Fred Kaplan. (21, April, 1996). “Snow White Meets Hate Talk Disney Radio Station Fires Gotham Host Known for Racist Rhetoric.” The Boston Globe.
This article is about freedom of speech, smut radio, racism, and commercial policies and pressures.
Howard Stern and others have created large and lucrative audiences to mock political correctness and sometimes common decency, and to vent racist, sexist, or anti-religious feelings.
Bob Grant is a staple in New York City. He has routinely called African Americans savages and referred to New York’s first black mayor as “the men’s room attendant.” Some of his avid audience were delighted when he came up with “the Bob Grant Mandatory Sterilization Plan to keep subhumans from multiplying like maggots.”
When Magic Johnson announced himself HIV-positive, Grant prayed for the virus “to go into full-blown AIDS.”
Grant has opinioned that “white people are a little higher up (than blacks) on the evolutionary scale,” and that violent black youths will not change because “you can’t fool Mother Nature. Those genes are very powerful.”
How, in the mid-1990s could New York WABC Radio produce such a top-rated show in the prime 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. radio time? What does it show about New Yorkers, Americans, and the media?
WABC is owned by Capital Cities/ABC. Last summer it was bought by Disney Corporation.
Bob Grant certainly did not have the sense or human instincts necessary to realize he was crossing any line when he commented on the 1996 death of U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, in the airplane crash in Bosnia. The first news bulletin of the crash (incorrectly) indicated that there might be a survivor. Grant quipped characteristically, “I have a hunch that Brown is the survivor. Maybe that’s because I’m a pessimist.”
The totally tasteless remark was not as racist nor obscene as previous quotes. But it was ill-timed, and it received attention beyond a city that may have gotten used to this kind of thing. An ad in The New York Times (placed by FAIR) asked, “Is Bigotry a Disney Family Value?” On Monday (1996, April 15) USA Today added a column entitled, “Talk Show Host Tarnishing Disney Image.” Two days later, Grant was gone. Not everyone agreed with the action.
Civil libertarian and columnist for New York City’s Village Voice, Nat Hentoff argues, “Grant says awful things, but so what? Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let a thousand hate flowers bloom. Then you know what’s going on. Otherwise, it festers underground.”
Prominent First Amendment lawyer, Floyd Abrams sees it differently: “At some point, we’re not talking about poor taste or political views. We’re talking about inhumanity. Bob Grant crossed that point. It was responsible and appropriate for ABC to dump him.”
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- To the youth worker or kids: What is your feeling and opinion about this article and about racist talk on radio and other media? What should be our response?
- To Floyd Abrams: Why now and not sooner?
- To Nat Hentoff: Do you really see today’s media and public life as all sunlight? What effect is the occasional darkness and slime of media having on citizens today? Are you still arguing that media only reflects and never influences society? How do young people grow up to become racists and how are the antisocial opinions and attitudes of racist adults reinforced and supported?
- To Bob Grant: Do you get it? Have you learned any thing from this?
- There must be a new approach to the questions of freedom of speech, common decency, a civil society, and censorship.
- The responsibility of parents, teachers, and youth leaders is to explore the difference between freedom and unbridled license within the present laws and mores of today’s societies.
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