Kathryn Dennis, who has appeared on all six seasons of Bravo’s reality series Southern Charm, apologized on Monday for sending a monkey emoji to activist and radio show host Mika Gadsden when defending a local Charleston business owner for organizing a Trump boat parade.
“I want to acknowledge that using a monkey emoji in my text was offensive, and from the bottom of my heart I sincerely apologize to anyone and everyone I hurt,” Dennis tweeted. “Although the context was not my intention, there are no 'if ands or buts' that excuse me. I did not give it thought, and it was and is wrong. I know I am not that person. I know and will do better.”
Dennis tweeted an apology for using the monkey emoji in her direct message after Gadsden tweeted a screenshot, but unpublished screenshots of Dennis’s full conversation with Gadsden reveal that the reality star relentlessly messaged the activist 28 times, calling her a “psycho” and saying, “Do you have a mom?”
Bravo didn’t immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’ request for comment.
Dennis, a resident of Charleston, South Carolina, jumped into a social media conversation on Sunday night that involved Katie Shields, who owns a local nail salon called Mylk Bar. Shields had posted an Instagram story on her personal account saying she was organizing a “Trump Boat Parade” later this month.
Another small business owner, Paulina Rodriguez, who sold her jewelry in Shields’ nail salon, reposted Shields' Instagram story, saying she was cutting ties with the business owner for supporting Trump. (She did not include Shields' name or identity.) Shields posted another Instagram story asking her followers to DM Rodriguez “and explain that supporting Trump does not make you racist.”
As a result, Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News, she received a huge influx of messages from Shields and Mylk Bar’s followers, feeling harassed by people who made comments like “It’s hilarious that you think you’re better than those that voted for Trump… You are a nobody. MAGA.”
Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News that Dennis was included in the group of people who DM'd her after Shields’ callout. The jewelry store owner received a notification that Dennis mentioned her in her Instagram story featuring a video getting her nails done at Mylk Bar before the quarantine, but Rodriguez’s tag wasn’t public-facing on Dennis’s story.
The harassment prompted Rodriguez to reach out to Gadsden, who she knows is an activist in Charleston. That’s when Gadsden posted a video on her own Instagram story about how Dennis mentioned Rodriguez in her Instagram story, but hid her name so that others couldn't see it.
“This is how white women show solidarity,” Gadsden wrote on her story. “They attempt to bully BIPOC thinking that their lawyers or followers (fans) frighten us!”
This is when Dennis DM'd Gadsden, making comments like “Are you unaware of your absolutely sociopathic behavior. I can’t help but continue messaging you in hopes that you will get it. Ur legit what’s wrong with our city.” Dennis also said, “Stop using Charleston and ur minority claim as a platform to harass people.”
Gadsden barely responded to Dennis except for liking each message and sending a couple of thumbs-up emojis. The only words Gadsden wrote back were “Teach me” in response to Dennis saying, “You’ll learn.” Gadsden told BuzzFeed News that she didn’t appreciate Dennis’s “name-calling and the use of racial tropes, but unfortunately I think it’ll make a great storyline for her.”
“People like Kathryn Dennis are rewarded with bigger platforms, access to nationally syndicated programming and networks, people who express what folks might view as casually racist views who demonstrate microaggressions towards women of color,” Gadsden said. “People like Kathryn Dennis are everywhere. They are pervasive, they’re everywhere in Charleston, and they’re rewarded for their behavior and are given spots on reality shows.”
Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News she thought Dennis’s DMs to Gadsden were “absolutely abhorrent.”
“I couldn’t believe what she was saying,” Rodriguez said. “There’s just this racial divide in Charleston and people have been so afraid to actually call it out.”
After tweeting her public apology on Monday, Dennis sent one last DM to Gadsden apologizing.
“I’m sorry, I fucked up. I wasn’t thinking and while I meant it as ‘monkey business’ etc it doesn’t matter. It was tone deaf and wrong,” she wrote.
“I’m human and make mistakes, but when I do I want to own and acknowledge them. That’s how I strive to live my life, and those are the values I strive to instill as a mother. Now, in a world of divisiveness, I only want to bring people together.”
According to Gadsden, the reality star’s behavior isn’t an isolated incident and is emblematic of bigger issues of racism in Charleston and in the country as a whole.
“Kathryn Dennis is not an outlier,” Gadsden said. “She is most certainly the rule.”
BuzzFeed News reached out to Dennis and Shields for comment.