The Rob, Arnie & Dawn morning show on KRXQ has not been live this week, after a firestorm over comments that Rob Williams and Arnie States made on the air about transgender children.
The story: On May 28, Williams and States opined that transgenders were “freaks” and “fruits” that had a “mental disorder. “God forbid if my son put on a pair of high heels. I would probably hit him with one of my shoes,” said States. An undetermined number of regular and “second-hand” listeners launched an online attack – email and social media – to shut down the show and demand that advertisers withdraw their support of the show and station. On June 3, the three hosts addressed their listeners and detractors on the air; Williams and States defended their right to voice their opinion and stated that they did not advocate violence against children. By the weekend of June 6, nine advertisers had cancelled their contracts and another had declared it would not renew. On June 7 Williams announced that no new shows would air until June 11.
Much of the outrage came from “second-hand” listeners, people who only had heard a recording of the May 28 show. They were not regular listeners; many didn’t even live in the Sacramento station’s broadcast area. They simply made it their business to campaign against an apparent endorsement of violence against children and transgenders.
These types of violence – and advocating them – have no place in my world. I am offended that anyone would even joke about them, as Williams and States claim to have done. So I understand the public outrage.
If Williams and States were indeed joking, they forgot that they had a responsibility to their viewers to maintain the line between humor and hurt. Their listeners might espouse the violence, but to make light of it and to actively participate in it abrogated their job as broadcasters to be fair to all parties involved. They were entitled to express their opinion or to joke about the issue, but fell down on their responsibility to balance it.
At the end of the day, the show cost the station a significant number of advertisers. But I don’t think the show has lost many regular listeners. Some of those listeners have voice their opinion that the broadcasters’ right to free speech has been curtailed.
I’ve always voted with my ears for the radio shows and stations I support (and with my eyes for TV and online media). I resent other people telling me what I can and cannot listen to, because that takes away my right to choose. So I understand the regular listener’s outrage: All these outsiders may cost me a show that I would choose for my morning drive.
On Thursday, June 11, the Rob, Arnie & Dawn morning show will once again go live and the presenters will “say what needs to be said.” According to Williams’ online statement, “Apologizing in a written, posted statement is a form of cowardice.”
I wonder for what they will apologize, and who the true victors and losers will be.
(For the followup blog post, go to KRXQ: The Apology.)