(Special from The Daily Grito)
In a new twist to the John and Ken show boycott in Los Angeles, KFI radio hosts radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou have been pressed to contact Jorge-Mario Cabrera, the media spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
Remember: this is the same Jorge-Mario Cabrera who received a slew of threatening phone calls last month after the duo blasted his cell number over the air.
Now, after public pressure from a multi-ethnic coalition led by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Asian American Justice Center and the Jewish Labor Committee Western Region to have Kobylt and Chiampou removed, the KFI radio shock jocks are taking an apologetic public step.
But this move may not indicate contrition on the part of John and Ken as they vow to continue reading phone numbers on their show.
Within the past two weeks, four major advertisers on the John and Ken show have agreed to pull their ads in response to the economic boycott planned by the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Those four companies include the big grocers Vons and Ralphs, along with telecommunications giants Verizon and AT&T.
Alex Nogales, the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, tells the Daily Grito that his organization remains firm in calling for the removal of John and Ken from the airwaves. “The fact of the matter is that they [John and Ken show] can’t be sustained without the advertisers,” explains Nogales. “And we are prepared to take this on for the long haul. We want them out.”
Nogales is quick to remind many that it was his organization, in concert with others supporting civil dialogue on immigration, that helped pressure CNN to remove Lou Dobbs two years ago. While Dobbs certainly had a bigger bully pulpit than John and Ken do right now, he officially offered his resignation to CNN. But the Dobbs’ resignation came after a much publicized fight to have his big media platform taken away. The National Hispanic Media Coalition and the organizations they are partnering with hope to have a similar result with Clear Channel’s KFI.
Last week, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and its allies led a peaceful demonstration outside of the KFI station offices. “We expect that most – if not all – of the advertisers will pull out their ads in support of our campaign against the hate speech targeting Latinos and other people of color on KFI’s ‘John and Ken Show,’” said Nogales during the rally.
John and Ken’s public apology to Jorge-Mario Cabrera, undermined by a subsequent claim to continue reading phone numbers over the airwaves, occurred earlier this week after last week’s protest. On Monday’s show, John Kobylt said: “Because we have made it clear, because we’ll be giving out phone numbers again along the way. We’ve made it clear in the past, don’t get abusive. Don’t be hateful, don’t threaten violence. We said be strong and aggressive with your opinions on the issue. But, you don’t have to lapse into absurdity.”
But absurdity makes for good ratings, and John and Ken have scape-goated Latinos for years. Beyond immigration policy, the two shock jocks implied this past spring that Mexican culture was to blame for the horrific beating of a Giants fan at Dodger stadium. A few years ago, they disparaged Los Angeles’s Eastside after the opening of the Gold Line extension, calling the historic neighborhood a “disgusting illegal alien slum.” John and Ken also pondered why they’ve never seen goat at the “authentic Mexican restaurants” they supposedly frequent.
Between 2009 and 2010, there was a near 50% increase in hate crimes against Latinos in the state of California. Public discourse that goes unchecked can contribute to an environment where hate crimes occur. In Los Angeles County, where Latinos are 48% of the population, the opportunity to flex economic power is enormous – by either avoiding sponsors of the John and Ken show or boycotting all eight Clear Channel stations in the region.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition remains resolute in its goal of having John and Ken removed from the airwaves. “In a county with such a large Latino presence, why are we going to accept this abuse on a daily basis?” charged Nogales. “We have the will to go out and engage the public on this matter, and we have all the options open.”