KLBJ-AM hosts suspended over ethnic slur

July 17th, 2009 by

KLBJ-AM’s Don Pryor and Todd Jeffries have been suspended from their weekday show without pay for two weeks after the repeated use of an ethnic slur during an on-air discussion Tuesday, station management announced Wednesday. The suspensions were effective immediately.

“Despite their apology today, the comments on-air yesterday were highly offensive, and I would like to personally apologize to the Austin community,” said Scott Gillmore, Emmis Austin Radio vice president and market manager.

“We cannot take Don’s words back, but we can work hard to move forward. Today I have heard from many KLBJ-AM listeners and reached out to leaders of the Hispanic community, including City Council Member Mike Martinez, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Blanca Garcia and U.S. Hispanic Contractors Chairman Frank Fuentes, to discuss the situation.”

Gillmore said he understood their concerns and said he thinks that Pryor and Jeffries understood their mistake. On “The Todd and Don Show” earlier Wednesday, Pryor said he regretted repeatedly using an offensive word to describe illegal immigrants during Tuesday morning’s program.

“I frequently use sarcasm and satire in my humor,” Pryor said. “The first mistake I made is using the term. It’s a highly offensive and outdated term that should never be used.”

Pryor said he assumed the audience knew he was being sarcastic when he used the slur, and he promised he wouldn’t use it again.

“We want to begin this show with a very sincere apology. … People were offended, and we regret it,” co-host Jeffries said.

Jeffries asked Pryor numerous times to stop using the word, yet Pryor continued, even repeating it as the pair signed off. Gillmore said that although only Pryor uttered the word, both hosts had equal responsibility to “take control of that situation.”

Phone and e-mail messages left with Pryor and Jeffries were not returned.

“We acknowledge KLBJ’s on-air apology, but we simply cannot see how his statements could be perceived as a joke,” the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

“It wasn’t much of an apology,” said Fuentes, chairman of the Austin-based contractors association, who noted that Pryor used the word throughout Tuesday’s show. “Then in 45 seconds (Wednesday), he basically says, ‘I was being sarcastic.’ … Racist words are not sarcastic words.”

Fuentes said his association, which represents 1,400 Central Texas contractors, will meet Friday to consider boycotting KLBJ and sponsors of the talk show. He said he had accepted Gillmore’s invitation to meet this morning and that he had invited former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia, former Texas Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos and Paul Saldaña, a consultant on the City of Austin’s Hispanic Quality of Life Initiative.

Pryor began using the word during a discussion at the outset of the show about labels used to describe people who are in the country illegally. Jeffries noted that the USA Today newspaper uses the term “illegal immigrants” but not the words “illegal” or “illegals” as nouns and avoids using the term “alien” unless it’s in a direct quote.

“OK, so that’s not PC,” Pryor said. When Jeffries said that the National Council of La Raza, the Hispanic advocacy group, encourages the use of “undocumented immigrants” or “undocumented workers,” Pryor asked: “Whatever happened to the good old word ‘wetback’? What was wrong with that?”

“Inappropriate,” Jeffries responded.

Later during the discussion, Pryor, the son of longtime KLBJ radio personality and humorist Cactus Pryor, said he was merely trying to come up “with a more efficient way of saying it, that’s all, and just bring back a little of good ol’ classic Americana.”

Near the end of Tuesday’s show, after some callers said they were bothered by the word, Pryor said, “I should apologize to people, you think? … Of course I’m kidding.” He said that he didn’t want to “bring the word back into use” but then continued to use it. “I’m using humor cloaked in racism. That’s all it is,” he said.

The use of the slur has a long history in the United States — particularly in Texas — and many Mexican Americans consider it hurtful and offensive, on par with slurs for African Americans.

First used during the early 1900s to refer to Mexicans who swam across the Rio Grande to avoid border checkpoints, it evolved in the 1950s to be used to disparage not only illegal immigrants but also American citizens of Mexican descent. Experts say that history and its common usage during a time when discrimination of Mexican Americans was common in Texas helps explain why the slur is so loaded.

2 Responses

  1. Skippy

    The Todd & Don SHow is the funniest show on the AM dial…they have mentions the love sponge many times….

  2. ron mccarthy

    !!!! AM!!!!! the only thing am is good for i morris code ….—.–..—-…..–.-.-

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