The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

14 May 2006

Hip-Hop, Troi Torain, DJ Star, Power 105, WABC, New York City


WABC Host Defends Hip-Hop Bully

(***Updated with O'Reilly transcript note***)

Was it improper to arrest a hip- hop DJ who threatened a rival's four- year- old daughter with sexual assault?

Amazingly, that's the issue raised by a new WNBC/ MSNBC story on Troi Torain's Friday arrest by the NYPD. Did his on- air terrorism, including offering a $500 reward for information on the girl's whereabouts, constitute bona fide free speech?

Here's how they presented the story:

Arrest Of DJ Star Spurs Free-Speech Controversy

NEW YORK - With a smirk splashed across his face and handcuffs around his wrists, New York disc jockey Troi Torain -- arrested for his X-rated on-air remarks about a competitor's 4-year-old daughter -- proclaimed himself "the new Lenny Bruce."

Torain, 42, was released on bail late Friday night. "You're looking at the new Lenny Bruce," Torain said defiantly as police led him out of the First Precinct in lower Manhattan following his arrest earlier Friday.

Our previous coverage of the Torain case is found here.

Released early Saturday morning, Torain (primarily known as DJ Star) not only proclaimed himself the next Lenny Bruce, but also professed his love for the teachings of philosopher Ayn Rand.

Framing the controversy as a First Amendment issue, Torain argued through attorney Benjamin Brafman that he never actually made a real threat against anyone.

At least partially riding to Torain's rescue was liberal WABC-AM morning co-host Ron Kuby, of the "Curtis and Kuby" talk show. Kuby, a longtime civil rights attorney known for extremist left-wing causes, told NBC Torain was mostly correct in his assertions:

Ron Kuby, a defense attorney and a radio show host, said he believed Torain's "vile and despicable" comments qualified as free speech. "None of his statements arguably endangered the welfare of a minor," Kuby said. "He's therefore entitled to protection."

Comedian Bruce was convicted of obscenity charges after a November 1964 performance in Greenwich Village where he used more than 100 "obscene" words. Four decades later, he's generally viewed as a groundbreaking performer who reinvented stand-up comedy.

With a background that includes defending accused terrorists, mass murderers and other assorted creeps, Kuby provides Torain with a valuable ally as his case proceeds.

In a recent Gotti family mob trial, Kuby actually testified in favor of the crime boss and against the victim of a botched hit. Adding a bizarre, only- in- New York twist, the person attacked happens to be his WABC co-host, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa (in image, shown left with red beret).

Kuby also claims the FBI was actually behind the first attempt at bringing down the World Trade Center towers in 1993.

From DiscoverTheNetwork, a website critical of Kuby:

Kuby’s most notorious client was Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. “Sheikh Omar would have tried, I think, to prevent the World Trade Center bombing if he had known it was coming,” Kuby said in a 2000 interview. He suggested that it was actually the FBI that had built and detonated the bomb, as a pretext for imprisoning innocent Muslims.

Said Kuby, “The ‘mastermind’ [of the bombing] is the government of the United States. It was a phony, government-engineered ‘conspiracy’ to begin with. It would never have amounted to anything had the government not planned it.” In 2003 Kuby defended another Islamic terrorist: the Washington, DC-area sniper John Allen Muhammed.

As crazy as NBC's story sounds, at least there's an attempt at balance:

(Floyd) Abrams was among a group of First Amendment attorneys who successfully lobbied to win Bruce a posthumous pardon. Both he and Kuby fail to see the parallels between Bruce's comedy and Torain's radio rampage.

"Lenny Bruce challenged and parodied powerful people and powerful institutions," Kuby said. "He never threatened to urinate on a 4-year-old child."

As Kuby's position may at first seem confusing, it boils down to this: while Torain's no comedian, he is entitled to First Amendment protections. Abrams, however, was quick to pour cold water on that strategy:

"If he has a First Amendment issue at all, it's extremely weak," lawyer Floyd Abrams said Saturday. "The First Amendment doesn't protect true threats. If the argument is that it wasn't a threat ... that's a defense in front of a jury.

"But it's not a First Amendment issue," Abrams said.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who brought a charge of endangering the welfare of a child against Torain, said the same thing Friday after the DJ's arrest.

"We are strong supporters of the First Amendment, but we are also supporters of protecting children," the veteran prosecutor said.

As for NBC, by leading with Torain's "free speech" assertions, the network quickly loses credibility. By contrast, even the AP portrayed the issue in a far more reasonable manner.

UPDATE: read the transcript from O'Reilly's Friday show, here. Bill reveals that Clear Channel failed to take action against Torain until Councilman Liu called the press conference a week later:

O'REILLY: R. Kelly is charged with child molestation.

And here's the kicker. Clear Channel didn't even fire this guy (Torain) until New York City Councilman John Liu held a press conference with the girl's mother, Gia Casey.

With us now are Mr. Liu and Ms. Casey.

You must be absolutely furious about this. I mean, I've never seen this in the United States of America, ever.

GIA CASEY, THREATENED BY D.J. STAR: Neither have I. It's completely unconscionable what he's done and the state that he's put myself, my children and the rest of my family in.

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Torain (top right, with co-host in lower left position): WNBC, Curtis & Kuby: WABC, MSNBS: David A Lunde


  • WABC ought to find another co-host for Curtis Sliwa.

    This is not 1st Amendment, this is protection of hate speech.

    By Blogger PCD, at 15 May, 2006 09:39  

  • Agreed that Clear Channel should have acted much quicker, and that Kuby is taking his defense attorney role to absurd extremes. All that said: Brian, how come you didn't mention that O'Reilly also compared Torain to Al Franken?

    By Blogger Justin, at 15 May, 2006 14:22  

  • What did he call the wife? From the Fox transcript:

    " finally got the information on his slant-eyed [bleep] wife."

    Chink? Gook? If this were a white DJ saying this, would even a nanosecond have passed before he was thrown out the door?

    By Blogger Fatmouse, at 15 May, 2006 14:54  

  • What kind of advertisers don't care about this?

    Whose products are aimed at the kind of listener who thinks threatening to rape your competitor's daughter is cool to talk about?

    Surely there has to be some financial fall-out over this...

    By Blogger Lokki, at 15 May, 2006 17:31  

  • Why doesn't it shock me that Kuby, A communist of the nth degree, would defend such a spewer of racist hate-filled bile like this degenerate of the hip-hop subculture. Kuby belongs on Pacifica Radio's WBAI--he fits more in with them!

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 16 May, 2006 08:56  

  • Troi Torain is an idiot. Not a Lenny Bruce. Troi Torain is not creative or funny. Attacking a 4 year old girl on public airwaves with the threat of sexual assault is not humor. It is a threat to be taken serious. Where is the humor? What could be funny about sexual assault on a 4 year old girl? Troi Torain shouldn't just be fired and brought up on charges. He should be investigated for crimes against children. This man is a prime suspect for child molestation and child pornography. How else can you explain his mindset? At the very least he deserves to be monitored and placed into psychiatric treatment.

    I haver to also wonder what type of market share he is pursuing. The violent, child rapist ghetto market? Does such a market exist? Who could defend this monster?

    By Blogger Unknown, at 16 May, 2006 16:09  

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