In the wake of the media and Internet firestorm which followed a call to action by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and coverage in The Huffington Post, which broke this story nationally, ten major American corporate advertisers have pulled their accounts from Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning on KRXQ 98.55 in Sacramento.
For its part, the station has taken the May 28th broadcast down off the station's public website and removed its list of advertisers and sponsors.
On the day in question, two of the show's three hosts, Rob Williams and Arnie States, spent approximately thirty minutes of the segment berating transgender children as "idiots," "freaks," and "freaks of nature," who were "just out for attention." They compared the children to "fat bastard kids on Maury" who just needed to be put in their places with verbal abuse and even physical punishment if necessary. States said that if he had a male child who put on a pair of high heels, he would discipline him by striking the little boy with his own shoe.
"I'm going to go, 'You know what? You're a little idiot! You little dumbass!" he seethed, later addng, "I look forward to the day when [the transgender children] go out into society and society beats them down. And they wind up in therapy." If the transgender-identified child "gets to eighteen," States urged, throw them out of the house. "You say, 'Get out! Go be a freak! And understand, SON, that society will never accept you because we will have some moral judgment."
Apparently a significant chunk of corporate America also has "some moral judgment," and, in this case, they decided that Rob, Arnie & Dawn's in the Morning's abusive tirade against transgender children, some as young as five, crossed the line.
As of this writing, at least ten national companies have withdrawn, cancelled, or decided not to renew their advertising contracts with KRXQ. They include Chipotle restaurants, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, SONIC, Verizon, the Carl's Jr. restaurant chain, Wells Fargo, Nissan, AT&T, and McDonalds. Citing the depravity of the content, spokespeople for the various companies were united in their disgust with KRXQ and Rob, Arnie, & Dawn in the Morning.
A statement sent to GLAAD from the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group read, "We found the segment to be offensive, and as a result we are pulling our Snapple advertising from the station." The sentiment was echoed by SONIC, who asserted flatly that "SONIC in no way condones violence toward children and does not wish to be associated with media content that condones or promotes such activity in any way."
But this isn't the first time that States and Williams have crossed the line into controversy on KRXQ by using small children as thematic set-pieces.
On October 15th 2004, the FCC released its findings in an obscenity complaint brought against KRXQ by James Peak, a Lincoln, CA resident. After receiving Peak's complaint and reviewing tapes and transcripts from shows between 2002 and 2003, the FCC fined KRXQ $55,000.
The 19 page report cites two specific instances where they deemed Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning to have engaged in graphic sexual obscenity on-air.
While Segment 2 of the report (File No. EB-02-IH-0715) cites "a graphic and detailed discussion of various methods that men may employ to disgrace, degrade and humiliate women before, during, and after sexual intercourse," Segment 1 is even more disturbing, especially in light of States and Williams' recent comments about transgender children, dealing as it does with a skit about the sexual abuse of a little boy at the hands of his father. The skit is presented as a humor gag clearly meant to titillate, according the the FCC.
The report reads in part:
The September 13, 2002 segment involved one of the program hosts playing the role of a young boy describing how his father wanted to take photographs of him in the nude and show the youngster his erect penis. Although the segment employed euphemisms ("Daddy's going to take me to a restaurant `cause he wants to take pictures of me in my birthday suit. Daddy's giving me a submarine. He says he's giving me something long, hard, and full of seaman."), the sexual import of the material is unmistakable. Although the segment was relatively brief, there is no question that its purpose was to shock and titillate, and is similar to other patently offensive material involving graphic references to sexual activity with children, which were found to be indecent. Under these circumstances, we need not find that the sexual references were repeated at length in order to find that the material is patently offensive. As noted in the Indecency Policy Statement, broadcasting references to sexual activities with children, even if relatively fleeting, may be found indecent where, as here, other factors contribute to a finding of patent offensiveness.
Entercom, KRXQ's parent company offered up as a defense that
"the material was deliberately oblique and far less explicit than material previously deemed acceptable by the Commission."
The report continues:
"In addition, Entercom maintains that the Commission's indecency definition is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. Finally, Entercom maintains that , because Station KRXQ (FM) generally garners relatively high ratings in the Sacramento, California, market, the sensitivities of a single complainant do not reflect the contemporary standards of the Sacramento listening community."
In layman's terms, according to KRXQ, "the contemporary standards of the Sacramento listening community" in 2002 encompassed "humor" about incestuous sexual abuse between a father and a small child, just as in 2009 it ought to encompass what States defends as "joking" about physical, verbal, and emotional abuse of transgender children.
In an exclusive interview from his home in Lincoln, CA, James Peak says he's not surprised by this latest grotesqueness on the part of Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning.
"I have been fighting the station for years," Peak says. "I filed a complaint in 2001, but [Rob Williams and Arnie States] denied everything. I have affidavits from the FCC saying they didn't know what I was talking about."
The complaint dealt with degrading comments about women, for instance the practice of "snowballing," defined by Wikepedia as "the man in a heterosexual couple ejaculating into the mouth of a woman, and then receiving his semen back from her."
"I would write them emails saying, 'What are you guys doing? I've never heard anything like this in my life on the radio,'" Peak says. "I met their producer later in life, and she told me that they thought I was crazy."
An August 2005 article in the Sacramento Bee by journalist Sam McManis bears out Peak's assertion that he was viewed with contempt by both the station and the show's hosts, who mocked him on the air, reading his letters aloud and inviting callers to comment on them, which they inevitably did in unflattering terms.
Rob Williams' response to charges of the show being misogynistic is that they were "asinine," and that "people see things from their own screwed-up perspective."
Tanya Montague, producer of Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning from 1999 to 2002 disagreed, and is quoted as saying, "The show is degrading to women. It makes me sick. When I was producer, I had no say in what went on the show. When I worked there, they thought [Peak] was crazy. He wasn't the only [listener] who complained, but he was the only one who took the time to go to the FCC."
When the FCC denied Peak's first complaint because of the shock-jocks affidavits and lack of audio evidence, he began to record the offending segment, which led to the second complaint.
"When I made the second complaint [which resulted in the obscenity finding] there's no way they could deny it," he says, adding that while States and Williams mocked him on-air after his first complaint led nowhere with the FCC, they toned down their rhetoric after the fine, refusing to use Peak's name or give him what they considered free publicity. "I even wrote them a letter to commend them on the change in tone."
But the change in tone was to be short lived.
In short order, according to Peak, a "joke" about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) caused "a huge uproar." Another time, according to the article in the Sacramento Bee, the hosts were criticizing the efforts of a Kansas woman named Jeanette Fennell who was campaigning to make SUV's safer.
"When Mr. Peak told me the radio station was trashing me and calling me 'a whore,' I immediately called and wanted to talk to the host," Fennell told McManis, "but they hung up on me. Finally, I had a lawyer call them and they stopped. I'm glad Mr. Peak called me."
"I have another complaint pending against them with the FCC," Peake says. "They did a segment about gays having blood on their knees from being bent over on the floor. And one about a 'pink taco,'" he adds, clearly revolted by the grotesque sexual innuendo, "where Arnie is referring to a little six year old girl, saying she ought to go trick-or-treating as 'a pink taco.'"
Peak's late sister, Mary Ellen, had Down syndrome. She was twenty-seven when she died in 1974. Peak describes her as gentle and loving. She adored baseball, and she loved being home with her family. Peak credits her with teaching him about the beauty of difference, and it enrages him to hear difference obsessively and cruelly excoriated by the hosts of Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning.
"Her memory is one of the reasons I am so passionate about this," he says. "It's part of what drives me. When I hear them on the show [using offensive terms like] 'retards,' or listen to them making jokes about 'helmets,' or the 'short bus,' I see my sister's face, and it wipes me out."
Peak hopes that this recent scandal involving States and Williams' comments about transgender children leads to more than another fine, but he's not surprised by the fact that there was no apology forthcoming, merely an indignant assertion that States was "joking" about the physical battery and verbal degradation of transgender children. That, and a belligerent, veiled threat to walk if forced to apologize or retract his comments.
"Hopefully they get fired for this," Peak says candidly of the show's commitment to hate speech as free speech, a concept vociferously defended by fans of Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning on this blog's comment page and elsewhere on the Internet. "This has been going on for years. This has nothing to do with free speech, in my opinion. I'd be the first person to take a bullet for free speech. But when you start hitting a kid with a shoe for being different, or say that you hope 'life' will 'take care of them' because they're gay, or transgender, or because they're different, that's not 'free speech,' it's hate speech. They're cowards. They run out and say these things, and when everyone gets upset, they hide behind the Constitution. It's one of the most cowardly things to do, instead of saying, 'Look, we stepped over the line. We've done it before, we didn't mean to do it. And we're really and truly sorry.'"