Ironic doesn’t begin to describe Mark Saxenmeyer’s dismissal from KSTP-TV for inserting in a story an inappropriate gay reference that was posted on the station’s website.
Saxenmeyer is gay. He’s been in a relationship for eight years.
“I’ve been out and proud since I was 25,” Saxenmeyer told me while verbally putting a whuppin’ on himself. He had just come from telling his parents, who live in Eden Prairie, about the non-April Fool’s Day prank that resulted in Saxenmeyer walking out KSTP-TV’s doors with his belongings boxed up on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Saxenmeyer wanted to do the story about gay Twin Cities fathers Paul Melchert and James Zimmerman being invited to attend the Obama White House’s 2013 Easter Egg Roll with their 3-year-old twins, Emmett and Gabriel. The interview was scheduled during a time of day that Saxenmeyer was not working, so he passed the story on to colleague Katherine Johnson.
“We were having a conversation about sensitivity issues when it comes to things like that. She was asking what are the appropriate questions to ask a gay couple? It was good conversation because, as a gay man, I like to help people better understand gay people, and oftentimes you can do that through humor.
“I’m an admitted jokester. Humor defuses awkward situations. Sometimes through humor you gain a better understanding. She was in the process of writing her Web script on her computer. So I wrote a few things into the Web script to make her laugh.
“She came over, looked at [what he’d written], laughed, and I said, ‘Make sure you delete that because obviously that would not be funny out of context.’ She deleted most of it. There was one little part she missed when she closed it.”
After that little part was discovered on KSTP.com, it was removed and this was added to the story: “Editor’s Note: Earlier today comments were published erroneously regarding this story. KSTP does not condone the comments. Action is being taken to ensure that this does not happen again.”
KSTP news director Lindsay Radford said, “I’m not going to comment on personnel issues.”
Asked about the editor’s note, Radford said, “We had an employee, as a joke, make an inappropriate reference inside that story. It was published with that inappropriate comment. We removed it immediately. That employee has been dealt with.”
She declined to answer my questions about Saxenmeyer’s status at the TV station. The question was answered later when I googled his bio, which had disappeared from KSTP.com and was replaced with an “ERROR” message.
“Lindsay, who I adore, and Anne Wittenborg, assistant news director, I absolutely adore. I feel I’ve let them down personally,” Saxenmeyer told me. “I think KSTP is a terrific news organization and so committed.
“Bizarre ironic is what it is. I’m not sorry for me. I’m a big boy; I’ll get over it. I made a profoundly stupid mistake. There’s just no getting around that. I have apologized profusely. It was stupid, inappropriate, irresponsible. It is beyond comprehensible.
“Make that clear. I don’t want anyone else to suffer repercussions of this. I especially don’t want the gay community to be hurt or offended in any way. They are the last people I would ever want to malign and disparage.
“When you are gay, you sometimes feel you can say things because they are coming from a place not of disrespect or evil.” But he’s learned there’s a time and a place.
“I don’t want KSTP to suffer in any way. I know KSTP knows it did not come from a place of malice. I had nothing but a terrific year and a half there. I’m old enough to understand this was a grievous mistake. I hate to have the other reporter’s name dragged into this. I just feel so terrible. I feel like I’ve kicked myself in my own butt here. I will forever regret this.
“I left there feeling terrible about this, [stating] from the deepest depths of my heart I am profusely sorry. I wouldn’t even know where to stop saying I’m sorry.”
Saxenmeyer spent 17 years in Chicago before moving back to Minnesota, where most of his family and friends are. He does not know what his next move will be, because, he said, “I think I have to absorb this loss. I have to learn from my mistake. That’s a cliché, but sometimes you need to listen to what the universe is telling you and make some changes.”