Thanks in part to activists from all over the country who contacted ABC and Disney, FAIR’s campaign against the bigotry of talkshow host Bob Grant has been a success.
The success was not in Grant’s firing from New York’s WABC, the flagship of Disney/ABC‘s radio empire. FAIR, in fact, never called for Grant to be taken off the air–we called on Disney to publish its policy regarding on-air racial slurs, and to add anti-racist counterweights to Grant–and in any case, Grant was back on the air in little more than a week, on New York’s WOR.
The success, rather, has been in reaffirming the values that FAIR has insisted on from the beginning: that racial slurs and calls for violence are not a healthy part of public discourse. Our reestablishment of these standards is demonstrated by the lies Grant now feels compelled to tell about his past statements.
The last straw for Disney/ABC was Grant’s comment after Commerce Secretary Ron Brown’s plane went down in Bosnia (4/3/96): “My hunch is [Brown] is the one survivor. I just have that hunch. Maybe it’s because at heart I’m a pessimist.” Grant tried to portray this remark as a momentary lapse of taste. “I never wished Ron Brown dead,” Grant told Newsday (4/19/96). “The only people I’ve ever wished dead were Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein.”
But Bob Grant has long wished for–or gloated over–the deaths of his (disproportionately non-white) enemies. He prayed for Magic Johnson to “go into full-blown AIDS” (10/1/92); he commented that the black victim killed by a white mob in Howard Beach, Brooklyn “got what was coming to him” (12/9/92). His solution to a gay pride march (6/29/94): “Ideally, it would have been nice to have a few phalanxes of policemen with machine guns and mow them down.”
Bob Grant has frequently called African-Americans names like “savages.” He’s used the slur to refer to everyone from black fraternities (who, because they left a mess on a New Jersey beach, represent “the savage mind, the primitive, primordial mentality”–7/15/93) to black churchgoers (“I can’t take these screaming savages, whether they’re in that A.M.E. Church, the African Methodist church, or in the street, burning, robbing, looting”– 4/30/93).
Grant now puts a different spin on the word. “‘Savage’ has nothing to do with race,” Grant told Larry King (Larry King Live, 4/30/96). “I was talking about people who were burning, robbing, looting in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, the first Simi Valley verdict. I was talking about people and their conduct, not people and their race.”
Grant has long referred to whites as being “higher on the evolutionary scale” (12/13/93); he bemoaned the non-white majority in New York City (Newsday, 6/2/92): “To me, that’s a bad thing. I’m a white person.” Dismissing an African-American caller, he once snorted that “his kind…weren’t intended to speak a civilized language” (9/16/93). Now Grant plays down his frequently expressed eugenicist views: “Can anybody really find somewhere where I made a statement in which I put down an entire race of people?” he asked (WPIX-TV, 4/29/96).
Grant’s revisionist take on his own career is accompanied by a great deal of complaining about the unfairness of FAIR. But every time he (and his fans) insist that he would never make the kind of statements he used to regularly make, he reinforces our point that such language has no part in responsible radio speech.
Won’t Share Air with Bigot
After being fired by Disney/ABC‘s WABC, Grant quickly found a new home at WOR, owned by the far smaller Buckley Broadcasting Corp., which has announced its intention to nationally syndicate Grant. Ironically, Grant had worked for WOR back in the ’70s, and had been suspended there for referring to black heavyweight fighters as “baboons.”
But in 1996, WOR has no compunction about capitalizing on WABC‘s decision. “We’re in the business of improving ratings,” a station spokesperson explained (Daily News, 4/28/96). “We’re in the business of improving revenues.”
One member of the WOR family who didn’t subscribe to that logic was Arthur Frommer, the publisher of the popular travel guides who hosted a weekly show on the station. After Grant’s hiring was announced, Frommer quit his show and issued this statement:
If you’d like to send a statement of your own to WOR–which is hoping to syndicate Grant to a station near you–write to station manager Bob Bruno at 1440 Broadway, New York, NY (phone: 212 642 4500; fax: 212 642 4486).