By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
A top executive of Clear Channel Communications, the corporate giant that employs two controversial Toledo radio hosts, apologized for their conduct and said they will not be allowed to offend again.
“We certainly don’t condone the actions by our people,” said David Crowl, Clear Channel’s senior vice president for radio, who oversees all of the company’s stations in Ohio. “I guarentee you it will not happen again in Toledo.
Mr. Crowl said Clear Channel is reviewing the broadcasts of WSPD afternoon host Scott Sloan and WVKS morning host Denny Schaffer to determine if any discipline — possibly including firing — is necessary.
Both hosts have made comments some consider racist and bigoted. Mr. Sloan received national attention for talking about arranging the assassination of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
In the first statement on the controversy from a Clear Channel executive, Mr. Crowl said the company “is very concerned” with the recent on-air incidents and would be creating a system of rules and guidlines designed to prevent them from being repeated.
“The first thing we will set out to do is to make sure that our employees know the standards we require,” he said. “There are areas where we cannot push the envelope, where there are boundaries and limits.”
On Wednesday, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for the two men to be fired. Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner alsosent a letter to Clear Channel’s chairman and chief executive officer demanding that the company take further steps to control its on-air content. That letter was signed by representatives of seven religious and ethnic groups.
Mr. Crowl, who is based in Covington, Ky., said Clear Channel representatives will be traveling to Toledo sometime in the next two weeks to discuss the issue with the NAACP and other groups that have opposed Mr. Sloan and Mr. Schaffer.
“We need to meet with members of the community to let them know that what took place will not be repeated,” Mr. Crowl said.
Clear Channel, based in San Antonio, Tex., owns nearly 500 radio stations in 44 states, making it the largest radio station owner in the country.
In October, it agreed to purchase another major radio company, AMFM, Inc., for $23.5 billion, a deal that would give the company more than 800 stations. That deal still requires federal approval.
Mr. Crowl saved his harshest comments for Mr. Sloan, who brought national negative attention to the company.
“We’re not pleased at all with Mr. Sloan’s broadcast,” he said. “We do not condone it. It was a rogue situation.”
On Nov. 17, Mr. Sloan spoke out against the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his role in the controversy over six boys expelled from a Decatur, Ill., high school for fighting.
Mr. Sloan said Mr. Jackson wanted to become a martyr like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and said he wanted to help Mr. Jackson in his cause.
He called a hotel with a similar name to the motel where Dr. King was killed, asked about its balconies, and said once hotel arrangements were made, “All we need now is a shooter.”
Community groups responded angrily, saying thatthe remarks were hateful and racist. Stories about the incident appeared in dozens of newspapers across the nation, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and USA Today.
Mr. Sloan previously received attention for a comment he made in 1996 about “greasy Middle Easterners” and making fun of Muhammad Ali, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
On Monday, Clear Channel market manager Andy Stuart announced the company had suspended Mr. Sloan for one week without pay as a result of his comments.
Mr. Schaffer has been criticized for some of his statements, including some he aired on Tuesday. He played a copy of a recording he left on the answering machine of WilliAnn Moore, president of the local NAACP chapter, in which he invited her to eat ribs with him at Denny’s Restaurant “and see if we all get served.”
In 1994, Denny’s Restaurant agreed to a $54 million settlement of two class-action lawsuits that claimed it systematically discriminated against minorities in service, sometimes refusing to seat black people.
Mr. Schaffer has faced criticism for jokes about the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and for an on-air discussion about Blade co-publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block, in which WTOL- TV anchor Jerry Anderson questioned whether “short, small-handed Jewish men” like Mr. Block could be well-endowed. Mr. Schaffer has alsocalled Mr. Block “the devil” and created an Internet web site called Beelzeblock.com, which pictures a demonic beast meant to portray Mr. Block.
Mr. Crowl said Mr. Schaffer’s comments were being reviewed by the company and that an announcement on his status with the company would be forthcoming within the next week to 10 days.
Local Clear Channel employees were unavailable for comment. On his show yesterday, Mr. Schaffer said he and other Clear Channel employees had been ordered not to talk to reporters by corporate management.
He refused to meet with a reporter requesting an interview yesterday.
WSPD and its morning host, Mark Standriff, are the target of a lawsuit filed on Sept. 28 by The Blade.
The suit accuses WSPD and Mr. Standriff of stealing The Blade’s news content and reading it on the air without attribution. WSPD and Mr. Standriff have denied the charges.
Mr. Crowl did not give specific details about what kind of system will be set up to ensure that more incidents do not occur. He declined comment on specific statements Mr. Schaffer and Mr. Standriff have made about The Blade and Mr. Block, and whether or not they violated Clear Channel’s standards.
“We are very concerned with what has happened up there,” he said. “We are reviewing everything that has occurred and what was said. Clear Channel does not operate in that manner, and we are going to work hard to make sure that the city of Toledo and the communities around it understand we’re good broadcasters.”
Mr. Crowl said Clear Channel has an excellent record on diversity issues, including several successful black station general managers.
“We have many stations that broadcast and communicate to the African-American community,” he said. “Our goals are to serve the community, to entertain, and to inform, not to get on the air with the type of performance that has been going on up there.”
As a result of the merger with AMFM, Inc., Clear Channel will be required to sell approximately 110 of its stations, and the Federal Communications Commission has asked that the company make a special effort to sell them to minority broadcasters. “What’s ironic about these incidents is that they go against what we have been moving toward recently,” he said.
“This was an isolated incident, a couple of individuals deciding to go off on their own. That’s something we try to prevent, but it’s not something Clear Channel condones or supports or practices anywhere else.