 1,000 jobs to our community," says Jess Toliver.

On Tuesday, the Eagle Grove basketball team faced off again against Forest City. Aleigha Webber, a Forest City resident, says she was ashamed to wear her team's apparel to the game.

“I feel very sad for our town because that’s not the general consensus of anyone in our town," she says.

Meanwhile, the tight-knit community of Eagle Grove is rallying behind its kids.

“We are a very diverse community, and you would never look at those kids and say, ‘oh, well they’re different,' because it doesn't matter. We’re all the same,” Baack says.

The district says it using this as a teachable moment. Nikolas Padilla, one of the players who the hosts called out, responded on Twitter, saying in part, “I don't want Mr. Harris to be known for his devastating remarks. He made a terrible decision, I accept his apology.”

Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt, the other host who was fired, is a third-grade teacher within the Forest City School District. The school’s website says she has been placed on administrative leave.