NBC News' Alison Morris on Her Kobe Bryant Flap: "The Whole Thing Was So Bad"

Kobe Bryant — Getty — H 2020
Harry How/Getty Images

The correspondent, who works on the streaming service NBC News Now, "stuttered" on air when reporting on the NBA player's death and caused controversy.

On Jan. 26, when discussing Kobe Bryant's tragic death on MSNBC, network personality Alison Morris "stuttered on air" and combined the words "Knicks" and "Lakers," leading some spectators to believe that she had used the N-word.

Morris, a correspondent for the NBC News streaming service NBC News Now, took to Twitter to quickly respond to the backlash, saying, "Please know I did not & would NEVER use a racist term. I apologize for the confusion this caused."

Still, more than 100,000 people signed an online petition demanding that the network fire Morris, and the fact-checking service Politifact was forced to clarify that she was not actually fired.

In an interview on Democratic strategist Michael Starr Hopkins' podcast, provided early to The Hollywood Reporter, Morris discussed the controversy.

"There was so many things about it that were bad," Morris said. "It was only my third show on MSNBC. I tripped over my words, and someone thought I said the N-word. I did not."

Discussing the backlash and her attempt to correct the record, Morris said, "It doesn't even matter, because you can't convince people who don't want to hear that. I think the hardest part about it is was most people who formed an opinion on it hadn't even watched the show. A lot of people had heard doctored clips or things that were passed around."

Morris said that her MSNBC colleague, anchor Ali Velshi, told her: "Any energy you waste trying to convince someone you're not racist when you're not racist is just wasted energy, because you just can't."

Reflecting on the incident, she said, "It was such a hard time, because number one, I wouldn't say it; number two, I didn't say it; and then number three, friends and family and people who had no idea what was going on and nice people like you were like, 'Why are these people tweeting me that you're racist? What is going on?' I felt so bad for everyone that just got dragged into something that was just such a mess."

With the country mourning the loss of Bryant and his daughter, Morris said, "I just didn't want anyone wasting time or energy on me as a side show. The whole thing was so bad. ... I'm not that active on social media, so I had never experienced that kind of — I guess 'vitriol' is the right word? I really have a new and deep appreciation for people who have gone through things like that. Because it's real, and it's scary, and it's a lot harder than we realize."

Morris said of her family, "They were upset, and they were afraid, and they were getting threatened. I just felt so bad that they were upset and concerned for my well-being, and that I was concerned that they were OK. ... I felt badly for my family that my work had put them in that position."

Asked by Hopkins about her biggest failure, she cited the Bryant incident. "It was really hard and it felt really awful," she said.