Friday, November 03, 2006

John DePetro vs. Grace Ross

Green Party vs. fringe-right wing talk show host. Homophobic asshole vs. fiery, intelligent, thoughtful lesbian. Hangs-up-on-you-when-you-disagree-yet-are-coherent jerk vs. astute, brainy, quick-witted woman.

So, who won?

"This corporation has zero tolerance for this type of nonsense," George Regan, spokesman for the station, said last night. "It will not be tolerated. We are now in the process of an investigation. Mr. DePetro will not be heard on the airwaves of WRKO-AM tomorrow morning."

For her part, Ross laughed when she heard about DePetro's remark. "That's my honest response," she said, chuckling. "First of all, this is not news to folks that I'm a lesbian. It's on my website. Big, fat? I guess that's supposed to be his way of saying he doesn't like somebody. The real issue here is that we have a whole subculture of right-wing talk show hosts who think they're more important than they are."
Ouch, score one for Grace Ross! When the Green Party candidate says, 'Hey, look, he's just not that important,' it's got to hurt. How's little DePetro's ego holding up? Regardless of whether or not DePetro's fired, he's lost this battle. It wasn't even close.

If he isn't fired, however, WRKO loses too. It isn't his first gay slur on air. Ironically, he scolded a caller for using the word "bitch" on air on the same show that he called Grace Ross a "fat lesbian." "Bitch," he said, 'would be bad for the kiddies' who are listening in. Hypocrisy much? Then again, any parents who make their kids listen to talk radio already lost a long, long time ago - lost their minds, that is.

Update: WKRO did the right thing. DePetro has been fired. It is not okay to use gay slurs, especially on the public airwaves. DePetro did it on two seperate occasions. WKRO made the right call.


Aaron said... is reporting that he's been canned.

Ryan Adams said...

Schadenfruede, anyone?

Aaron said...

As is always the case when something like this happens, it raises what I think are rather difficult issues surrounding free speech.

Gay slurs are reprehensible, but is it really not OK to use them on the airwaves? It depends on how you define "OK." Is it wrong by any modern moral standard? Yes, of course. But it is unconstitutional? I'm not a legal scholar, but I don't think so. WRKO management made a decision based on what product they want to be serving, so to speak, and they decided that they don;t want this to part of their product. But had they decided to keep him it would have been their prerogative and their right to do so. They made the right choice in my opinion, but the notion that certain opinions, even vile ones like DePetro's shouldn't have a place on the airwaves or anywhere else just doesn't sit right with me.

eeka said...


What's annoying the crap out of me is that several blogs are talking about the incident without any context, either arguing that "fat lesbian" is derogatory (when it isn't necessarily...) or arguing that it's just a descriptor.

Yes, "fat lesbian" is accurate. It might be basically appropriate in a blunt description of how the folks look standing up there debating, but could be really inappropriate if it were "yeah, and then that fat lesbian has the nerve to say..."

Context is everything, yanno?

Anonymous said...

How is "lesbian" a "gay slur?" Doesn't that mean all the GLBT groups should change their names, too?

Wait--Grace Ross calls herself a "lesbian." Is she slurring herself.

When discussing the issue of sexuality between women, I eschew the offensive word "lesbian" for the accurate yet inoffensive, what was that word again?

StunnedVoter said...

I dunno, I think "fat" is pretty much always used as a derogatory term. I know there's fat tolerance and fat acceptance, but those are people trying to reclaim the term and applying it to themselves, not to anyone else. (In fact, I just googled fat acceptance to verify that, and I found people who call themselves fat reassuring other women they're not at all fat. :))

It's hard to think of a context where someone would be called fat, or described as fat, by someone else, especially a stranger, and it wouldn't be meant in at least a somewhat derogatory way.

And when you throw "lesbian" in there, it just makes it that much more clear, even though it would be possible to use lesbian as just a simple descriptive term, I guess.

Maybe if DePetro were a lesbian himself or was open about his own weight problem he could try and claim it's a term of endearment of something, but..

StunnedVoter said...

In short, LOL, there's a difference between being an in-group member and part of the out-group imo. If a slur's directed at a certain group, it takes on a different level of hostility when it's coming from someone outside the group.

I don't think it's appropriate to call other women derogatory names like "slut" ot "bitch," (I might, however, make an occasional exception when it comes to certain candidates who have pushed the bounds of decency beyond all endurance), for example, but if a girl calls me a bitch, it wouldn't be that big a deal to me. If a guy said that to me, that would be a huge deal and create a big problem.

Ryan Adams said...

Aaron, I agree with you to some extent that it was WRKO's perogative. As I said in my blog, they made the right choice. That implies that it was actually a choice - the police didn't come and get him and carry him away, he got fired.

That said, the radio are public airwaves. The very fact that the airwaves don't belong to the radio stations means that we - as a public - get to have some say on what is and is not okay to put on the airwaves. If people in general want certain restrictions on how speech is said - but not actually speech itself - then that's our perogative. It's perfectly okay for us to limit swears, slurs, and things of that like. In fact, it need not limit free speech - DePetro could have still talked about how Grace Ross was a lesbian, even in a way that it somehow disqualified her or was a bad thing. I'd disagree with it and still probably be fuming, but it probably wouldn't have been a firable offense - the fact that he slurred her (using a gay slur for the second time this year, showing a pattern) was a firable offense.


I absolutely agree. Context is everything. As someone who was listening in, I can attest to the fact that he meant it in a hurtful way. Then, after he faux-apologized, he went on to describe that he was actually right in his description - as if it was somehow appropriate to call someone a "big fat lesbian" (in any context on public airwaves).

Anon at 4:52, please refer to my comments for Eeka.

Stunned, if he had just said that Grace Ross was a lesbian, that would have been fine. It was the "fat" and the context in which he said it in that made it not okay.

Anyway, thanks all for the comments! It's an interesting discussion. I'm curious to see just who WRKO will replace DePetro with - if they're serious about their "zero tolerance" they'll hire someone who... oh, I don't know... actually tolerates others. Imagine that!

StunnedVoter said...

No, I totally understand what you're saying, Ryan. My comments were responding to where eeka was saying it might be possible to use the phrase "fat lesbian" in a descriptive, not-necessarily- derogatory way under certain circumstances. I know context is everything, but I think it's hard to envision a context where describing anyone like that would really be appropriate or non derogatory in intent, except in the context of a community that chose to refer to themselves in those terms.

Anonymous said...

the radio are public airwaves

Excellent point, and too often forgotten.

if he had just said that Grace Ross was a lesbian, that would have been fine

Ehhh. If he had just said Grace Ross is a lesbian, he wouldn't have been fired. His intent still would have been the same, to sneer at her with his troglodyte listeners.

Grace is out, sure, but it's not Natalie Jacobsen asking her a question about her in-laws while sitting on her couch.

Mentioning that she's a lesbian would be fine if it's relevant in any way, to the campaign or the issue that's being discussed, but he was talking about the debate and how Grace felt excluded, not about how she answered questions with "Well, as a lesbian..." (which she didn't that I saw).

If DePetro isn't calling Healey "the woman" apropos of nothing, or Patrick "the black guy" or Mihos "the het white guy," I don't really see the point of "the lesbian" except to gay bash, considering the source. It wouldn't be a fireable offense but it's still more asshatty than fine.

Anyway, who uses "lesbian" anymore? Seriously. hehe

Anonymous said...

even though it would be possible to use lesbian as just a simple descriptive term, I guess.

Not on RKO, it wouldn't be.

daisy navidson said...

Why do the mainstream radio stations deliberately hire buffoons to host their talk shows in the first place? Is it that their sponsors think the "C/D students" in the audience are easier to sell products to, or is it in their own personal interests to keep the masses uninformed?

Anonymous said...

I'd go with b, the station owners think it's in their interests to have more brainwashed conservatives to give them their tax breaks and not question the status quo, and if that makes it easier to sell them products they don't need, so much the better.

A friend of mine works on a ship and a new guy came on board, completely apolitical. After a few months cooped up in the engine room forced to listen to Michael Savage ranting 24/7, the new guy would buy whatever Savage told him to or do whatever Savage wanted, short of going to Iraq himself of course. It was scary.

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