LOS ANGELES, CA – Following a meeting with black broadcasting and media professionals at Clear Channel’s KFI 640 radio station in Los Angeles, where talk-show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou returned to broadcasting after a controversial suspension for referring to the late singer Whitney Houston as a “crack ho,” more information is surfacing on the long history of KFI shows and their hosts use of racial slurs and jokes as it relates to African-Americans, in particular black elected officials.
KFI’s morning show host Bill Handel of the Bill Handel Show, one of the most listened too morning shows in Los Angeles with over 1 million listeners, has a long time history of using black as the subjects of his jokes.
In the clip below, Handel explains how members of the Congressional Black Caucus, thanks to auto maker GM’s sponsorship of the CBC Foundation, like to serve grape soda at Caucus events.
While elected officials are routinely targeted by hosts of KFI, black elected officials are often singled out on air and ridiculed using derogatory and negative stereotypes.
Yesterday in Los Angeles during the 5 p.m. hour of the John and Ken Show’s first show since their return from suspension, a surprise voice was on the air with the duo who took the time to ask the pair to stop referring to California Rep. Karen Bass as “Buzz-Cut Bass” on the air.
“KFI needs to take into consideration that not all of their listeners are white and that a lot of us [blacks] who listen don’t appreciate those racial jabs that are constantly used on air. Rep. Karen Bass is a highly respected member of Congress and yes, I know that John and Ken wouldn’t be who they are if they didn’t call out elected officials whom they disagree with, all I wanted to say is that names like “Buzz-Cut Bass” help to perpetuate negative stereotypes of black women. What does her hair style have to do with her being a Democrat?”
“Whenever John and Ken call black elected officials out of their name it’s always in reference to their looks–hair, face, etc. When talking about other elected officials, for example State Senator Gil Cedillio, he’s called ‘One Bill Gill,’ which targets his politics–not him being a Latino,” said veteran radio public affairs broadcaster Isidra Person-Lynn, producer and host of radio show Sunday Morning Live.
“Bass’ record in the Assembly and now in Congress on foster care and other important issues is commendable.”
Nana Gyamfi, human rights attorney, professor, and radio host in Los Angeles said, “Black women’s appearance has long been mocked as less than feminine by white men. Even Thomas Jefferson referred to Black women as ‘orangutans’. White society has long held the belief that straight best-if-blond hair is the epitome of feminine beauty. Short, curly or wooly African hair is the opposite of that standard, therefore defined as not just ugly, and extremely un-feminine, but without sexuality. The attack here is not just on her womanhood but on her sexuality as a whole.”
The Coalition, which included: Kevin Ross, host of the syndicated television program ‘America’s Court with JudgeRoss’, and former KABC and KFI host; Lee Bailey, 30-year radio broadcasting pioneer, founder and CEO of the Electronic Urban Report (EURweb); Dominique DiPrima, talk radio veteran and host of the Front Page on KJLH 102.3 FM; Isidra Person Lynn, former talk radio host, producer and public affairs director; L. C. “Chris” Strudwick-Turner, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the Los Angeles Urban League; Kevin Ross, 20-year radio veteran, on-air personality and the editor of RadioFacts.com; and journalist and communications strategist Jasmyne Cannick issued a statement after their meeting with station management and executives, calling out the station’s lack of diversity which it says has led to an insensitivity toward minorities that has resulted in caustic comments by John and Ken, as well as other personalities such as Bill Handel and Tim Conway Jr.
KFI management promised to get back to them within 72 hours with a plan to address the following concerns.
“Systemic change has to happen,” said Chris Strudwick-Turner of the Los Angeles Urban League. “They have to come back to us with a solid plan to improve this situation.”
“KFI has 14 shows, and 13 of them are hosted by white men,” Cannick said. “There are no blacks in their newsroom. This fosters an environment where insensitive comments like this can happen. And they are not living up to [parent company] Clear Channel‘s statement of a commitment to diversity.”
In the Spring 2006 quarter Arbitron rating, KFI was the most listened to radio station in Los Angeles, averaging approximately 1.5 million listeners during any given weekday. The station was the most listened to AM radio station as well as the most listened to news/talk radio station in the country, beating out WABC in New York City and WSB (AM) in Atlanta.