Pundits at The New Yorker, The Economist, NPR and other bastions of whiteness will tell you we’re living in a post-racial society. Buy them a radio, because Jim Crow still reigns all over the airwaves. Sometimes he calls himself Bill O’Reilly and he’ll tell you to guard your hubcaps from blacks, your country from wetbacks, and your eyes from Muslim women “the most unattractive women in the world.” Other times he’s Michael Savage, and he’ll warn that Africans can’t think and that the Voting Rights Act is about putting voting machines in crack dens. Next he’s Don Imus, who calls Gwen Ifill a cleaning lady, brags about hiring writers to do “nigger jokes” and laments that not enough people of color died in a plane crash. Then he’s Rush Limbaugh requesting a black caller to take the bone out of his nose. Or he’s Steve Malzberg hungry to gun down black Rutgers students who demonstrate against cuts in education funding. Ultimately though, Jim Crow is the radio executives and mainstream advertisers who prop up all these civilization-poisoning demons.
These demons didn’t spring from thin air though, they oozed out of the godfather of racist talk radio: eugenics promoter Bob Grant. He’s been slinging hate since 1964, most recently on WABC (aptly dubbed WKKK by Joy Behar after her stint there). In Bob’s world, black churchgoing women and black college students are “savages,” Martin Luther King is “that scumbag Marty,” and former New York Mayor David Dinkins looks like “the men’s room attendant at the 21 Club.” Haitian refugees are sub-human swine who breed like maggots, and AIDS in Haiti is “not prevalent enough, there’s too many of them.” Most of us probably felt bad when we learned that Magic Johnson was HIV-positive. Not Bob, “Why is it taking so long for the HIV to go into full-blown AIDS?” When Bob found out that Clinton’s black Commerce Secretary Ron Brown’s plane went down in 1996, Bob worried on the air that Brown may have survived. His worry was ill-placed, however–Brown and 34 others were very dead.
This past January, radio industry magazine Radio & Records announced that Grant would be getting a lifetime achievement award at their then upcoming conference in Washington. They rescinded the award after I contacted a bunch of employees at Nielsen, their parent company. As a result, WABC and Talkers Magazine are giving Grant a “new” lifetime achievement award at the New Media Seminar this Friday evening (June. 6) at 8PM. Because allegedly liberal radio host Ellen Ratner is involved with both organizations, Talkers Magazine arranged a year ago (well before the Bob Grant travesty was tacked on) for the seminar to happen at Lighthouse International (the charity for the Blind). Amazingly, Lighthouse has no interest in distancing themselves in any way from the Grant award. I spoke to their president Dr. Tara Cortes and a few board members including the sole black board member Phyllis White-Thorne (of Con Edison). White-Thorne was initially horrified, but changed her tune after convening with the others.
I also tried to get Talkers Magazine president Michael Harrison to do the right thing, but he lives to award racist radio hosts (Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Don Imus) and claims to do so as a champion of free speech. I asked him though, if he would award a host who denied the Holocaust or went after Jews as much as Grant has gone after blacks, and he said no. That’s where he draws the line. Ellen Ratner “wasn’t sure” on that one but was fine with Grant. She also touted her love for free speech, and that she was a left-wing lesbian – which is public – so she understood the minority perspective. Then I informed her of Bob Grant’s on-air rant about wanting to mow down gays with machine guns at the NY Gay parade. In a cheap attempt to assuage me and fend off my opposition, Harrison offered me a slot to speak solo at the event about race and radio. I countered that it would be ridiculous for one white guy to be the only one discussing the issue, since the targets of the racist hosts are almost always black, and explained that I would do it if I could assemble and moderate a panel. He initially said no, but changed his mind when he realized I wouldn’t budge. When I wrote him that the subject of the panel would include both discussions of racist radio executives (those responsible for putting racist hosts on the air) as well as the need for sponsor boycotts to leverage a share of radio air-time for demonstrably anti-racist hosts, Harrison changed his mind again, “I cannot present a panel in a manner that endorses the condemnation of an entire segment of the field that we serve as a trade publication in the way we headline it.”
Myself and others are staging a protest against the racism of Grant, Harrison, and Lighthouse International from 6PM to 10PM this Friday evening (June 6) outside the event at 111 East 59th Street between Park and Lexington in NYC. Please come, and please spread the word.
Here are three links documenting Grant’s racism. The last link includes many Grant audio clips.
In America;Radio’s Sick Shtick – New York Times
SCOTT PELLEGRINO is the president/CEO of Popdebate and Collegiatedebates and also a veteran talk radio producer, most recently with Roseanne Barr and Johnny Argent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org