GCI apologizes after exec posts 'insensitive' comment on KTVA story

Anchorage-based telecom company GCI tweeted an apology on Friday after an executive wrote what the company has called an insensitive comment on a story on KTVA's website.

Duncan Whitney, a vice president at GCI -- which owns the Anchorage TV station -- commented Thursday night on a story about a traveler who drove all the way from Chile to Alaska in a Volkswagen bus. The traveler then flew to London to apply for a tourist visa to stay longer in the U.S., but was denied, KTVA reported.

"Got a hint for him," Whitney commented. "Go to Mexico, cross the border illegally and Obama will not only let him in, but will offer to fund the rest of his trip with taxpayer dollars and provide him free health care to boot!"

When Whitney posted the comment, his Facebook profile information identifying him as a vice president of GCI showed up alongside the comment. The GCI reference was later removed from his profile.

People reacted on both Facebook and Twitter, calling Whitney an "unashamed bigot," ignorant and a racist, among other things.

The company sent out a six-tweet apology Friday afternoon after hearing from people who were upset by the comment, said GCI spokeswoman Heather Handyside. She also emailed a statement to Alaska Dispatch News that was similar to what the company said on Twitter.

"An insensitive public comment by a GCI executive was brought to our attention today," she wrote. "The comment posted represents his personal views and does not represent those of GCI. Our leadership team is taking this matter very seriously and is addressing this situation with our employee. GCI strives to be (a) responsible partner in each of our communities and we offer our sincerest apologies."

Whitney also wrote a tweet on Friday about the comment.

"My comment wasn't my best judgment and has nothing to do with @GCIAK or (its) views," he wrote. "Apologies to those offended."

Handyside couldn't specify what exactly it means that the company is "addressing this situation." She said that while GCI owns KTVA, there's a "very strong firewall" between GCI and the news side of its operations.

"He was obviously commenting as an individual, not as a representative of GCI. Even though he works for GCI, he was making this comment in a personal context." she said.

Whitney has not replied to requests for comment via email and Twitter.

Annie Zak

Annie Zak was a business reporter for the ADN between 2015 and 2019.