The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

01 May 2009

Boston Host's Removal Over Mexico Comments Sparks Skepticism


Was Talker Really Sacked Over Mexico/Swine Flu Remarks?


What's behind the
strange removal of libertarian Boston drivetime host / former MSNBC contributor Jay Severin? After a nearly invisible "controversy" compelled WTKK-FM station managers to suddenly terminate his afternoon talk show yesterday, skeptical New Englanders are asking questions.

Our regional New England media site, SaveWRKO, has been covering this flap since yesterday.

For one, what exactly did he say that constituted a potentially career-ending offense? WTKK owner Greater Media won't provide specific examples, forcing a baffled public to speculate as to the fatal remark. But they have removed him from their website.

Area news sources, including the Boston Herald and Globe, point to several recent comments made by the longtime talker regarding Mexicans and the swine flu making headlines around the world. The latter paper, a longtime Severin foe, has even provided transcripts of what it believes might have led to Severin's demise:

-- "It's millions of leeches from a primitive country come here to leech off you and, with it, they are ruining the schools, the hospitals, and a lot of life in America. Now, at this particular moment in history, they are exporting to us a rather more active form of disease, which is the swine flu."

-- "We should be, if anything, surprised that Mexico has not visited upon us poxes of more various and serious types already, considering the number of crimaliens already here."

-- "So now, in addition to venereal disease and the other leading exports of Mexico – women with mustaches and VD – now we have swine flu."

-- "Other countries won't let people into their country from the source of the illness if there's some kind of plague, but we do, and tonight we will let the usual 5,000 criminaliens that come across the Arizona border -- will probably be 8,000 tonight and maybe tomorrow it will be 12,000 -- because even Mexicans are going to be trying to get out of Mexico at a greater rate"

-- "Yeah, well, that's become essentially condos for Mexicans." (In reference to hospital emergency rooms.)

Utilizing her own sources, the Boston Herald's Jessica Heslam weighs in with a theory that a Spanish-language newspaper in New York City was behind his removal:

Sources within Greater Media, owner of WTKK-FM (96.9), said yesterday’s suspension was the culmination of dissatisfaction with the “hateful” tone Severin’s show has taken. WTKK received complaints about Severin’s immigarnt remarks all week, the sources said.
Greater Media spokeswoman Heidi Raphael confirmed Severin’s suspension but did not disclose the reason for it.

During Monday’s show, when talking about the swine flu, Severin called Mexicans crossing the Arizona border “criminaliens,” said hospital emergency rooms had become “condos for Mexicans,” and called the virus a “swine-aka-Janet Napolitano flu,” according to WTKK’s online recording.

Severin also called Mexican immigrants the “lowest of primitives,” called one of Mexico’s biggest “exports” “women with mustaches and VD,” said Mexicans don’t practice hygiene, called Mexicans “leeches” and said their kids aren’t vaccinated, don’t speak English and “retard” U.S. Schools.

The Spanish-language daily newspaper El Diario la Prensa in New York City reported on Severin’s show this week, saying that he was using the flu to attack Mexicans and immigrants.

“For Severin, Mexicans are ‘criminaliens’ and primitives who export venereal diseases to the United States,” reported the paper, which posted audio of his show on their Web site.

“That’s not the end of Severin’s anti-immigrant rants. Immigrants are leeches and their children, he warns, don’t speak English, will retard schools, add to crime and spread disease. Amid all of this, Severin has the audacity to state, ‘I don’t mean to hype the story,’ ” the paper said.

WTKK program director Grace Blazer told the paper that the station was “in profound disagreement” with the talk host’s remarks.

Miguel Sarmiento, the paper’s managing editor, called Severin’s comments “way out of line.”

But Radio Equalizer blogger Brian Maloney said “these are the kind of remarks” that Severin has made on his show for years without incident. “So why the issue now?” Maloney asked.

Baffled listeners are pointing to Severin's high salary and falling ratings, however. Could all of this simply be a smokescreen? Is his employer no longer able to support his million-dollar salary?

Even the left-wing Boston Phoenix, a local weekly and longtime Severin critic, finds itself perplexed over the lack of details provided by his employer.

The complete lack of public awareness, much less controversy, ahead of Severin's removal makes this move appear especially fishy. Where were the angry mobs, denunciations from the mayor and governor and cancelled advertising? That's the usual routine, but here, the whole mess came right out of left field.

From here, expect fireworks, especially when Severin himself emerges from seclusion and makes a public statement. Nobody gives up a plum job that easily!

If his removal from the airwaves really was related to Mexico and swine flu comments, however, listeners deserve to know what was said. Anything less is a disservice to WTKK's audience.

UPDATE: the Boston Herald reports that Severin and Greater Media will meet today (Monday) to discuss his future. From the story:

Sources within Greater Media, which owns the station, have told the Herald that management has been dissatisfied with the “hateful” tone his show has taken. One source said Severin had been warned in the past.

Brian Maloney, author of the Radio Equalizer blog, believes WTKK can’t afford to pay Severin anymore and they’re “afraid to admit it.” Severin inked a seven-year deal in 2006 that pays him more than $1 million a year plus bonuses, the Herald has reported.

The station has yet to give a reason for Severin’s suspension.

Severin’s ratings have plunged in recent months.

New ratings for the first three months of this year - with the portable people meters - show that Severin dropped to 14th place with a 3.6 share among the key 25 to 54-year-old listeners. Rival Howie Carr on WRKO-AM (680) was sixth with a 5.2.

During the fall ratings period, under the old diary system, Severin was third with a 5.5. share.

Meanwhile, the embattled Boston Globe, a longtime Severin foe, utilized what could be one of its final editions to slam him. Columnist Scott Lehigh called him a "punk posing as a pundit", while its editorial page scolded him for his "xenophobia".

Severin images: Boston Herald

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

Amazon orders originating with clicks here benefit The Radio Equalizer's ongoing operations.

Your PayPal contributions keep this site humming along. Thanks!


  • Actually I do remember something Jay said this past week that I think is more likely the reason. He mentioned he had a story about Imus, you know the guy that threated to shoot Jay. He kept saying that he wasn't going to tell it because he's a "gentleman" but people at WTKK don't even know what the story is. (But the fact he talked about this for a minute or so made me think he would probably eventually tell us the story in the fairly near future.) I'm wondering if either

    A:WTKK was worried he'd tell the story anyway and PO Imus. (Since they're kind of feuding

    B:Was actually using the "story" threat as a hard bargaining tactic where the "story" is code for something WTKK knows about and this is a tacit threat to act on it.

    Anyway that at least makes a little sense since he didn't last that long after the "story"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 May, 2009 08:32  

  • Boston Radio Watch reports that the two sides met; no resolution yet. Jay is still on suspension till further notice.

    Greater's statement:""WTKK and Greater Media value an open and vigorous dialogue, but we also strongly adhere to basic principles of civility, common decency and respect for all cultures. We believe Jay's suspension is the best way to uphold both of these corporate policies. WTKK Management met with Jay Severin and his agent today. He will continue to remain on suspension until further notice."

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 04 May, 2009 16:25  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page Rank Checker

Powered by Blogger