The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

09 November 2004

Slur Gets Host Canned?

WISN-AM/ Milwaukee talk show host Mark Belling has now been removed from the Clear Channel station, one week after calling Mexican immigrants "wetbacks" on the air, according to WISN-TV.

This Monday move, with no indication of when Belling might return to the airwaves, comes after a tough week for Belling and the station capped with a protest outside the station on Friday. WISN-TV is going out of its way to make sure the public knows the two stations are unrelated. Apparently they are getting flooded with calls about the story. It's similar to what happened in my case, where Cox-owned KIRO-TV heard from many people who assumed the stations were connected.

Belling did try to apologize during the course of the week, but Hispanic activists apparently thought it sounded sarcastic.

It's a weird controversy, I can't remember the last time I heard anybody use the term wetback for one thing. And to see this sprout up in Wisconsin of all places, I wasn't aware there was a large Hispanic population, much less political lobby, in the state. I spent two days there recently, it's a beautiful state with exceptionally friendly people, but doesn't come across a hotbed of political activism.

Were Belling on the air in parts of California, for example, where "wetback" has a lot of history and baggage (wasn't it used in Steinbeck's novels?), one could imagine an immediate reaction.

Clear Channel has recently been trying to put a "right wing" label attached to the company by some liberals behind it, partly by happily signing up for Air America programming and now by dealing with this in a politically correct manner. CC's press release was full of language about "cultural diversity" as though they were bracing for an unannounced visit from Jesse Jackson.

Note that Belling has been replaced by Sean Hannity for now, is that the company's plan for the time slot? They aren't saying.


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