Insensitive remarks made by a couple of local shock-jock DJs on KBFX 100.5 FM in Anchorage have triggered some local outrage, and some believe the station's apology will be sufficient to assuage the tension. Some are even claiming the remarks are "racist". Full story aired April 14th, 2008 by KTUU Channel 2. Story now picked up by the Anchorage Daily News, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the Dutch Harbor Fisherman, and the Arctic Sounder (which serves Northwest Alaska and the North Slope). Nationally, the Huffington Post picked it up.
During the April 9th "Morning Drive," DJs Woody and Wilcox apparently started bantering with a caller on how to tell whether someone is a true Alaskan. They started out with the traditional phrase "You’re not a real Alaskan unless you’ve peed in the Yukon River, made love to a Native woman, and killed a bear". But the DJs then placed a personal spin on the old saying that many believe crossed a line. One listener, Michelle Davis, who is part Tlingit, said, "The one guy says, ‘Well, you are real Alaskan if you have made love to the Yukon River and you have peed in a Native woman' I was stunned. I couldn't believe that somebody would say something like that. It is so degrading".
And additional backlash is reported. Some even believe the segment was obscene and borderline illegal. Some even want the two DJs fired. Denise Morris, president and CEO of the Alaska Native Justice Center, said she believes the comments bordered on assault and were hate talk. "Derogatory statements made to Alaska Native women or any women should not be tolerated," Morris said. "It should not be acceptable."
Even a state lawmaker reacted. Rep. Mary Nelson (D-Bethel) called the remarks "abhorrent and indefensible," and asked her colleagues to join her in demanding an apology, punishment for the DJs and penalties from the Federal Communications Commission. "I want to let people know how degrading these comments were and that I for one do not approve of our radio stations in Anchorage speaking in this way," Nelson said. It should be noted that Rep. Nelson has a recent history of over-reacting to perceived slights; on March 14th, she went ballistic over a remark by Rep. Mike Kelly that she deemed "anti-woman", then in a juvenile hissy fit, moved her chair away from Kelly's chair (Wah! I'm not gonna sit next to you any more, nyah, nyah, nyah).
Woody and Wilcox issued an apology on-the-air Monday April 14th, which is also posted prominently on the KBFX website. KBFX Market Manager Gary Donovan also provided a written apology on behalf of the radio station, as follows:
KBFX wishes to apologize to everyone in our audience who was offended by insensitive and inappropriate comments made during the Woody and Wilcox program broadcast on April 9th, 2008. KBFX does not condone offensive content in any form and has taken appropriate action to see that this does not happen again. We appreciate all of our listeners who have let us know of this unfortunate situation.
But it looks like Donovan isn't going to throw them to the wolves just to placate a few activists and their "spies gooier" (an Afrikaans expression loosely translating itself to "hod carriers" or cheerleaders). [Ed. Note: Good man, Gary - stand firm like Chris Buttars did in Utah and don't cave in to political correctness.]
Update: It looks like I was partially wrong. Donovan did cave. Here's his newest statement, posted on KBFX on April 15th:
"KBFX wishes to apologize to everyone in our audience and the community who was offended by the insensitive and inappropriate comments alluding to native women made during the Woody and Wilcox program broadcast on April 9, 2008. As KBFX does not condone racially offensive content in any form, the station has decided to suspend both radio hosts for an indefinite period of time during which they will both participate in sensitivity training. That training will also be made available to all other staff members. Woody and Wilcox's compensation for the period of time they are suspended will be donated to an appropriate charity. We are confident that what was said was an isolated incident, and it in no way reflects the views of KBFX station personnel."
The apology is also posted on Woody and Wilcox's own website
But an apology may not satisfy everyone. The Alaska Federation of Natives is now talking of hitting the station where it hurts by way of an advertising boycott. AFN officials call the remarks brutally offensive and "typical of Alaska's race relations." They want immediate disciplinary action and point to the demise of nationally syndicated radio host Don Imus as a bellwether for this type of comment. They believe the KBFX duo's remarks were "at least as bad". And at the Anchorage Assembly meeting on April 15th, it looks like Mayor Mark Begich and Assemblywoman Sheila Selkregg scored their diversity brownie points by ritualistically condemning the shock jocks as well.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the power to fine the station's owners, the group that holds the broadcast license, over the comments. That decision would come from the FCC's national office in Washington, D.C.
Commentary: This country's become just as bad as the old Soviet Union. The Stars and Stripes has become no different than the hammer and sickle. You can't say anything any more without pissing someone off and getting a lynch mob formed against you. Dan Coffey and Bill Starr recently experienced such treatment, and that's why I was so gratified over Starr's victory in the Assembly race - it was a victory over Soviet-style political correctness.
I don't normally listen to KBFX, but I think I will make a special point to start listening to Woody & Wilcox's show just to spite the critics. It was nothing more than a passing joke and there's been no evidence proffered that it represents any genuine antipathy against Alaska Natives on their part. Of course, they will probably be quite tame for the next couple of weeks until the furor dies down. But let's show the Alaska Federation of Natives and other critics that we will NOT BE TOLD what to say or how to say it. We will pursue freedom of speech at all hazard.