ST. LOUIS • The St. Louis County NAACP met with a local news station Monday to call for the removal of the local newscaster who mispronounced the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name to include a racial slur last week.
KTVI (Channel 2) newscaster Kevin Steincross was speaking on the station’s morning news show at 5:34 a.m. Jan. 17 when he said a tribute to the civil rights icon at St. Louis University would honor “Martin Luther coon Jr.,” speaking a racial slur that has been used against black people.
Steincross apologized on air a little after 9 a.m.: “Please know I have total respect for Dr. King, what he meant and what he continues to mean to our country. This was not intentional in any way, and I sincerely apologize,” he said.
On Thursday, ahead of a meeting with the St. Louis County NAACP, a representative for Tribune Broadcasting said the station viewed the mispronunciation as an unfortunate mistake and did not plan to take additional disciplinary measures against Steincross after his apology.
“The Fox2 management team spoke to Kevin following the mistake and we believe that it was truly inadvertent and does not reflect Kevin’s core beliefs,” a Tribune spokesperson said a written statement.
That answer didn’t satisfy the county NAACP chapter.
“There are some matters where it is imperative we take a stand, and this is one of them,” said St. Louis County NAACP President John Gaskin. “I understand some people believe it was a mistake, but there are some mistakes in every field that are grounds for termination.”
The slur has a painful history for African-Americans, often used by racists to denigrate King.
“It needs to be taken seriously,” Gaskin said.
The NAACP is joined by others in asking for more action, including the Ethical Society of Police, a police membership organization that represents primarily black officers, and Missouri state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed.
After the meeting with KTVI leadership Monday afternoon, Gaskin said, “We’ve made our request and we’ll give them a chance to respond accordingly.”
He declined to provide more details about the meeting but said the NAACP was standing firm in its request for Steincross’ termination.
“We certainly understand people have brought up things about his character and him being an upstanding person, and although that may be the case, we’re talking about the incident at hand and it’s imperative we not get off the issue,” Gaskin said.
If the station does not fire Steincross, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Gaskin said.
A representative said Tribune Media had no comment after the meeting.
Steincross was just the latest in a series of broadcasters making the same mispronunciation of King’s name, sparking debates over whether the speakers revealed racism or just made simple mistakes.
This month, upstate New York meteorologist Jeremy Kappell was fired after mispronouncing a Rochester park as “Martin Luther coon King Jr. Park,” appearing to stumble over the name. Three days later, News10NBC’s general manager announced that Kappell no longer worked for the station.
In 2013, San Antonio meteorologist Mike Hernandez, said he also misspoke the name, calling the holiday “Martin Luther coon Day.” He apologized and kept his job.
ESPN sports broadcaster Mike Greenberg in 2010 said he and co-host on the “Mike & Mike” radio show were “talking football with you on this Martin Luther coon King Jr. holiday” on air. He apologized and was not fired.
In 2005, Las Vegas weather reporter Rob Blair said temperatures would be in the mid-60s on “Martin Luther coon King Jr. Day.” He was fired after working for the station for about three months.
Steincross has been working at KTVI since 1996 in roles as a general assignment reporter, co-anchor and morning newscaster, according to his bio on Fox2Now.com.