The old axiom in broadcasting is that the mic is always hot even if you’re technically off the air. Iowa radio high school basketball announcer Orin Harris and his producer at Forest City, Iowa station KIOW found that out the hard way when they had what they thought was an off-air conversation.
Harris and the unnnamed producer were discussing a game between Eagle Grove and Forest City when they talked about three Hispanic players. The producer and Harris called them “Español people” and added they “should go back where they came from.”
One person who was watching an online steam of KIOW in Forest City, IA happened upon the conversation and posted it to Twitter:
The way these people talk about eagle grove is absolutely disgusting pic.twitter.com/ruwCeO3tHm
— Sadie Stuhr (@sadie_stuhr) December 4, 2017
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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…
Producer: Español people.
Harris: Español people in Eagle Grove.
Producer: Gee, I wonder why that is?
Harris: I wonder why.
Producer: But the latest there is that they’re just going to gradually come into town, yeah right.
Harris: Uh huh.
Producer: Uh huh.
Harris: Gradually work their way in.
Producer: 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.
Producer: 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.
Producer: Yea, Padilla.
Harris: Padilla, something like that.
Harris: The there’s Chase Blasie, he sounds like he’s not a foreigner. Could be though.
Harris: They’re all foreigners.
Producer: Exactly, all foreigners.
Harris: As Trump would say, go back where they came from.
Producer: Well, some would say that, yeah, some days I feel like that too.
The conversation, while streamed, did not air on the radio. KIOW issued a letter of apology to both schools and then issued the following statement:
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.
As mentioned in the statement, Harris and the producer were fired. It’s a valuable lesson that even though the broadcast may not be over the air, the online stream can catch everything from outside and inside the arena.