Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What Did He Say?

-Since I started blogging, about a year-and-a-half ago, It has been at most a daily thing with me...usually 4 or 5 times a week I feel the urge to write about something.

Well, today's a first. Three posts in one day. First Mizzou...My weekly American Idol prediction... and I couldn't be a former "regular-check-getter" in broadcasting without saying something about today's unbelievable happenstance at KTRS.

In case you haven't heard...here are the details in a story by Jake Wagman of the Post-Dispatch and STLToday.
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Talk show host fired after on-air racial slur
By
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
03/22/2006

A radio personality at 550 KTRS was fired on the spot this morning after using the word “coon” on the air in a conversation about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dave Lenihan was dismissed after what he called an inadvertent slip of the tongue. Within 20 minutes, station CEO Tim Dorsey apologized on the air to listeners and announced that Lenihan, who had been with the station for less than two weeks, had been let go.“I don’t know what was in Mr. Lenihan’s mind,” Dorsey said in an interview. “I know what I heard. I know it was reprehensible.”Lenihan’s comment was made during a discussion about Rice’s credentials to become commissioner of the National Football League, a topic that has been fodder for sports talk radio since the current commissioner announced he would retire later this year.
Lenihan was listing what assets Rice could bring to the league, including her tenure as a top academic officer at Stanford University and the fact that she is African-American. From listening to a tape of the broadcast, it appears Lenihan meant to use the word “coup” but immediately backtracked when instead the racial slur came out of his mouth.“She’s just got a patent resume, of somebody that’s got such serious skill,” Linehan said on the air. “She loves football, she’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon, a big coon – oh my God, I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that, OK? I didn’t mean that. That was just a slip of the tongue.” Lenihan, who had previously been with radio station WGNU, was part of the recently reshuffled lineup at KTRS since half of the station was acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals. He had a morning talk show.

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There's actual audio of the slip...and KTRS GM Tim Dorsey's on-air apology and announcement that Lenihan was being fired on STLToday too...if you want to hear it.

My take? Based on what I heard, the guy actually had a brain fart and committed a slip of the tongue. He seemed instantly aware of how his mistake would be perceived...and apologized profusely. But he only made the problem worse by apologizing and calling attention to what he had said. Back in Broadcasting 101 you are taught that if you make a mistake...you've made a mistake...you can't take it back...you keep going on and DON'T CALL ATTENTION TO IT. By calling attention to it, you only make it worse. That's what Lenihan did. If he had just kept on talking and acted as though nothing had happened, someone may have called him on it...but most of the audience would have realized it was a legitimate error and forgotten about it...and the rest would have thought they must have misheard him. He certainly didn't help himself either when soon after his slip, and resulting apology, he seemed to giggle as he went to a commercial break.

What is really interesting is the management reaction. I think Dorsey's hand was forced. He pretty much had to fire Mr. Lenihan...(who I hear is a real-life brain surgeon...so it's actually Dr. Lenihan..which must mean he doesn't have a degree in mass communications either).

Damage control is the key phrase here. KTRS is trumpeting a new "edgier" and "hipper" direction for it's talk...and, of course, it's new partnership with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, or their radio station, can't be drug into any kind of a racial-oriented public relations problem....and moving swiftly to nip any potential controversy in the bud was what had to be done. This is not something that happened in the lunch room...or on a smoke break...it happened on the biggest daytime radio signal in the midwest.

Not firing Lenihan would be perceived by some, especially activisits, as condoning racial jokes, or slips-of-the-tongue, whether they be unintentional or not, on a station that's new hosts are trying to be "out there" and less KMOX-like. Management at the station probably immediately had horrific visions of pickets outside the new ballpark and at the Westport Plaza studios....and television news coverage of the controversy for weeks to come. No matter what KTRS programmers and management thought of Lenihan's potential for the future, business was not going to be enhanced by keeping him on the air.

You can argue all day that Lenihan shouldn't have been dumped for a slip of the tongue...and you might be right in principle. But, I'll bet even Lenihan himself knew what management had to do as soon as he put the N on the end of the word coup. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that one out. Talk about a station that's "snake bit".

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I lived in St. Louis my whole life until I moved to Phoenix in 2003 at age 31. I am so glad I left that racial powder keg. Of course, had a black DJ made a similar comment with a white racial slur, it would have been no problem.

Tevis
Goodyear, AZ

Anonymous said...

I lived in Phoenix (a very diverse city) my entire life and spent 5 years in St. Louis...glad I moved back home! Never been around a bunch of racists in my entire life! That speaks for blacks and whites! Funny how it is OK for blacks to get away with calling whites names, but when the shoe is on the other foot...they get fired! Racism goes both ways! Whites are discriminated against too! "Coon" didn't even fit the context of the sentence and it was a slip of the tongue! ---Tawney

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest problems with race relations... whites have some "nuclear" racial terms... blacks have absolutely none... cracker and honkey simply aren't offensive, unless if you're going out of your way to be offended...

Anonymous said...

At my first radio job (WINI Murphysboro IL), the mom-and-pop who ran the place told me to "check my profanity at the door". They figured if you were in the habit of leaving it outside, it wouldn't accidently make it on air.

Jeff
Des Moines, IA

Anonymous said...

I really don't think most rational-thinking people are offended by this. Anyone who heard the statement understood that Lenihan was singing the praises of Condi and that nothing was meant by it. There was no racial tie-in to the context of his statement. He was hosting a topic about how supremely qualified Condi would be for a high-profile position...doesn't the context have any bearing on this? Clearly, he tripped himself up on his words, and that's all. Dorsey bungled this by inflaming the story with his 'no room for hate' speach. Where did that come from? Can we assume that he had a meeting with the Cardinals and they all mutually agreed in that 20-minute span that Lenihan should be fired? The guy misspoke! This is only a story because the media is incessantly reporting it, and now it's out of control. I would like to be the first to demand that Dave be put back on the air! To me, this is another manufactured story that is NOT an example of a newsworthy event that could change people's lives.

Dave
Effingham, IL

Anonymous said...

People have slips of the tongue all the time. On numerous occasions I and friends have use profanity in front of the kids.

However, I've never used a racial slur in front of the kids, because I never use racial slurs at all. It isn't in my vocabulary.

(By the way, Dave isn't a brain sugeon, he is a chiropractor. Nothing wrong with that, but not quite the same.)

Chuck
St. Louis

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, we act as though Black people are the privileged one's. It was Black people who denied whites from sitting in the front of the school bus. It was white people who were denied access to equal education. And it was white people who were dragged on the basis of race. Good luck with the reverse racism crap!

Anthony G.
St. Louis, MO

Anonymous said...

The thing I wonder was....

Wasn't here a 7-second delay? Where was the board op with the "dump" button?

Brent
Marissa, IL
Go Blues!!!

Anonymous said...

I am saddened by the fact that this has been blown out of proportion! There is no question that management had to act on the situation, but an immediate firing seems to be an over-exaggeration. If Mr. Dorsey really is sincere about being completely the opposite of being racial, he should then have been concerned about how to handle the situation so as to not continue to draw attention to it. I see what he did immediately as being in haste and of a flustered mind. The same can be said about Dave's mind after he heard what he said. Someone who does not have a racially concisious mind is less likely to catch their own mistake. The fact that it was all a part of his actually promoting Ms. Rice' ability is all I need to know. I am smart enough to make my own decisions and I don't need Mr. Dorsey to tell me he doesn't condone this behavior. Neither does Dave I am sure, but I guess that doesn't mean anything. The fact that he is now allowing the on-air programming to belabor what happened sounds to me like he is using it now for publicity, which to me is just as bad as actually being racist. The producer or engineer should have dumped the mistake, that's why the delays are there!! What about that persons employment? Since it is there job to keep objectionable material from getting on the air, that person should be fired first. The buck stops there, not with Dave! Dave made a mistake and tried to fix it with a flustered mind. That alone should have been an additional flag to the delay-dump operator to act. Mr. Dorsey needs to have more responsibility for his on air product and employ more capable operators than he apparently does.

Anonymous said...

Dorsey should fill Dave's timeslot with an accredited sensitivity-trainer for the listeners for about a week to ensure that race-relations don't get set back by 10 years because of Dave's mis-speak!

Ontario Emperor said...

You said, "The Cardinals, or their radio station, can't be drug...." You should be fired for bringing up drugs in connection with a fine outstanding baseball team!

And yes, I'm kidding.

The part that's even more disturbing is the action of the chiropractic college in suspending him. If radio has knee-jerk reactions, academia is even more inclined to such actions.

And maybe you know this better than me, but how could the station manager's hand have been forced when he acted within 20 minutes? Commands from corporate headquarters couldn't be sent out that quickly. This was an inside job.

More here.

Anonymous said...

The word the word he meant to use was clearly either boon or coup. He couldn't decide, and well, we ended up with coon. Sadly for him, his indecision cost him his job. He's quite obviously a wingnut apologist for the Bush administration and appeared absolutely giddy at the idea of a female, black (sorry I don't do hyphenated-American) presidential candidate. His bosses are cowards.

genetically imprinted, 3rd generation, pro-labor Democrat
Washington, DC

Anonymous said...

What he was actually trying to say was, "It would be a big coup in the NFL." Say it fast enough and you might just say it too. With that said, the radio station did what any radio station would do in this day and age, they cut their loses and moved on. He was actually on Howard Stern this morning, and quite frankly it is getting over blown a little bit.If he came out and said I hate them coons, then yes he is a racist, but this was a just a very bad slip of the tongue.

Anonymous said...

it's completely disgusting that the station fired him. It was completely obvious that he wasn't calling her a coon. He was just talking about her awesome resume all in the same sentence. What makes me sick is there's a guy on a FoxSports AM channel that is syndicated here in Seattle and he's black and I hear him call somebody a Cracker every day he's on.

I am so tired of the reverse racism in this country. White people have to walk on pens and needles with everything we do or say because of things that happened 200 years ago, while blacks and other minorities get away with nearly anyting because our society feels we owe them the benefit of the doubt.

It's truly disgusting. The radio station should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

I am a black man living out west where everyone is a bit more laid back and no one spends as much time worrying about white and black as ya'll do in the midwest and the south.
Honestly, c'mon! That poor guy was trying to say something else. The caller said cool, he was trying to say coup (I think) and it came out weird. If you listen to the context of what he's saying, it's obvious that he wasn't calling her a coon.
Ya'll need to loosen up back there and chill with all the hate. This poor guy got fired for something that really isn't his fault.
You'd think that the station would run a delay on the live broadcast and therefore, I blame them and the sound guy more than I do the DJ himself.
But to be honest, this is the type of crap our country feeds on. Gossip news that works the emotions. we enjoy seeing others suffer. And in this case, we have a guy who clearly slipped his word and now he looses his job and we all feel better.

What happened to religious beliefs where when someone says something, you're suppose to turn the other cheek?

This is a no story, that is now a national story just because it's something other than the war to talk about.

St. Louis might be the most racial city in America. Again, I'm black and I'd never want to live there.

XXXOOOXXX said...

Mr. Lenihan is my hero of the day. With one misspoken word he brought the high and mighty Condo down to the level of all those displaced from New Orleans' Ninth Ward.

As Kanye West said, "President Bush doens't care about (poor) black people", and neither does Condoleeza Rice.

john2 x said...

look at all the first comments trying stick up the guy. He clearly said "coon" not "boon" "coup" or anything else. he even repeated it right afterward. he knows what he said. He said it RIGHT after African American. so for those of ya'll liberals who are trying to say he was thinking of anything else your wrong. He said African American and that immediately made him think "coon". Unlike most people he did let his obvert racism slip but he exposed himself all the same. why should any of your have sympathy for someone who thinks of african americans as coons?
look at yourselves. racism is right there for all to hear and still you don't want to call out the "pink elephant" in the room. It's RACISM. He's racists. he deserves what he gets.
man with liberals like ya'll racism will never be over.
i wish more institutions would take action against racists acts. stop defending them and tolerating them. racism will never end if people don't stand against it on all levels.

MQ said...

Ignoring the statement wouldn't have solved anything. Acting as if he didn't make a mistake would have been worse. I don't know if this is the type of guy who uses the word coon normally, but I would doubt it that that's part of his vocabulary. He knew exactly how awful a mistake it was, but because he was one of those bouncy DJ-types, he thought, "Oh man, this is probably something that's going to get me fired, right?" grinning the whole time. Too bad he works for a skittish employer who can't take any pressure.
Forget using this an opportunity to lament about the strife of being white in America; half of these comments are just latent racism/hate. (You can tell which people want to right to say coon and are going to use this as their battle flag.) This is a case of someone saying the wrong thing, accidently, knowing what it meant as soon as he said it. Use this an opportunity to backlash against the FCC and the other communication-phobes that run this place. He shouldn't have been fired. Condi herself should say, what the heck is the problem here?
Either way, they were going to lose listeners. Firing him was not the answer. The real victim here is Lenihan - losing his job, gaining the support of both anti-pc people and people cool with racism. Maybe he'll get a XM deal out of this.

Hines21 said...

As an African American I must say I was not offended in any way by Lenihan's comment. On the contrary, I am tickled by it. Here is this conservative talk show host who has his lips so firmly planted to the backside of "MS. Mushroom Cloud" that he inadvertently garbled the word "coup" so it came out "coon". This story brightened up my day.

Hines
Chicago, Il

Anonymous said...

I think they should give Mr. Lenihan his job black. I don't see what the nig deal is! It was only a slip of the hung. Now look at this cotton pickin' mess the media has made out it!

Anonymous said...

I think they should give Mr. Lenihan his job black. I don't see what the nig deal is! It was only a slip of the hung. Now look at this cotton pickin' mess the media has made out it!

Baldwick Freggers said...

I think praising Condi Rice is a good reason to be fired.