Austin, Texas is known as an island of political blue in a sea of red, and KVET (owned by the corporate giant Clear Channel) is one of the area's oldest radio stations.
It still plays country music (and the AM side is anchored by rightwingers Rush Limbaugh and Neil Boortz), but its main cultural relevance today is as the flagship for the hometown University of Texas Longhorns sports broadcasts.
The weekday morning show is hosted by "Sammy and Bob," a couple of local yokels. Bob Cole is the straight man; Sammy Allred the resident curmudgeon. Sam also sings country music and has been around since the 1950's. He's ancient.
On March 1, these two fonts of morning drive-time wisdom were discussing Barack Obama's recent visit to Austin. The presidential candidate drew over 15,000 people to an outdoor rally in the middle of a drizzly work day (Hillary beware). Here is a partial transcript of their on-air banter that day:
Allred: "What happened to Bama Rock or whatever his name is?"
Cole: "He's moving up in the polls. Obama."
Allred: "He's a likeable guy."
Cole: "He's 'clean' is what what's-his-name said. Joe Biden told us that."
Allred: "Clean darky."
Cole: (in mock indignation, a frequent element of their routine) "Sammy!"
Suddenly, they went to a commercial break, and when they returned Allred had an explanation.
"See, I was making fun of politicians who say things like that." They soon moved on to other topics.
There was obviously some discussion during the break about what Allred had said, and it's now been reported that KVET has suspended the old coot for a few days.
They've also placed a statement on their website that they apparently hope will be seen as an apology, yet it doesn't apologize at all. And it isn't even on the home page. It's at the bottom of a very long "Sam and Bob" interior page where nobody looks. It states in full:
During an on-air broadcast on 3/1/07 on KVET FM, a statement was made that might have been heard as offensive to some of our listeners. It is not our station's intention to be offensive. It is our stations' policy that we do not discriminate against individuals regardless of race, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation.
Might have been heard as offensive? By some of our listeners? What kind of tortured language is that? And remember: they purposely buried it.
The folks in the carpeted office at KVET plainly hope this matter will just go away. Some of us are agitating for a stronger response, and the local chapter of the NAACP is interested, too, as well it should be. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Allred did return after a short suspension, and listeners detected a somewhat chastened, more contrite personality. Bets are open on whether it lasts.