Sep 3 1999

Hate Radio Makes a Comeback

Two recent stories about nationally syndicated radio talk show hosts have once again raised the issue of sexism and racism on the radio.

On August 24, Walt Disney Company issued an apology for a radio promotion that aired repeatedly during the nationally syndicated Mark & Brian show, which originates from KLOS-FM in Los Angeles, a Disney-owned station.

The apology comes roughly a year after the station gave away black plastic garden tools and promoted them as free “black hoes”–a crude pun on “black whore.” The gimmick, which ran for about six weeks, prompted action by several civil rights groups in the Los Angeles area, who rejected the company’s apology and are calling for a national boycott of Disney (Los Angeles Times, 8/25/99).

Disney‘s statement seems timed to deflect charges of racism and sexism. Two KLOS employees, according to the Times (9/3/99), have filed racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits against Disney, ABC and KLOS-FM, claiming that they became targets of harassment from co-workers and supervisors at the station when they complained about the offensive campaign. The suits also call into question a Disney spokesperson’s claim that those directly involved were disciplined, since one of the lawsuits alleges that those responsible for the stunt have been promoted within the Disney company.

Deejays Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps recently made an on-air apology for the promotion. An Alabama radio station issued a similar apology on behalf of the same deejays in 1986, after they and another host were sued for making “libelous and slanderous statements which are racist, sexist, vulgar and obscene.”

And this month, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Citadel Communications group pulled the nationally syndicated Don and Mike show from local station KHTL-AM (920) after racial slurs sparked concern among local community leaders and advertisers. On August 17, the hosts mocked the town of El Cenizo, Texas for adopting Spanish as its official language. According to a report in the Albuquerque Journal (8/28/99), the hosts called City Hall in El Cenizo and told the woman who answered the phone that “people who won’t or can’t speak English should ‘get on their burros and go back to Mexico.’ They also made lewd comments to the woman in English and Spanish.”

The show is syndicated nationally to 60 stations by the CBS-owned Westwood One radio network.

For years, FAIR has sought to expose and criticize examples of racist, sexist or homophobic speech on the public airwaves. As staunch defenders of the First Amendment, we feel that nothing is more essential to democratic dialogue than an open and honest discussion about hate speech in our society.

FAIR’s “Challenging Hate Radio: A Guide to Activists” is available at:

FAIR also encourages people to contact the broadcast companies that syndicate these shows:

ABC Radio Networks:

Lyn Andrews- President

(212) 735-1750

Westwood One:

President & CEO Joel Hollander

(212) 750-6400