Gunny Bob and the ‘Shock Jock Nuremberg Defense’

2:46 p.m. UPDATE: Make it three sponsors who have pulled ads.
1:45 p.m. UPDATE: According to ProgressNow Action, another Gunny Bob Show sponsor has pulled their ads.

The incendiary talk radio schtick – crude remarks, insulting stereotypes, half-truths, and boorish sexism – is once again under fire.

Locally, Newsradio 850’s Robert “Gunny Bob” Newman is right up there on the outrage-o-meter when Colorado Media Matters exposed remarks made during his May 8 broadcast that all Muslim immigrants and naturalized citizens should be monitored by the federal government and their activities tracked via GPS devices in reaction to news reports that six Muslim men allegedly planned to attack Fort Dix. Following the firing of CBS Radio shock jock Don Imus last month after he used racial and sexist slurs to refer to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, several potty-mouthed talk radio hosts have been fired or suspended in recent days. Their on-air antics range from CBS Radio personalities JV and Elvis mocking Chinese restaurant workers for their poor English language skills to XM Satellite Radio syndicate “The Opie and Anthony Show” featuring a segment where “Homeless Charlie” rants about sexually assaulting Laura Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Queen Elizabeth II. Former Chappelle Show comic Donnell Rawlings was terminated from a New York City morning drive radio show for allegedly making an anti-Semitic remark.

Kris Olinger, the AM station program director for Clear Channel’s eight Denver-based radio stations, was concerned enough about the local risk of FCC penalties following Imus’ firing that she called a meeting with her talk hosts on April 19 to discuss the “shifting standards” of public decency, according to Westword’s Michael Roberts.

In the same piece, Newman himself weighed in:

Newman’s not quite as cavalier. He’s one of the rare talk-show regulars to have called for Imus to be axed, and afterward, he says, “listeners would write e-mails telling me, ‘That could come back to haunt you.'” Moreover, he’s fully cognizant of opposing interests eagerly waiting for him to slip up; Colorado Media Matters loves targeting him for his conservative speechifying, too. “There have been a lot of changes in mass communication, and new media and blogs can become a powerful voice, helping people band together against someone,” he allows. “But I can’t let that change my show. I just need to be more aware.”

Nineteen days after the Clear Channel management’s “straighten up and fly right” meeting, Newman unleashed his venom on Muslim immigrants.

His latest inflammatory comments are drawing fire from a wide range of religious, civil rights and political leaders. They also spurred an online petition drive and advertiser contact by ProgressNow Action that has resulted in over 1,000 signatures and, thus far, one response by an advertiser.

However, in a Sunday Denver Post story Olinger demurred, “I think ‘Gunny’ was expressing an opinion, an extreme one, but his opinion. (Hosts) are paid to express opinions. That’s the nature of what we do.”

Imus is making much the same argument by invoking what I have coined as “The Shock Jock Nuremberg Defense.”

He claims that he was contractually obligated to CBS to provide on-air services that are “unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial, and of personal character…” To wit: the corporate masters pulled my strings therefore I am not responsible for my words or their effects.

Neither Olinger nor Newman responded to Colorado Confidential’s requests for interviews and a copy of his Clear Channel contract to determine just who is yanking whom’s chain.

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