This ex-reporter's girlfriend was killed on live TV — and now he's running for office
Chris Hurst had just moved in with his girlfriend and co-worker Alison Parker when she was shot and killed on live TV.
Hurst and Parker met at work. They were both reporters at WDBJ7, a TV news station in Roanoke, Va., when Parker, 24, went out to cover a story at the chamber of commerce on Aug. 26, 2015, and a former co-worker killed her and the cameraman before turning the gun on himself.
Now, Hurst is running for state office with a unique gun control platform — against an NRA-endorsed Republican incumbent.
Hurst spoke with As it Happens guest host Helen Mann from Blacksburg, Va. Here's part of their conversation.
After it happened, the support from the community was overwhelming. ... Becoming an elected official and a public servant seemed like a natural progression for me.- Chris Hurst
Helen Mann: When did you decide to quit your news job at the station where you had worked with your girlfriend Alison Parker?
Chris Hurst: It was something that I had been thinking about for awhile. It was just very emotionally difficult for me to go into work every single day, to the newsroom where we fell in love with each other and first started flirting with each other, and then where they told me she was dead.
But I didn't want to leave the area, because after it happened, the support from the community was overwhelming — the people here really gave me strength and support. And I didn't want to leave them. So I said, "What can I do where I can stay here in southwest Virginia and give back to the people who gave me so much?" And becoming an elected official and a public servant seemed like a natural progression for me.
Every time a producer got in my ear and said "This story's dead," or "We're killing this story," it was another subtle reminder. It started to chip away at my humanity.-Chris Hurst
HM: What was it like for you to be back on the job in the months after Alison died?
CH: It was strange. What really started to chip away at me [were] the little things that were constant reminders that she was gone, and that she had been murdered. Watching the last 10 minutes of a television program before the 11 o'clock news, and having it end in some kind of gunfight — as typically happens at the end of broadcast dramas — was re-traumatizing for me, to hear those gunshots. They were very similar to the gunshots from the videos of her death. In television, when a story is dropped for time, we say that that story's dead, or we've had to kill it. So every time a producer got in my ear and said "This story's dead," or "We're killing this story," it was another subtle reminder. It started to chip away at my humanity. And I didn't want to become numb to everything in order to live my life.
Nobody just snaps. There's always something that is occurring — a pattern.- Chris Hurst
HM: So you've decided to move on. You are entering politics. Why state office?
CH: 'Cause I think it really allows you to stay connected with your community — with the people who are in this area. I would never want to lose that connection to the people that I'm beholden to. I felt that sense of duty when I was on television, and definitely in this new venture.
HM: I'd like to ask you specifically about your proposed gun control policies. What do you have in mind?
CH: Well, it has been very frustrating to me that everybody wants to identify me as a single-issue candidate. I don't dislike people because they like guns. And I'm not outraged that Alison was murdered because she was shot and killed. I'm outraged because she was murdered.
I think anything that we can do to better identify dangerousness — the level at which someone becomes a threat to themselves or someone else — and then have appropriate due process and law-enforcement protocols to remove any type of dangerous tool that might be at their disposal to help them complete their act.
I have no intention of trying to ban or prohibit any type of class of weapon. I would never want to legislate someone's culture or their way of life. But I do think that there is work that we could do through a gun violence protective order to reasonably — for a set amount of time — remove a gun from a dangerous situation. Nobody just snaps. There's always something that is occurring — a pattern.
HM: What do you think Alison would have thought about your decision to run for public office?
CH: She would have said "Right on! Go for it, sweetie."
This interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Chris Hurst.