Michael Berry

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  • Conservative Syndicated Radio Host Ends Segment Mocking Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Berry announced that he will discontinue his weekly segment mocking victims of Chicago gun violence, and he apologized for the feature, saying he has “to make better decisions” about the words he uses.

    Until now, The Michael Berry Show, which is syndicated by iHeartRadio, has featured a “racially charged” “Butcher Bill” weekly segment that ridiculed the city’s gun violence victims and criticized the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry repeatedly claimed that “black people don’t believe black lives matter.”

    Berry’s decision to discontinue the segment follows controversy over iHeartRadio’s recent announcement that it would give Berry a “talk personality of the year” award. After the announcement of the award, Media Matters published a piece on March 1 highlighting some of the worst examples from Berry’s “Butcher Bill.”

    Amid the ensuing controversy, iHeartRadio refused to comment to Media Matters and news outlets covering the story to explain why he was being honored. The award was to be given during the March 5 iHeartRadio Music awards, but no indication has been made that Berry was actually honored at the ceremony, and iHeartRadio did not return multiple requests for comment asking whether Berry received the award. iHeartRadio has also not responded to requests for comment on Berry’s apology and discontinuation of the segment.

    During the March 10 evening edition of his show, Berry announced he would “discontinue” the segment. He initially defended the segment, with a self-serving explanation that claimed the purpose was to “highlight” the “precious lives” being lost in Chicago with a feature “that was tinged in humor.” Calling himself a “comedian wanna-be,” Berry said that “comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think.”

    While this explanation purported to show sympathy for victims of gun violence in Chicago, the actual segments he ran were full of heartless mockery. For example, in September 2015, Berry ridiculed 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter just days after he was murdered as the innocent bystander of a drive-by shooting. Mocking the youth’s name, Berry said, “Tyjuan Poindexter. Ha ha. Tyjuan Poindexter was standing outside with some friends when some people drove by and opened fire. Young Mister Poindexter was shot in the head and died at the scene. He won't have to live with that name anymore.”

    In 2017, Berry often played “bingo” with Chicago residents’ gun violence injuries and encouraged listeners to play along by guessing where victims were shot on their bodies. He also sarcastically suggested that the way to avoid “hear[ing] shots and fe[eling] pain” in Chicago is to wear “earmuffs.”

    Despite attempting to sanitize the content of his segment, Berry conceded on March 10 that he had received “valid criticism” and that those who had complained about the segment “deserve an apology”: 

    MICHAEL BERRY (HOST): Well, it came to our attention, most of you listening right now would never know what I’m talking about. We do a -- on our morning show, on Monday mornings, we do a segment called the Chicago Weekend Crime Update. And the genesis of that, several years ago, was to say, “Every week there are people, a dozen or more people being murdered and usually multiple dozens being wounded on the streets of Chicago and we’re arguing over guns when precious lives are being lost. Children, walking to school, being gunned down or in their own home. A mom walking her baby in a pram, and gets shot and killed in front of their own home.” So, in an effort to highlight that, we started a segment that was tinged in humor -- and that might seem weird. But comedians, and I’m a comedian wannabe, comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think. It’s why they’re very effective at stoking discussions. And through the course of that, some people said to me, and I read some comments that people had posted, that I was mocking crime victims. And my immediate reaction is, you’re stupid, you’re dumb, you’re criticizing me, I’m not going to listen to you. But I sat down with my wife, and we read through them, and I realized I could see where somebody would say that. I would come off -- you’re right. That is a valid criticism, and I have thought over that a lot in the last week. And that bothered me. It bothered me a lot. And we decided that we would discontinue that segment, as much as we think it's important to highlight the problems of crime. And I also wanted to apologize, because some people took the time to post to me that that bothered them and why. In very thoughtful comments, and they deserve an apology. And I have to make better decisions with the words I use.

    Berry has previously apologized for making disparaging comments about American Indians and for his suggestion that someone blow up a mosque, but these apologies did not temper his proclivity for using dehumanizing rhetoric

  • iHeartRadio Won’t Say Whether It Honored Conservative Radio Host Who Mocks Chicago Gun Violence Victims

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    iHeartRadio is refusing to say whether it honored conservative radio host Michael Berry -- who routinely mocks Chicago victims of gun violence -- at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music awards. The online radio broadcasting company previously announced that Berry would be named “talk personality of the year” at the March 5 award ceremony.

    Talkers, the radio industry’s trade publication, reported on February 27 that iHeartRadio was giving a “news/talk personality of the year” award to Berry, writing that the award “is a first” and that the “competition was open only to talk hosts who work for iHeartMedia stations.” The report quoted Berry claiming that he hosts “a show that dares to be funny.”

    The Talkers article originally included the line “The award will be given in Los Angeles on March 5 at the iHeartRadio Music Awards,” but that language was subsequently removed without explanation. During the February 23 broadcast of The Michael Berry Show, Berry talked about being chosen for the award, saying, “It’s the first time our company has done this -- they have a big awards ceremony next month.”

    On March 1, Media Matters published a piece documenting Berry’s regular ridicule of Chicago gun violence victims in a weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, which often includes playing “bingo” and other games with victims’ gunshot injuries. For example, during a February 20 broadcast, Berry said of a slain gun violence victim:  “Saturday, 4:25 a.m., po-po responding to a call of shots fired, found 36-year-old John Gonzalez with a gunshot wound to -- to his head. To his head, everybody. B4, his head.”

    The piece also mentioned that Berry frequently picks on teenage victims of gun violence in Chicago. After 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was killed in a drive-by shooting, Berry joked that the teenager, who was an innocent bystander, “won't have to live with that name anymore.”

    Following the piece’s publication, Media Matters sent multiple requests for comment to iHeartRadio asking them to explain the rationale behind honoring Berry, but received no response. A March 2 Chicago Tribune article on Berry’s propensity to mock gun violence victims noted that “Berry and his producer did not respond to calls from the Chicago Tribune this week. Nor did bosses at Berry's Houston station, KTRH, nor did representatives of its parent company, iHeartMedia.” (The Tribune article references the deleted line from the Talkers report -- “Talker magazine also reported the award, which it said would be given to Berry in a televised ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles” -- indicating the line was removed after Media Matters’ piece was published.)

    Similarly, a March 2 WGN News broadcast reporting that Berry “makes fun of shooting victims with racially charged commentary” noted that iHeartRadio had not responded to a request for comment.

    On March 5, the iHeartRadio Music awards show was held in Los Angeles. The event was broadcast on TNT, TBS, and TruTv. With the event now concluded, it is unclear whether Berry was honored during the ceremony. A search of iQ media turned up no evidence that Berry was honored during the televised portions of the event, and on March 6, iHeartRadio published a “complete” list of winners from the event, which does not include Berry, instead listing the musicians who won awards, including Justin Timberlake, Adele, and Justin Bieber.

    Media Matters has again sent iHeartRadio multiple requests for comment, asking the company to confirm whether Berry received the award at the event as previously planned. iHeartRadio has not responded.

    It is important that leadership at iHeartRadio clarify whether they stand with the values represented by Berry’s show and believe that a host like him should be elevated by receiving an award alongside high-profile performers.

    If iHeartRadio decided to honor Berry in secret, that suggests the company is comfortable giving an award to someone who ridicules gun violence victims, but also doesn’t want to face any public backlash over the situation. If the award was rescinded, that is an important point too, and iHeartRadio should explain its rationale for not going forward with the honor.

    Additional reporting by Media Matters' Joe Strupp.

  • Chicago Tribune Reports On iHeartRadio “Personality Of The Year” Mocking Victims Of Chicago Gun Violence

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Chicago Tribune reported that conservative radio host Michael Berry, who is set to receive iHeartRadio’s “Talk Personality of the Year” award on Sunday, “mocks Chicago homicide victims in his regular feature, ‘Chicago Weekend Crime Report,’ which includes a shooting victim bingo game in which listeners are supposed to guess where in the body victims were shot.”

    Berry will receive his award during the March 5 iHeartRadio Music Awards, which will be broadcast on TNT, TBS, and TruTv.

    A March 2 Tribune article chronicled the various ways Berry mocks gun violence victims on his show, including by saying, “‘He won't have to live with that name anymore,'” days “after 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was the unintended and blameless victim of a September 2015 drive-by shooting.” It also notes that “Berry joked that a bullet wound to a 30-year-old Chicago man's right leg would ensure ‘he will never be a professional field goal kicker’”:

    A rising nationally syndicated conservative talk-radio star who makes fun of Chicago homicide victims on his show says he is being honored by his bosses at radio giant iHeartRadio as the "Talk Personality of the Year."

    Texan Michael Berry mocks Chicago homicide victims in his regular feature, "Chicago Weekend Crime Report," which includes a shooting victim bingo game in which listeners are supposed to guess where in the body victims were shot.

    "He won't have to live with that name anymore," Berry chortled not long after 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter was the unintended and blameless victim of a September 2015 drive-by shooting.

    [...]

    Media Matters, a liberal media-monitoring organization that tracks conservative media, wrote about Berry online this week, and provided the Tribune with 10 clips from his shows. Those clips and others found online suggest that riffing on the fatal shootings of Chicagoans, particular African-Americans, is a routine part of the white 46-year-old former Houston council member's shtick. He refers to the segment as his "Butcher's Bill" and has been successful enough to have scored a 2015 interview with President Donald Trump, and to have become the nation's 16th highest-rated radio talker by the trade magazine, Talker.

    [...]

    Talker magazine also reported the award, which it said would be given to Berry in a televised ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles.

    But Berry and his producer did not respond to calls from Chicago Inc. this week. Nor did bosses at Berry's Houston station, KTRH, nor did representatives of its parent company, iHeartMedia, which was formerly known as Clear Channel and owns 800 stations nationwide, including Chicago-based black music station WGCI-FM 107.5, as well as the iHeartRadio brand that Berry says will honor him.

    Berry, who has referred to Chicago as "Thuglandia" and makes frequent sarcastic references to a black character he calls "Pookie" and the character's run-ins with the "po-po," has been making Chicago gags for at least a year and a half, accompanied by the "Peter Gunn" theme from "The Blues Brothers." Though his show is syndicated in cities across the South, in New York and in Oregon, and is available online, it is not broadcast by any Chicago stations.

    That's not surprising. Less than two weeks ago, on Feb. 20, Berry joked that a bullet wound to a 30-year-old Chicago man's right leg would ensure "he will never be a professional field goal kicker."

    [...]

    Media Matters' guns and public safety program director, Tim Johnson, said that, even by the debased standards of talk radio, Berry's comments about crime victims are "reprehensible."

    "If he was mocking the victims of a public mass shooting that makes national headlines instead of these very vulnerable people, advertisers would flee his show and he would be fired," Johnson said.

  • “Insanity”: Media Appalled After Trump Campaign Hires Breitbart Executive And Political Commentator

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Media figures across the political spectrum expressed shock after reports that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump hired Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon and political commentator Kellyanne Conway to head his campaign. Media said the hire makes the relationship between Trump and Breitbart “official” and labeled the move “insanity.”

  • Mic Highlights The “Sinister Extremists” Ted Cruz Helped Mainstream

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Mic reporter Tom McKay explained that, while Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) “presidential ambitions died” in May, his “large, well-funded and well-connected conservative network” made up of “sinister extremists,” conservative talk radio hosts, and “far-right think tank” leaders will survive long after his presidential bid.

    Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid gained early support from talk radio hosts like Steve Deace and Michael Berry, each who have long records of espousing extremist, bigoted rhetoric. Deace has accused Democrats of leading a “war on whites” and warned of an army of jihadists coming to take over America to argue for a higher white birth rate. Berry has a record of racially charged rhetoric, including describing black people as “jungle animals,” referring to protesting University of Missouri football players as “thugs,” and mocking victims of Chicago gun violence. As Media Matters’ Angelo Carusone explained, “Powerful media hosts like Deace used their ties with the [Cruz] campaign ‘to advance their own cache and appeal to their audiences and reinforce their own relevancy.’”

    The May 26 Mic article highlighted these figures and explained that the rise of Cruz’s network “will likely linger long after the initial rush has faded.” The article also pointed out that “Cruz was part of a ‘cumulative effect’ driving other candidates, including Trump, to the right,” which has allowed Trump’s campaign to have “‘really inspired proper right wing extremists … to climb out from under the political rocks in which they have been hiding.’”  

    From the May 26 Mic piece:                

    Unlike other Republican contenders this year, Cruz busied himself building a large, well-funded, and well-connected conservative network. Some of these boosters and advisers will go on to play a role in the Trump campaign, while others may become future standard-bearers of the ideological conservative movement.

    Cruz "put a lot of emphasis in sort of delegating the organizing to the media figures and to the leaders within those spaces," said Angelo Carusone, executive vice president of progressive media watchdog Media Matters. "People like [radio hosts] Steve Deace in Iowa and Michael Berry in Texas, Glenn Beck, these are people that one, he's pumped a fairly large amount of money into advertising his programming ... they're serving as a validator for him and they're doing their very best to convert their audiences."

    [...]

    Michael Berry is one of the most important figures in talk radio in Houston, Texas, where he uses his platform to spread racially charged opinions on young black kids who have run-ins with the police ("jungle animals"), Islamic culture ("forced genital mutilation") and Black Lives Matter (a "pro-thug narrative"). One of the regularly occurring segments of his show is appearances from a blackface performer using the stage name Shirley Q. Liquor, whose act has been repeatedly protested as racist.

    [...]

    "The more candidates tout him as important (as Cruz does regularly), the more his language becomes commonplace and becomes part of what is considered acceptable on the right," wrote Media Matters Associate Research Director Sal Colleluori in an email to Mic. "This is of extreme value to Cruz specifically, but even Trump. The more we mainstream anti-immigrant and anti-African-American language, the more their base of support is used to hearing — and sympathizing with — these extreme notions."

    [...]

    Steve Deace, a nationally syndicated radio host originally based out of Iowa, boasts an audience of tens of thousands of listeners. They tune in to hear the self-declared alpha male rant about the "manginas" in charge of today's GOP, suggest that a "whole generation of women [is] on the lookout for some alpha males" and cast Republican leadership's mission as "pass Obama's agenda, lie to conservatives, defraud voters and total capitulation."

    [...]

    Deace's influence in Iowa helped Cruz obtain a crucial victory in the state — which plays a crucial role in shaping media perceptions of viability due to its early primary dates — by helping mobilize a small but vocal vanguard of far-right activists in conjunction with other organizers like U.S. Rep. Steve King and evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats. According to the Des Moines Register, Deace was a key leader of a team of 12,000 volunteers who made 25,000 calls and 2,000 home visits daily in the days leading to the vote. He has simultaneously used his prominence to land key appearances on national media, where he tones down the rhetoric to make him and Cruz seem more reasonable.

    [...]

    According to Matthew Feldman, a professor of fascist ideology at Teesside University, Cruz was part of a "cumulative effect" driving other candidates, including Trump, to the right.

    "In most people's lifetimes there hasn't been a frontrunning candidate who has pushed so many far-right buttons as Trump, or for that matter, Ted Cruz," Feldman wrote. "But it is only Trump's campaign that has really inspired proper right wing extremists, who have found the broken taboos around race, political violence and conspiracy theory a real boon for their brand of revolutionary politics. It is the first time in more than a generation they have been able to climb out from under the political rocks in which they have been hiding."
     

  • 8 Ways Right-Wing Media Exploited The Brussels Terror Attacks

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G. & JULIE ALDERMAN

    Right-wing media quickly exploited the terrorist attacks in Brussels by stoking fears about the U.S. refugee vetting process, calling for the profiling of Muslims, stoking anti-immigrant sentiments, hyping anti-Muslim fears, blaming political correctness for the victims of terrorism, crediting Donald Trump with being "right" when he said Brussels was turning into a "hell hole," calling for torture and waterboarding, and criticizing President Obama.

  • Ted Cruz Celebrates Super Tuesday With Bigoted Radio Host Michael Berry

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Texas radio host Michael Berry posted a picture of himself and Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) backstage following Cruz's Republican primary victories in Texas and Oklahoma.

    Houston's KPRC reported that Cruz watched the election results from Berry's "Redneck Country Club" which was identified as his "campaign headquarters." Berry's relationship with Cruz goes back more than twenty years and Berry even introduced Cruz on stage in Iowa the night before the caucuses.

    As a radio host, Berry has become known for his racially charged rhetoric, including describing black people as "jungle animals," regularly hosting a comedian in blackface whose stage name is "Shirley Q. Liquor," claiming that "black people don't believe that black lives matter."

  • Cruz Campaign Will Host Super Tuesday Watch Party At Venue Of Radio Host With Long History Of Bigoted Rhetoric

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    The Houston area "Redneck County Club" will host the Super Tuesday watch party tonight of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. The venue was founded by the Texas radio host Michael Berry, whose history of bigoted rhetoric and programming has not prevented the senator from welcoming his longtime friendship and support.

    Houston's KPRC reported that the Cruz campaign will be watching the results from Stafford, TX, and identified Berry's bar and music venue as the "campaign headquarters." An online invitation to the Stafford watch party from the Cruz campaign confirmed the site of "Ted Cruz Election Night Watch Party" is the Red Neck Country Club.

    Cruz's decision to use Berry's club as his election watch party venue comes as no surprise as Cruz and Berry have been friends for "over twenty years." Berry's radio show -- The Michael Berry Show -- is often packed with racially inflammatory language. The host has referred to black people as "jungle animals" and often mocks black victims of Chicago's gun violence. He regularly rejects civil rights advocacy and once said in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, "the dirty little secret is black people don't believe that black lives matter." The host also often hosts a blackface comedian, whose stage name is "Shirley Q. Liquor," to portray racist stereotypes of African-American women.

    Berry also uses social media to share images that often portray black people as criminals and promote white people as more law abiding.

    The country music-themed club where Cruz will reportedly watch the Super Tuesday results advertises itself as both a live music venue and a restaurant where "good people" can be around other "like-minded people." One of the attractions of the bar is a full-size replica of the General Lee car, which boasts a Confederate battle flag spanning the roof. Berry's affinity for the confederate flag goes beyond nostalgia for the Dukes of Hazard. During the debate over the flag's place in front of South Carolina's state capital following the murder of nine black worshipers at a historical black church in Charleston, SC, Berry said the flag simply represented the "heritage of the state." The host criticized those calling for the removal of the flag, asking if the shooter in South Carolina had been Muslim would society "outlaw the Koran? Outlaw the mosque? Would we outlaw the prayer rug?"

  • Trump Isn't The Only GOP Candidate Backed By Bigots

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    While media cover ongoing controversy surrounding GOP front-runner Donald Trump's refusal to clearly disavow the Ku Klux Klan, the bigoted history of some of Republican hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz's prominent endorsers is receiving less scrutiny. Cruz is endorsed by both Tony Perkins, who has past ties to former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, and Gun Owners of America (GOA), an extremist group that gave money to a white supremacist organization. He is also often touted by conservative radio host Michael Berry, who has compared black teens to "jungle animals" among other racially charged comments.

  • Cruz Surrogate Michael Berry Continues To Mock Victims Of Chicago Gun Violence

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER & KATHRYN KARMAZYN

    Nationally syndicated radio host Michael Berry has continued his weekly segments mocking victims of Chicago's gun violence, with his latest piece berating the Chicago community for "black-on-black" crime and railing against the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry has continued these segments while he has become more involved with longtime friend Ted Cruz's presidential campaign.