In reporting on advertisers dropping "Gunny" Bob, Fox 31 and Post omitted key information on community reaction

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

KDVR Fox 31 co-anchors Steve Kelley and Shaul Turner, as well a Denver Post article, omitted key details from reports about advertisers dropping Newsradio 850 KOA host "Gunny" Bob Newman's program because of his remarks about Muslim immigrants. Neither media outlet mentioned that critical responses from civil rights groups preceded the advertisers' actions.

In introducing the "Question of the Day" to viewers of their May 17 broadcast, KDVR Fox 31 Good Day Colorado co-anchors Steve Kelley and Shaul Turner provided only partial information about the controversy surrounding anti-Muslim remarks that Newsradio 850 KOA host "Gunny" Bob Newman made on his May 8 broadcast. Kelley characterized the issue as a case of "[f]ree speech ... being tested again" and noted that The Denver Post had reported that three metro-area businesses have decided to withdraw advertising from Newman's The "Gunny" Bob Show .

But neither Fox 31 nor the Post noted the earlier, publicly critical responses from the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), or the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to Newman's demand that "every Muslim immigrant in America ... be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times." Newman made the remark while discussing the breakup of an alleged terrorist plot to attack U.S. soldiers at New Jersey's Fort Dix and further suggested that the U.S. government "bug [Muslims'] places of work and their residences," monitor "[a]ll mosques and community centers" and "throw their asses out of the country" if they object.

Kelley and Turner reported Newman's comments in the context of recent controversies surrounding remarks by now-suspended XM Satellite Radio hosts Opie and Anthony and former CBS radio host Don Imus. In addition to invoking the issue of Newman's free speech rights, as Newman did on his May 11 broadcast, Kelley asked regarding Newman's comment, "Was it a joke?"

From the May 17 broadcast of KDVR Fox 31's Good Day Colorado:

KELLEY (co-anchor): Free speech is being tested again. Last week, KOA's "Gunny" Bob Newman said, quote, "I want every Muslim immigrant in America who holds -- to hold a green card, a visa, or who is a naturalized citizen to be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times." He made those comments while discussing a foiled terrorist plot for an attack at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Well, now The Denver Post is reporting at least three metro-area businesses are pulling their advertising from the show and are asking others to do the same. So we're asking you this morning, with respect to this quote from "Gunny" Bob Newman, what do you think?

TURNER (co-anchor): Yes, is this over the top, or -- people who criticize this, are they overreacting to this kind of a comment? And we've been talking a lot about Don Imus --

KELLEY: Mm-hmm.

TURNER: -- there are some other radio personalities --

KELLEY: Opie and Anthony just got --

TURNER: Opie and Anthony.

KELLEY: -- yeah, just got suspended for 30 days without pay up in New York is where -- or they're in Los Angeles, I believe, but --

TURNER: Yeah, yeah.

KELLEY: So, free speech. But is this -- you know, you wonder in context what he's talking about here. Was it a joke?

TURNER: Mm-hmm.

KELLEY: But, if advertisers are, you know -- they're just saying, "Hey we're not going gonna put up with this."

TURNER: Yeah, and Opie and Anthony, their remark was related to one person, Condoleezza Rice.

KELLEY: Mm-hmm.

TURNER: But this is related to an entire group of people in this country. So let us know what you think. Go to MyFoxColorado.com or call 303-566-7601.

As Kelley and Turner noted, the Post reported May 17 that three businesses asked Newman's employer, Clear Channel's Newsradio 850 KOA, to pull their ads from his show. The Post reported that the companies were responding to a petition drive launched by the advocacy group ProgressNow Action.

From the article "3 firms pull ads on KOA program" by Will Shanley in the May 17 edition of The Denver Post:

At least three metro-area businesses have asked radio station KOA-850 AM to pull their advertisements from the "Gunny Bob" Newman show following remarks about Muslims made last week by the conservative talk-show host.

The companies, Excel Roofing, Ralph Schomp Automotive and Three Tomatoes Catering, asked that the ads run in different time slots on KOA after being petitioned by ProgressNowAction, an advocacy group in Denver.

At least one other advertiser with the radio station is also considering asking that its spots be removed from Newman's show, said Michael Huttner, the group's executive director.

"We are turning up the volume," Huttner said. "We are going to increase it until (the radio station) feels the heat and understands that this type of hate- mongering will not be tolerated."

Huttner said the group has sent thousands of e-mails to Colorado residents on its subscriber list, urging them to ask local companies that advertise with KOA to join a boycott.

The three companies that have asked that their ads not run on the show did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

ProgressNowAction has taken issue with comments Newman made regarding Muslims. During a broadcast last week, he said: "I want every Muslim immigrant to America who holds a green card, a visa, or who is a naturalized citizen to be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times."

Neither Fox 31 nor the Post noted, as Colorado Media Matters did, that the ADL, the AFSC, and the ACLU publicly condemned Newman's comments in advance of the advertisers' actions.

Additionally, in framing the debate as a "free speech" issue, Kelley failed to note the publicly reported position of the ACLU. Cathryn Hazouri, ACLU of Colorado executive director, told the online political daily news website Colorado Confidential that by suggesting the government suspend the civil rights of a group of people based solely on their religion, Newman urged violation of the First Amendment:

"What Gunny Bob said is not only bigoted, it's totally ignorant of the U.S. Constitution. His statement suggests that the government should single out people of a certain religion and treat them differently. That violates the First Amendment."

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