A radio station suspended two disc jockeys Tuesday over a derogatory remark about Alaska Native women made on their show, a comment that has Alaskans comparing the shock-jock duo to Don Imus.
The Anchorage DJs, known as Woody and Wilcox, were joking about what makes someone a real Alaskan, when one of them said it’s somebody who makes love to the Yukon River and urinates in a Native woman. It’s a twist on an old saying also offensive to many that real Alaskans have urinated in the Yukon River and made love to an Alaska Native woman.
Some Alaska Natives are calling for sanctions against KBFX-FM, the hard rock station that features Woody and Wilcox on its morning show.
Michelle Davis, who is part Tlingit, said she was listening to the show April 9 while stuck in traffic on her way to work when she heard the comment.
“I was horrified,” she said Tuesday. “It was a very ugly image.”
Natives are likening the remarks to those made last spring by Imus, who called the Rutgers University women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” CBS Radio fired Imus on April 12, 2007, and pulled the plug on his nationally syndicated show. He returned to the air in December at WABC-AM in New York after a series of public apologies.
State Rep. Mary Nelson, a Bethel Democrat who is part Yupik, voiced her disgust on the floor of the state House on Sunday, the last day of the legislative session. She labeled the Anchorage DJs’s comments “abhorrent to the highest degree” and called for an apology, as well as punishment by the Federal Communications Commission.
Gary Donovan, a market manager for the station, said he couldn’t recall which of the two disc jockeys whose real names are Greg Wood and Chris Wilcox made the derogatory remarks. He said station officials reviewed the tape before deciding what action to take, but declined to elaborate, noting he stood by a statement posted on the station’s Web site.
“KBFX wishes to apologize to everyone in our audience and the community who was offended by the insensitive and inappropriate comments alluding to native women,” the statement reads.
There is no listing for Wood or Wilcox in Anchorage. A message left at a listing for the initials G. and M. Wood was not immediately returned.
A voice mailbox for Clear Channel Communications, In.c, which owns KBFX, was full Tuesday evening, and an e-mail sent by The Associated Press was not immediately answered.
The station said it has indefinitely suspended the disc jockeys while they get sensitivity training.
“We are confident that what was said was an isolated incident, and it in no way reflects the views of KBFX station personnel,” the station’s statement reads.
The length of the suspension wasn’t clear, though the station said the disc jockeys’ pay during that period would be donated to charity.
At the core of the escalating outrage is the fact that Alaska Native women are disproportionately targeted in violent crimes, including rape, said Denise Morris, president of the Alaska Native Justice Center, an Anchorage-based social advocacy organization that is planning to file a formal complaint with the FCC.
The state has long posted the highest sexual assault rate in the nation, and the problem is worst in rural, largely Native areas, according to a recent law enforcement study.
“These comments just cannot be taken lightly,” Morris said. “Who is their listening audience? Young men. It just goes to show that these individuals are not conscientious of what their words mean and the impact their words have.”
Davis said she immediately filed a complaint with the FCC as an individual, under the category of obscene, profane and indecent speech.
“What they said falls into the category of hate speech,” she said. “The actual physical act they’re proposing is degrading. People are pretty offended. There is too much violence against Native women and we shouldn’t tolerate that type of disrespect.”
The FCC considers complaints confidential and won’t discuss cases unless the agency takes action against them, said Rosemary Kimball, an FCC spokeswoman. She said complaints found valid generally face sanctions including fines, even license revocations.
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