Radio Host Apologizes for Race-Related Comments to Hawaii State Lawmaker

Radio personality Larry Price apologized Monday for race-related comments he made last week in an on-air interview with state Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser.

Price, of Honolulu's top-rated "Perry & Price" morning show on KSSK, questioned the senator on where he was born and whether he had blue eyes during an interview about this year's legislative session.

Hooser, a white Democrat from Kauai who was born in California and has lived in Hawaii for 37 years, asked Price if the color of his eyes mattered.

Price, born in Hawaii with Caucasian, Portuguese and Hawaiian ancestry, replied, "Yes, to us it does, because when local people hear somebody from the mainland talk about how honest everything is that means that something's wrong."

Hooser bristled at the comments on the air, saying, "You know, I don't really appreciate a reference to where I'm from, from California, or my blue eyes, Mr. Price."

Price responded: "Well, I don't care what you think."

After Monday's 7 a.m. news update, Price said he wanted to apologize to KSSK listeners and the people of Hawaii for his "inappropriate remarks."

"If my comments were offensive to anyone, I realize it was wrong to make them," said Price, a former University of Hawaii football coach from 1974-76. "There is no room for this type of insensitive language that I used. I have learned from this and I hope that Sen. Hooser will accept my apology."

Hooser said he has not heard from Price directly and was unsatisfied.

"As much as I personally appreciate his effort to address his inappropriate and offensive statements, it is clear from statements that continue to be made on the show that the management and owners of KSSK still do not understand the seriousness of the matter," Hooser said in a statement.

Hooser said KSSK and its owner Clear Channel Communications have an obligation to their listeners and all of the people of Hawaii, "to acknowledge that the views expressed last Friday are inappropriate and unacceptable in our community."

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa issued a statement Monday saying Senate leadership was "deeply concerned with the tenor and content of the statements" by Price.

She said Price's questioning of Hooser's integrity based upon eye color or the location of his birth was offensive, "not only to those of us who work with Senator Hooser on a daily basis, but also to everyone in Hawaii who lives by our community's standards of openness and acceptance."

"While we recognize that Mr. Price offered an apology this morning, it was clear that neither his co-host nor radio station KSSK are treating this matter with the seriousness it is due," Hanabusa said.

"This episode cannot be fully closed until Perry and Price, KSSK radio and Clear Channel Communications indicate that they understand and accept the impact of Mr. Price's statements on the public."

Hanabusa said the Senate would like to hear a "sincere and unqualified" apology, and assurances that steps will be taken to ensure it will not happen again.

Co-host Michael W. Perry, who sarcastically called himself the "blue-eyed member of the morning team," said the comments were a short sound clip taken from a long interview in which Price made the opposite point.

Perry noted that Price has a "Caucasian father from Tennessee and Hawaiian-Portuguese mother from here."

"Which half of you was racist?" Perry asked his partner, saying he should take back his apology. "This stuff drives me nuts. It's just so typical. A 15-second sound bite overwhelms a devastating, revealing 15-minute interview about our dysfunctional state Senate."

A number of people have voiced their opposition to Price's local-versus-mainlander tack with the senator.

Debate over the confrontation has highlighted feelings of prejudice in island communities where there is little outright racial tension but often strong feelings of identity among Hawaii-born residents.

The comments come two days after KSSK General Manager Chuck Cotton issued his own apology for Price's "inappropriate personal comment directed to Senator Hooser."

Price is also a professor of human resource management at Chaminade University and a color commentator for high school football games on local cable TV channel OC16.

The local dustup comes a month after radio host Don Imus was fired by CBS Radio after describing the NCAA runner-up Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos."