The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

23 March 2006

St Louis, KTRS, Condi Rice, David Lenihan


After Condi Slip-Up, Host's Sacking Looks Unjustified

Why wasn't the
dump button pressed?

In the wake of this headline-making instant termination of a St. Louis talk show host Wednesday, that's the first question that comes to mind.

After just eight days on the air, Dave Lenihan made what is quite clearly an unfortunate tongue malfunction regarding Condi Rice:

Lenihan was listing what assets Rice could bring to the league, including her tenure as a top academic officer at Stanford University and the fact that she is African-American.

“She’s just got a patent resume, of somebody that’s got such serious skill,” Linehan said on the air. “She loves football, she’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon, a big coon – oh my God, I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that, OK? I didn’t mean that. That was just a slip of the tongue.”

Lenihan later said he meant to use the word "coup." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

At STLMedia, Mike Anderson has been all over this (audio here, click on "misspoke"), as has Tom Calhoun at The Time Of My Life:

Based on what I heard, the guy actually had a brain fart and committed a slip of the tongue. He seemed instantly aware of how his mistake would be perceived and apologized profusely. But he only made the problem worse by apologizing and calling attention to what he had said.

Back in Broadcasting 101 you are taught that if you make a mistake, you can't take it back, you keep going on and DON'T CALL ATTENTION TO IT.

If he had just kept on talking and acted as though nothing had happened, someone may have called him on it but most of the audience would have realized it was a legitimate error and forgotten about it and the rest would have thought they must have misheard him.

He certainly didn't help himself either when soon after his slip, and resulting apology, he seemed to giggle as he went to a commercial break.

Damage control is the key phrase here. KTRS is trumpeting a new "edgier" and "hipper" direction and of course, its new partnership with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, or their radio station, can't be drug into any kind of a racial-oriented public relations problem and moving swiftly to nip any potential controversy in the bud was what had to be done.

Our reaction:

1) While we hadn't previously heard of Lenihan, it's obvious he's a Condi supporter, so this was clearly an accident. In the audio, there's no doubt the second "coon" was his own stunned reaction to the gaffe.

Moments later, the "giggling" represents his disbelief over what has just occurred. One quick apology would have been more appropriate.

Listen for yourself, there's simply no other fair interpretation.

"Hosts" are often plucked right off the street now, there is no "Broadcasting 101" these days. That leads to nervous air talent. Though he'd worked at a crosstown station, Lenihan had just eight days at KTRS, meaning he was probably still quite uncomfortable.

3) Perhaps the worst offender in the business, KTRS has a terrible revolving-door staff reputation. No talented, experienced talk host would be caught dead moving his or her family to St. Louis for a KTRS gig.

At this perpetually-floundering mess of a radio station, ugly terminations are a near-certainty.

At STLMedia, longtime industry analyst Mike Anderson has been exposing KTRS sleaze for years, taking abuse from the station in the process.

4) With baseball and football teams beginning to take control of radio stations all over the country, a new element of political pandering is now added to talk radio's hassle mix.

Since teams and their leagues are notoriously moronic when it comes to dealing with these sorts of flaps, talk radio gains yet another new headache.

5) The biggie: doesn't KTRS have a delay system? Between the host, board-op and producer, nobody saw fit to press the dump button? To the Radio Equalizer, something doesn't smell right, as this never should have reached the airwaves.

If they don't have one, they're risking a heap of future FCC trouble.

6) Don't forget the obvious racial double-standard: nobody would get canned for calling Bush a "cracker", even if done intentionally.

With talk radio's frequent termination controversies, there are often fuzzy gray areas that make taking a strong stand on the fired host difficult. Not here: Lenihan was wrongly terminated.

What does Rice think? Will someone ask her?

Anderson's new comment:

What happened this morning at KTRS was nothing less than another representation of the ongoing inability of management there to manage. He speaks quickly on the air and Lenihan misspoke himself as he delivered effusive praise of Condoleeza Rice. Listen to the audio, linked below. It's obvious he did not say it to be intentionally cruel or racist. The word "coon" doesn't even fit in the context of the sentence he was forming.

Lenihan's a bright guy...a Chiropractor and a teacher. And because of the predictable over-the-top media swarm (this thing's even linked on Drudge), I understand he's been suspended from his teaching position. The guy is being unfairly castigated because he bumbled a word, and it began with the actions of Tim Dorsey, who has been bumbling the management of KTRS for almost a decade.

Now let's look to Dave's future. The Internet has plastered this patently false story around the world. At least one of his former workmates has stated unequivocally on his website that he should have been fired. The truth of the matter, though, is that Lenihan is guilty of nothing more than a simple slip of the tongue. There's considerable evidence to back that up...especially the audio record.

Now, how does he get his reputation back?
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  • smudge, you must be related to the genuous; it was clear is was a misstatement.

    How can anyone say the next one is a brain fart or not? BTW, Al Franconistein deliberately pulls this garbage and his is not a brain fart; his are intentional.

    By Blogger tradersmith, at 23 March, 2006 10:29  

  • trader - you're a douche.

    that aside, everybody makes mistakes. it's not something a guy should be fired for. if everyone who misspoke got fired, the unemployment rate would be 100%. people need to lighten up on certain issues.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 23 March, 2006 10:57  

  • First - I feel awful for the guy if it was an honest mistake - I believe it was, but one can never know...

    Personally, I hate racism...but _anyone_ can have their brain/tongue go wild on them.

    I just cringe because I can picture myself in that circumstance...whatever my sensibilities, I'm human like everyone else.

    Nah, the guy shouldn't have been fired.

    On the other hand, Brian wouldn't stop short of chastising someone he opposes for doing the same thing - but then, he's never been afraid of being an hypocrite.

    By Blogger TJ, at 23 March, 2006 14:01  

  • Yeah, genuous, I wouldn't claim any common ground with smudgely either.

    Hey, in your PC world, I have raccoons in my backyard, so can I call them coons?

    By Blogger tradersmith, at 23 March, 2006 16:19  

  • What in the world was he trying to say? "Coup"? "Boon"?

    Probably the first: "A big coup for the NFL."

    By Blogger eLarson, at 23 March, 2006 16:52  

  • There are two ways to look at this -

    1. In our too-PC world, there are no mistakes. Freudian slips expose our true racism, and therefore what simply appears as a slip of the lip exposes the true hatred lurking underneath (Does not apply to liberals since everyone knows that they would never do such a thing).

    2. Any broadcaster who isn't smart enough to take advantage of the dump button and avoid such a moronic mistake has no business on the air anyhow, and should be fired for incompetence....

    By Blogger Lokki, at 23 March, 2006 17:19  

  • Lokki, at 23 March, 2006 17:19

    I've not seen the statement that the station did, in fact, operate with a dump button or a delay...

    But, assuming they do, then Lokki's right...

    Guy shouldn't be fired for slipping of tongue, but for not protecting the station with the tools at hand.

    By Blogger TJ, at 23 March, 2006 17:39  

  • trader - first of all, i was actually agreeing with you. i'm not pc by any means. and i think that you, as a person, are a douche.

    also, if you are going to misspell "genius" when referring to me, at least do it the same way i do, otherwise you look like the one who can't spell. douche.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 23 March, 2006 17:49  

  • I just heard him interviewed on Hannity's radio show and they played the was clearly the combination of two words..."coup" and "in" and he realized it didn't sound right and immediately apologized. Yeah, he should have just moved on or re-enunciated a little better. They also played the tape of his boss's statement and I think he was completely out of line for firing him. I hope all this publicity will land him a new gig with a better station!

    By Blogger rich glasgow, at 23 March, 2006 18:53  

  • You know, I side with the host in this case. KTRS management, to say they jumped the gun, is putting it mildly! This was a slip of the tongue by Mr. Lenihan. He was trying to say coup, but it instead turned out to be something quite different. And I think it was an accident. But it doesn't matter now.

    Of course, I read on the web that Condi Rice DOES NOT want to be the next NFL Commissioner--so for now (knowing politicals), this is now a moot point.

    Meanwhile, a tad off-topic I did check KTRS' website--and they have quite a history.

    For those who like radio history like I do, check this page out

    Oh, and it is worth noting that KTRS is the new home for St. Louis Cardinals baseball after what seems so many decades on powerhouse KMOX 1120--Jack Buck must be turning in his grave!

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 23 March, 2006 20:21  

  • You're right about asking why no one was on the ball and immediately hit the dump button. But I have a problem with the idea that "coon" was flittering around in his skull nanoseconds after he he says "African American." When words are your stock in trade, one sounding similar to another doesn't cut it, IMO. His "brain fart" may have been an unintended look into the back of his mind (I'm not a shrink; I just play one on the Interweb).

    By Blogger Unknown, at 24 March, 2006 03:14  

  • Dear Mr. (dis)genuous, I spell your handle the way I want and you can spell genius the way you want.

    Mine is closer to reality than yours.

    By Blogger tradersmith, at 24 March, 2006 10:28  

  • closer to reality than mine? let's look at it. i spell mine with all of the correct letters, just one extra in there. yours is missing a letter, and has an extra. so, given the FACTS (i know those things scare conservatives) it appears that mine is actually closer. i hope this has been informative for you, and entertaining to others as well.

    ps - you are now the King of the Douches. congratulations

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 24 March, 2006 16:06  

  • Newsmax: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that she forgave St. Louis talk radio host Dave Lenihan, who was immediately fired last week after he referred to her as "a big coon."

    Asked if she was surprised that "this kind of thing still happens" in America, Dr. Rice told "Fox News Sunday's" Chris Wallace: "My understanding is that he apologized, that he didn't mean it."

    "I accept that," she said. "Because we all say things from time to time that we shouldn't say or didn't mean to say. And so I accept it."

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 26 March, 2006 13:37  

  • I am so glad Condeleeza Rice forgave the man who called her a rude remark. Laurence Herman "Gus" Versluis himself is 3/20ths of one percent black, and he will be happy from the heavens.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 01 February, 2008 14:28  

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