Mourners hold a memorial vigil for Whitney Houston as they await the arrival of her body in New Jersey, her home state.AP
A different tune could be heard all over southern California’s airwaves this Presidents Day weekend.
As a result of spewing ignorant and insulting remarks about the late Whitney Houston, the hosts of the controversial "John and Ken Show," received a slap on the wrist on Thursday and were told to go home for a few days.
"KFI AM 640 Management does not condone, support or tolerate statements of this kind," the station said in a statement.
The hosts, John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, called Houston a "crack ho" and referred to her as "cracked out for 20 years." Then, for added measure, Kobylt said, "Then you find out she's dead and it's like, really, it took this long?'"
They apologized -- sort of. But the hateful, hurtful rhetoric is their signature tactic in their quest for relevance and ratings.
And so, what I hear now is the sweet absence of hate-filled ranting and ill-informed conjectures for the first time in many, many years.
I am not a fan of the John and Ken Show on KFI AM640.
In fact, I have been an active critic of the type of talk radio they represent: obtuse, callous, hate-filled propaganda against any and all groups not “American enough."
I tolerate conservative talk radio because their views are protected by the Constitution, just like my views are protected. I detest right-wing evangelizing masked by assertions of real patriotism.
But when John and Ken yell fire in a crowded multicultural city like Los Angeles, they are no longer simple antagonists, they are dangerous.
Unfortunately, KFI and their parent company, Clear Channel, have been complacent and complicit in the distribution of fear-mongering, race-baiting, and xenophobic propaganda for two decades.
Their cowardly attitude towards John and Ken, presumably because they represent juicy revenues, is reprehensible at best.
Thus, when John and Ken not only rallied their angry base against AB130 and AB131, two bills that make up the California Dream Act (an education legislation that offers limited financial incentives for undocumented college students), they also made a calculated decision to attack me personally by airing my personal cell phone number several times on three of their shows.
Not surprisingly, after being labeled as thieves, terrorists, anti-American, blackmailers, traitors, and illegal-alien lovers, the non-profit organization I work for and I were the victims of harassment and threats for several weeks after.
Some may claim John and Ken were right to attack someone they disagreed with.
I am open to being criticized for my views. But given that I am not a political figure, a lobbyist, or a company, where does it say my home address, my personal cell phone number, and my personal safety as a citizen is fair game?
John and Ken did not measure the consequences of their race-baiting, and although after weeks of protests and bad press they eventually half-heartedly apologized through Univision and on air, their sophomoric ranting continued.
Through coalition work led by NHMC and CHIRLA, more than 15 sponsors left the John and Ken Show faster than a rat escapes a sinking ship.
And still KFI and Clear Channel harbor these money-making hyenas.
Less than two weeks ago, John and Ken made racist comments about Korean painters and the Korean community rightfully rose to their feet and cried foul.
KFI and Clear Channel stood by and watched the rallies undeterred. The high-octane duo remained on the air.
Whitney Houston’s death has moved many to ponder how a talented American icon could have succumbed to alcohol and drugs.
Whatever the political persuasion, many of us grieved for her daughter and prayed for the canary’s soul.
John and Ken apparently were not among those touched by the loss of a human being who lost her battle to the addictive grasp of loneliness and depression.
Instead, they mocked the singer and in the process insulted her memory.
Whitney Houston was also an African American woman.
There has been much work that African Americans have had to do, much blood spilled, too many lives lost, in order for the community to gain a little bit of respect.
When a member of the community is defiled, especially by racist goons like John and Ken, the whole community reacts and demands answers. I believe this is why KFI and Clear Channel immediately ordered John and Ken to go home and spend their long holiday weekend thinking about other people to target.
Unfortunately, their suspension is temporary.
There will be a time when attacking immigrants, Latinos, Koreans, low-income families, gays and lesbians, or Jews will no longer be funny or profitable.
We too will learn to carry our cross and stand tall, high above the putrid fecal matter that represents hate speech, xenophobia, and discrimination. The likes of John and Ken, KFI, and Clear Channel, will have to think twice before they belittle us or use us as guinea pigs for their next rant.
For now, I applaud KFI for having the courage to step up to the light and show their boys’ true colors. I only wish they would suspend these two irrational clowns once and for all.
Until that time, I will enjoy at least a few days without calumny.
Jorge-Mario Cabrera is Director of Communications & Public Relations for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)