Exclusive Interview With KFI / Los Angeles Host Bill Handel
Will CAIR Take Down Another Radio Host?
Could activists from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) succeed in taking down another talk radio host?
After last year's victory in Washington, DC, where WMAL's Michael Graham was fired from ABC Radio for making comments the pressure group deemed offensive, their new focus is KFI/ Los Angeles morning host Bill Handel.
This time, after bubbling under for a few days, the story has spread worldwide. And, in some publications, it's now tied to the plight of a politically-incorrect Danish cartoonist who has also dared to irk Islamic extremists.
Almost appearing to relish the idea of a full-blown battle with CAIR, Handel kicked off the latest controversy with cracks about the stampede-related deaths of hundreds during the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Today, he gave an exclusive interview to the Radio Equalizer, with comments almost certain to fan the group's flames.
First, from the AP:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations asked for an apology from KFI-AM 640 host Bill Handel, who allegedly made fun of the deaths during a Jan. 12 segment he called the "Annual Stampede Report."
A spokeswoman for KFI, which is owned by Clear Channel Communications, did not immediately return a message left Thursday. Handel's producer, Michelle Kube, also did not return calls for comment. Handel had left work for the day and attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
At least 363 pilgrims were killed and hundreds injured in a stampede that day in Mecca, where thousands of people were rushing to carry out a symbolic ritual of stoning the devil in Mina.
According to CAIR, Handel imitated the people screaming and then joked that the Muslims at the pilgrimage should use a helicopter to monitor pilgrimage traffic, as is done in Los Angeles with the freeways.
CAIR quoted Handel as saying, "This is Mahmoud Nolan. Hajj in the Sky. There is an accident ... Ali lost his sandal on the on-ramp to the Martin Luther King Jr. freeway ..."
In March 2004, KFI issued an on-air apology after CAIR filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission following a skit that claimed Muslims have sex with animals, don't bathe and hate Jews.
On his program yesterday, Handel said he would apologize, but only if CAIR agreed to denounce "all bombing or attacks where intended victims are innocent citizens," to acknowledge Israeli sovereignty and to verify that the group has never had connections with any terrorist group or sponsor.
If those conditions are met, "I'll be more than happy to apologize for offending people, I'll apologize all day long," Handel said in a live 12-minute response to CAIR's complaint.
So far, the station is standing behind Handel while distancing itself from his comments, issuing this statement:
KFI-AM does not condone making light of the deaths of people engaged in religious observances. We regret that listeners found the comments of one of our on-air hosts to be insensitive. KFI does not censor its hosts, nor does it tell them what to say or not to say. KFI is a strong and passionate believer in 1st amendment rights and that is at the very core of this radio station.
Given other recent controversies of this nature, however, some are wondering if station management would maintain this position under sustained criticism.
Handel, however, not only isn't backing down, he actually seems eager to kick it up a notch. In an exclusive Radio Equalizer interview, he wasn't afraid to answer our questions head-on:
Radio Equalizer: so far, the station is standing behind you, as KFI says they don't censor their hosts. Do you see any circumstances where this could change?
Bill Handel: No, I see no circumstance that would change this unless I had sex on the air. But then again, that would upset everyone, not just my bosses.
RE: Are you confident they'll remain firm on this?
Handel: Yes, but my boss did come to work today with a prayer rug, so I'm hoping she's still standing by me.
RE: What do you see as the difference between your situation and previous CAIR protests, where hosts such as Michael Graham at WMAL have been fired?
Handel: This company has balls to stand behind its hosts. Disney, parent company of Graham's station, has NO business being in talk radio because they don't like controversy at all. Talk radio is all about controversy.
RE: Do you think CAIR has actually undermined itself by giving you so much free publicity?
Handel: I think this has given us an opportunity to really look at CAIR and see what they really stand for. And I also think this has given us an opportunity to look at ourselves and see what we really stand for.
The First Amendment is extremely important, and that's what we stand for. One other thing: try going to Google, type in "CAIR terror" and see what pops up!
What will be CAIR's next move: to press further against KFI, or move on to the next media target? We'll be watching.
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