The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

30 October 2007

Tribal Leaders Protest KQRS / Minneapolis Jocks


Angry Protests Land Shock Jocks In Hot Water

In what tribal leaders and local media outlets are calling their own version of the Don Imus racism flap, a Minneapolis- based shock jock team is in deep trouble over comments area Native Americans have found insulting.

Rolling over at record speed, the station has decided to apologize. While that might seem appropriate here, it demonstrates just how scared corporate owners remain after the Imus flap.

While there's no question the jocks stepped over the line, what defies easy explanation is why protests have erupted a full month after the show actually aired. Is that how long it took for word to reach these remote tribal lands?

In fact, after wading through quite a bit of news coverage on the controversy, your Radio Equalizer still has not seen this explained anywhere.

The other big question is whether dim-bulb FM morning show jocks deserve this kind of attention. More on that below.

What we do know is this: in September, Tom Barnard and the KQRS morning show made a number of insulting comments about Minnesota- based tribal members. From the Minneapolis Star- Tribune:

The uproar stems from a broadcast last month in which Barnard and Traen talked about the Red Lake and Shakopee tribes while discussing a report by the state Health Department that Beltrami County has the state's highest rate of suicide among young people.

The jocks then mentioned Bemidji and the Red Lake Indian Reservation, which are both located in Beltrami County.

"Maybe it's genetic; isn't there a lot of incest up there?" Traen said about the tribe.

"Not that I know of," Barnard replied.

"I think there is," Traen continued. "Don't quote me on that, but I'm pretty sure."

"Well, I'm glad you just threw it out there, then," Barnard said to laughter in the background.

Barnard also criticized the Shakopee Sioux, who own the Mystic Lake Casino, for "doing a hell of a job helping them out."

Traen commented, "They don't give them anything?"

"Hell, no!" Barnard replied.

Another member of the morning team refers to the casino as "Mistake Lake," and calls Bellecourt, "Clyde Bellycourt."

Yesterday, tribal leaders and other representatives protested outside KQRS-FM's studios in Minneapolis, where station management quickly agreed to a long list of their demands. From the Park Rapids Enterprise:

In a telephone interview as he was traveling home to Red Lake Monday afternoon, Red Lake Chairman Floyd “Buck” Jourdain Jr. said the Indian Affairs Council sent a formal complaint to KQRS after the September broadcast, but Red Lake Nation, the Mdewakanton Sioux and AIM members decided they needed more response from the radio station and a face-to-face meeting.

Attending the meeting were Jourdain, Red Lake Secretary Kathryn Beaulieu, Ponemah Representative Glenda Martin and Red Lake Representative Donald May, Mdewakanton Sioux Vice Chairman Glynn Crooks, AIM Co-founder Bellecourt and other community members. Barnard and Traen did not attend the meeting.

Jourdain said KQRS President and General Manager Marc Kalman said the station will take the following measures:

-- Broadcast a public apology and send a written apology to Red Lake and Mdewakanton Sioux.

-- Give equal air time to positive issues involving the American Indian community.

-- Work to hire American Indian interns.

-- Continue airing public service announcements for the Native youth suicide hot line and suicide prevention program.

-- Invite members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton and Red Lake tribes to be on the morning show.

-- Reprimand Barnard and Traen.

For full political effect, Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain was quick to make the Imus comparison to the press:

(The Bemidji Pioneer) "These were irresponsible comments that are way out of bounds and intolerable," Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain said before the meeting. Jourdain compared the comments to those several months ago by Don Imus about the Rutgers women's basketball team that were racial and sexual in nature. Imus lost his syndicated radio job over that incident.

"Those comments (by Imus) were about losing a basketball game, and these are about life and death," said Jourdain, "and we're not going to endure this ignorance any longer in a state that emphasizes Minnesota Nice."

Jourdain said there hasn't a suicide on his reservation in more than two years.

Bellecourt said the remarks were "ignorant."

The KQ morning show, is among the most popular morning programs in the Twin Cities. It's known for delivering weird news, ethnic jokes and political diatribes.

Minority groups have long criticized Barnard and his crew for their on-air banter.

What isn't in question is that KQRS's morning show has been getting away with murder for years. From the Star Tribune:

Minority groups have long criticized Barnard and his crew for their on-air banter.

In the late 1990s, members of the Somali community picketed over Barnard and Co.'s mocking of Somali dialects after a Somali cabdriver was slain. Before that, the Asian-American community was irate when Barnard and his co-hosts made fun of a teenage Hmong girl who was charged with killing her newborn son.

They said of her potential $10,000 fine: "That's a lot of eggrolls."

But if a gnawing sense of familiarity has been with you since the beginning of this story, it's because Red Lake itself has hardly been free of past controversy of its own. Remember the 2005 massacre that left 10 dead and seven injured? Yes, that Red Lake.

And here's the problem with our new era of radio- based outrage and protest: it's a parasitical relationship. Without the FM shock jocks and their brain- dead banter, the eternally offended have nothing to picket. Nor do they have trembling managers ready to instantly cave into whatever demands they might make.

Worse for the enraged parties is the emerging reality that they may soon become victims of their own success. As the offending hosts are gradually removed from the airwaves or at the very least neutered of offensive content, there won't be much left to protest. No offending remarks equals no way to make demands for free airtime, employment and other compensation.

That's why, in the end, the Al Sharptons of the world can't live without their Don Imuses.

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Top image: AP, graphic: FOX 9


  • I am so tired of people constantly complaining. It is a morning radio show! It is not a political show reporting facts of the world. You can not say anything anymore, you can't even give your own opinion about anything anymore. National ate night shows constantly make jokes about fat people yet they are not demanded to apologize on air or have overweight groups come on these shows to speak. It's a radio show! Get over it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 07 December, 2007 09:39  

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