In response to some pointed questions about a controversial story one of his television stations aired, Hubbard Broadcasting Chair Stanley Hubbard told Minneapolis protesters Thursday there will be no apology for the report that's come to be known as #pointergate.
The story on KSTP last week reported on concerns among police officers that Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges had flashed a gang sign when posing for a photo alongside a volunteer with a community group (right). The argument that Hodges' pointing gesture was meant as a signal to gang members has been widely criticized and mocked, particularly on social media using the #pointergate hash tag.
Hubbard, whose company owns KSTP, delivered a speech at Augsburg College in Minneapolis Thursday. MPR News reports there were more than 100 protesters outside before the event started, some of whom then attended the speech.
Critics have pointed to KSTP's story as an example of racial bias in media reporting. When asked during a question period if the station would offer an on-air apology for the story, Hubbard responded "No, of course not. That's riduculous," later adding "We do not micromanage our news department," MPR reports.
Twin Cities Daily Planet estimates about one-third of the audience for the Augsburg speech had been organized by Minnesota Public Interest Research Group to attend the event and demand an apology from Hubbard. Many were equipped with large foam pointing fingers most often seen at sports events.
A six-minute video of the question-and-answer session with Hubbard was posted to YouTube.
Hubbard defended the reporter who worked on the story, Jay Kolls, and noted that KSTP sought comment from the mayor and from Narvell Gordon, the volunteer canvasser with a criminal record who was photographed making the gesture alongside Hodges.
The original KSTP story included assertions by a retired police officer and the current chief of Minneapolis' police union that Hodges had put officers at risk with her gesture. The Star Tribune reports Hubbard explained their concerns Thursday, saying “They’re worried about one gang telling another gang we’re in with the mayor.”
The Star Tribune notes that at one point Hubbard waved off security officers who converged on a protester who sprang from his seat.
One of the MPIRG protesters told MPR she was disappointed with Hubbard's refusal to apologize for the story but said "We were about to walk out and he actually asked us to stay and he engaged with us, which we didn't expect."
Hodges publicly addressed the #pointergate issue for the first time on her blog Thursday evening. She analyzed the objections of the police union's chief to the photo at the heart of the controversy. Hodges concluded the Minneapolis Police Federation "wants me to stop working to raise the standards of police culture and accountability."
According to the Star Tribune, Hubbard Broadcasting owns television stations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, and New Jersey. The company announced Thursday that it has purchased 16 more Minnesota radio stations, the newspaper says, bringing its national radio inventory to 46 stations.