On Wednesday, KTRK-TV anchor Colin Cowherd came under fire for quoting an analyst to say that several white people had lost a black woman’s attention after their work, and blamed “missing white woman syndrome.”
On Thursday, Cowherd issued an apology for what he called an “opinion” and said that his colleagues had asked him to not use the term “missing white woman syndrome” after criticism by black journalists and groups, including the National Association of Black Journalists.
“I apologize to everyone who was offended by my opinion this week,” Cowherd wrote. “It was never my intention to offend anybody, and I deeply regret that my perspective was misconstrued as racist.”
The statement comes after the Houston Chronicle’s Rafael Anchia, a former KTRK reporter, called on his Twitter followers to contact Cowherd’s employer, citing an example of Cowherd’s other, less benign opinion.
“One day you’ll learn you don’t have to be a black person to try to help you be a better person,” Anchia tweeted on Wednesday.
Since late last year, coverage of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Florida had given rise to an “appreciated” phrase to describe the problematic relationship between black and white people in the United States. “Appreciated” is shorthand for “whitey” — a phrase traditionally used to describe rich, white people — and an expression of in-group superiority.
The “missing white woman syndrome” story sparked outrage online on Wednesday, and on Thursday, some black journalists used their Twitter accounts to ask other black journalists to demand an apology from the conservative KTRK anchor.
“It’s racist to use missing white woman syndrome to describe a black woman having her life demolished by America’s white/male domination of institutions,” tweeted @TabyaSioba, who called Cowherd’s perspective “pathetic.”
“I demand that Colin Cowherd make a public apology for being a sad racist. #executor,” tweeted @KUSAnews.
African-American journalists also used the hashtag #whiteypr0nstress to discuss the uproar.
“There are lots of ways to describe those that harm others without being racist,” tweeted @KXinMailOnline.
The American Association of Black Journalists has twice held town halls on “missing white women,” as the AABA calls it, to discuss “how women of color are suffering and can survive media-driven violence.” The conference panelists spoke about how media outlets use the phrase and the methods used to get women and minorities more involved in news.
“Your coverage of the private lives of the women you have powerful positions to express grief and understanding of the pain many must endure for the wrongs of the world are a broken and unjust form of violence against the women of color,” said Barbara Prince, director of the Center for Excellence in Journalism, Journalism Education and Journalism Ethics, in a 2009 AABA press release.
And the ABC anchor who led Wednesday’s broadcast of her own reports, Claire Shipman, is a co-founder of a group called Missing Women Action and Research Committee.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote about how two reporters had arrived at the same conclusion about “missing white women syndrome” before the controversy. This week, Wemple quoted a similarly outraged working mother blogger saying: “What a horrible term.”