Communications mogul Stanley Hubbard, speaking at Augsburg College on Thursday, was forced to defend a controversial story that aired last week on one of his Minneapolis stations.

About 30 protesters, some waggling large red foam fingers typical at sporting events, stood up and roared at Hubbard, whose television station, KSTP-TV, had come under fire for airing a story claiming that Mayor Betsy Hodges was making a gang sign in a photograph with a young black canvasser. The story, which triggered a wave of criticism across social media calling for an on-air apology from the station, has been held up by critics as an example of racial bias in the media.

A handful of officers converged on protester Dylan Kesti as he sprang from his seat when Hubbard began talking about integrity in running a business, but the executive waved them off.

But Hubbard, whose responses were at times drowned out by the protesters, refused to apologize, defending KSTP's decision to air the story after being approached by "multiple law enforcement" officials.

At one point, he told the protesters that they had been "sucked in" by media coverage of the fallout from the original story.

Meanwhile KSTP-TV also defended their initial reporting in Thursday's 10 p.m. newscast. Despite the story provoking "a wave of criticism," the station said "we stand by the story."

Reporter Steve Tellier said the station was skeptical about the photo initially, but said they spent four days vetting the story, interviewing eight active police officers from different agencies and one retired Minneapolis officer — "all strongly agreed the picture was problematic," Tellier said.

He also included a phone interview with Bruce Ferrell, president of the Midwest Gang Investigators Association, saying that the photo of Hodges "gives the appearance she condones that type of behavior."

Tellier concluded the report, saying: "Others can interpret the facts as they see fit. But these are the facts."

Hubbard, who owns TV and radio stations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, and New Mexico, insisted that KSTP had done its due diligence by interviewing several officials, and seeking comment from the mayor and Navell Gordon, the young canvasser photographed next to Hodges.

Protester Ebony Adedayo said the protest was born of growing frustration with the general portrayal of young black men in the media.

"Twitter has really helped to push back against the dominant narrative," she said, as she stood with about 90 shivering protesters outside Charles S. Anderson Music Hall.

Staff writer Kelly Smith contributed to this report.

Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter:@StribJany