The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

10 February 2006

Questions Remain About Spat Between Talk Host, Fringe Islamic Group


Bill Handel, KFI Issue Apology, What's Next?

Why does the Radio Equalizer have an uneasy feeling we've yet to hear the last of this ugly situation?

Very quietly yesterday, the ongoing flap between the Council on American Islamic Relations and KFI/Los Angeles radio talk host Bill Handel was apparently "resolved", via personal and official station apologies to CAIR.

As we previously wrote:

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.

And, from our previous interview with Handel:

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.

So, did Clear Channel stand behind its morning show host? Or did CAIR win another talk radio battle?

That's not entirely clear. While Handel does still have his job, it didn't appear last week that an apology was likely, either. It certainly makes one wonder what has been said behind closed doors.

In addition, it's been tougher to reach Handel this time around. Is he under orders to stick to the company-issued statement? Probably.

Industry programming vet John Rook thinks Clear Channel has folded under CAIR's pressure tactics.

Here's what Perry Simon of industry trade publication All Access has reported:

CLEAR CHANNEL Talk KFI-A/LOS ANGELES and morning man BILL HANDEL have apologized to the Muslim community for the bit on a recent show in which the irreverent host imitated what a helicopter traffic report for the Hajj pilgrimage and the deadly stampede would sound like.

HANDEL said "the wound was very fresh for a lot of Muslims and the comments were out of line. And for that, I am sorry." The COUNCIL FOR AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS says that it also received direct contact from HANDEL with a personal apology, and received a letter from CLEAR CHANNEL extending an apology.

And from the UPI wire service:

In a letter to the Muslim community sent to CAIR-LA, Greg Ashlock, vice president of Clear Channel Communications, KFI's parent company, wrote: "We would like to offer a sincere apology to members of the Muslim Community for recent comments airing on our station related to the unfortunate deaths for those taking part in the Haj. KFI AM 640 does not condone making light of the deaths of people engaged in religious observances."

"On this particular program, we crossed the line in reporting the Haj incident in an insensitive manner. We have discussed the content and timing of this 'bit' extensively with Mr. Bill Handel and his crew and are confident that everyone now understands the gravity of the situation. Mr. Handel expresses his sincere apology for the insensitive remarks," Ashlock wrote.

Also, from CNS:

"This incident demonstrates that people of good will working together can successfully challenge hatred and bigotry," said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush.

Ayloush said CAIR will continue to "monitor and challenge Islamophobia" on talk radio programs.

CAIR is known for its efforts to squelch speech it finds offensive.

The Iowa Voice has also been closely following developments and seems to be hearing directly from CAIR:

Iowa Voice has received a press release from Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR. Mr. Hooper claims that Handel has apologized for mocking the Hajj and received a written reprimand from the station.

I've seen Mr. Hooper spin on O'Reilly's show many times. Personally, I don't believe a word the man says or prints. I have not been able to independently verify any of Mr. Hooper's press release.

I made contact with a friend who listens to Handel on KFI. This friend says:

The Hooper press release doesn't accurately portray what I heard.

They (the Bill Handel Show) apologize every day now. They make a list of everybody that gets insulted during the show and read it as they go out at 9AM. It's a hoot. Reading as fast as they can, it still takes a good minute to get through all the offended groups.

Handel may have apologized as described below, but on the air, he said they also tried to contact CAIR to get them to renounce terrorism and all the other crap that they support, and they refused.

CAIR also refused to come on the air and discuss the problem with Handel, or John and Ken, the evening drive show. KFI does what they do so well, and turned it into a big joke.

So what's the bottom line? Since Handel didn't previously seem the slightest bit interested in any kind of an apology, CAIR may have scored another point in their battle against talk radio.

The big question: why have both ABC and Clear Channel treated CAIR as a mainstream, rather than fringe radical organization?

Have they spent even a moment looking into CAIR's collective background?

At a time when President Bush has just revealed the details of a previous plot to take down the tallest skyscraper in Los Angeles, one wonders why anyone is taking CAIR seriously.

Before they celebrate, however, CAIR should consider this: Handel's still on the air and only slightly less free to make light of Islamic extremism during his show.

Meanwhile, is a new flap emerging? From a new story by the Pasadena Weekly's Tracy Spicer:

The Pasadena-based anti-war group Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace is decrying a local talk radio station's programming, demanding in a Feb. 2 press conference that Clear Channel-owned KFI 640 AM "repudiate anti-Muslim hate programming."

A statement by the group said the conference outside KFI offices in Burbank was triggered by an email allegedly sent from a KFI employee to a white supremacist that thanked him for correspondence in support of anti-Muslim comments during KFI's "The Bill Handel Show."

UPDATE: a number of KFI listeners are emailing objections to the station's apology, which they believe represents a cave-in. Sent by a reader, here's an example of the company's response. When Kube insists Handel didn't actually apologize, note how it simply adds to the confusion:

From: Kube, Michelle []
Sent: Thursday, February 09, 2006 3:46 PM
To: Anne Coletta
Subject: RE: apology to CAIR

Here's exactly what Handel said at 6:58am on Wednesday morning 2/8/06:

"Ok, before we get out of here, a quick word in reference to the controversy on our Hajj parody. Remember when we did that on January 12th? And we get emails from all over the world, where people are offended and go crazy. I don’t pay attention to those. The ones I do pay attention to are from people who actually listen to this program, real listeners.

"And one of the recurring themes that I got, and always get is that most people get our sense of humor. They get that we offend everyone, that this is not hate speech, it is parody, it is humor. Sometimes though, I’m accused of having bad timing. And a local Muslim listener made a point that I have to bring to you because it makes a lot of sense. You know, when I defend myself and say that I make fun of the Holocaust, which I do, the Muslim listeners said that you wouldn’t make fun if thousands of Jews were gassed yesterday. You wouldn’t make fun of the Holocaust. And you know what, that’s absolutely true. That’s absolutely true.

"So in reference to that, the day we made the speech, the Hajj parody, the wound was very fresh for a lot of Muslims. And the comments were out of line, and for that, I am sorry."

I want to be clear...Handel did not apologize to CAIR, the station apologized to CAIR. Handel apologized to his Muslim listeners. Handel has made his feelings about CAIR very clear and those have not changed. CAIR's press release did not include all of Bill's comments which is why I wanted to make sure you saw the whole thing.

Michelle Kube
Executive Producer, The Bill Handel Show
KFI-AM 640

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  • i'm all about treating people fairly, but sometimes people have to just lighten up. every person on this planet is going to be offended by someone at some point about something, and you can either cry about it, or brush it off. and that's my biggest problem with the democratic party these days. we're too worried about hurting someone's feelings. you have to step on toes every now and then to get the point across. i may piss off some of my liberal brethren with this, but sometimes you just have to chill out.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 09 February, 2006 17:22  

  • HCG, if I may call you that, I have lived in a family of bluer-than-blue liberals for as long as I have been talking politics. In communication with some people I have p-o'd some people. Hey, at least I am doing my job!

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 09 February, 2006 20:46  

  • "The COUNCIL FOR AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS says that it also received direct contact from HANDEL with a personal apology, and received a letter from CLEAR CHANNEL extending an apology."

    Someone is lying and it is probably the distiquished representative of the "religion of peace". I recieved and email from ClearChannel this morning explaining how they are dealing with this very difficult situation. Handel did indeed apologise to the muslims he offended. He did not apologise to CAIR. He knows the group for what it is and has reported extensively on their ties to terrorism. He said he will apologies to CAIR when they renounce their support of terrorism, but as of this morning, that hasn't happpened so there has been no apology to CAIR.

    By Blogger tyreea, at 10 February, 2006 02:36  

  • I have posted my reply from Michelle Kube at Iowa Voice. It is a little different from what Brian posted, but I also posted my opinion. I don't think CAIR won here. I think the Clear Channel Suits caved and ran, but I don't see Handel being faced down by Hooper or any of the whack jobs looking for their 15 minutes of feigned outrage in the MSM.

    By Blogger PCD, at 10 February, 2006 08:27  

  • HCG/Patriot,

    Taking offense is no more a liberal trait than it is a conservative one. For every overly-PC liberal there is a conservative who runs at any mention of sex or obscenity (particularly if their children might be around).
    Taking offense isn't partisan, although it's amusing to watch you try to spin it as such.

    By Blogger Justin, at 10 February, 2006 08:59  

  • justin,
    i never said that it was the democrats who were offended by this. i said that the democrats are too soft these days. it was a related topic, but not about this particular post. re-read it. that was probably the first post i've ever made that didn't attack douchebags like you, but you just couldn't let it be. i hope you get cancer.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 10 February, 2006 09:54  

  • To Hardcore Conservative Genius:

    As I was reading your post to Justin ("...that the democrats are too soft these days...."that was probably the first post i've ever made that didn't attack douchebags like you, but you just couldn't let it be:) I was in full sympathy with you, and then came your words "i hope you get cancer".

    So because the guy didn't get you (lest assume the worst: that he even didn't try) - you wish him cancer?

    The ancient Hindu tradition says that out thoughts, good or bad, may affect the well being of others. (Just as there exist electromagnetic rays that enable your radio set to play music so also there are astral rays that can affect your soul). This is why prayers may work. This is why curses can be effective.

    Now listen to me, you evil freak. You should apologize to him. I do not know Justin, the person you addressed. Yet I so much detest people like you who are DELIBERATELY evil that, that if you do not apologize publicly to him and express your DEEPEST REGRET (and quickly - I give you 3 days) then I think I will launch appropriate mantras against you and curse you to die (of cancer !) within one year.

    Got that?

    - Arjuna

    By Blogger Rainbow Chariot, at 10 February, 2006 19:21  

  • Rainbow Chariot:

    Just a note - it's not genius, it's genious. If this word was in the dictionary it would be in between genie and genital. Hey maybe he is discribing himself as a magical (fill in the blank). I worried for a second that my comment was offensive but then reread his comment and figured he would just brush it off.

    And calling someone a douchebag (boy I haven't heard that one in a while) and wishing cancer is just how he steps on toes to get his point across. He's not worried about hurting anybody's feelings.

    Instead of cursing him - we should pray for him

    By Blogger nancy, at 10 February, 2006 22:36  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger nancy, at 10 February, 2006 23:23  

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