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 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.
Loading the player reg...
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.
Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Berry ridicules Chicago gun violence victims in a weekly “Butcher Bill” segment, including playing “bingo” with victims’ gunshot injuries. This Sunday, iHeartRadio will name him “talk personality of the year.”
Loading the player reg...
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.
Conservative media figures rushed to attack Obama on a number of fronts after the terror attacks in Brussels, criticizing the fact he was in Cuba, his statement on the attacks, and his leadership abilities.
Right-wing media spent 2015 defending, praising, and peddling several of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's debunked falsehoods, which PolitiFact rounded up as one big "lie of the year."
iHeartMedia Subsidiary, Premiere Networks, Syndicates Some Of The Worst Race-Baiters In The Business Who Have Belittled Recent Civil Rights Movements
In the aftermath of the Charleston, SC shooting, iHeartMedia is planning a concert to "kick off A+E Networks' campaign to confront issues of race, and promote unity and progress on racial equity." However, a large part of iHeartMedia's brand is built on its syndication of several right-wing radio hosts -- Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Michael Berry -- who consistently take racially inflammatory positions on their shows and denigrate civil rights advocacy.
Right-wing media sharply criticized the resignation of University of Missouri President Timothy M. Wolfe after a wave of protests over racial tensions erupted on the university's flagship campus. Several conservative media figures attacked the protesters, calling them "thugs" and a "mob," and claimed that Wolfe was "forced to resign" for the "crime of being a white male."
Berry: "This Is A Country Built On Merit And Accomplishments And If You Don't Want To Play By Those Rules, You Don't Get To Be On The Team. Shut Up About Race Already."
During the November 9 episode of The Michael Berry Show, Texas-based radio host Michael Berry commented on the University of Missouri president's resignation after students claimed the administration was not doing enough to address racial tension on campus. Berry said that by resigning the president was"pandering" to "thugs" who should be grateful for their opportunity and should "shut their mouth and play football."
Berry claimed the football players' participation in the call for more to be done about racist symbols and comments on campus were a distraction from the team's lackluster on-field performance. Berry criticized both the university president and the football players, saying that the university president resigned because, "The old white man didn't want to be attacked by the young black football players" and claimed the players should be more grateful for the "opportunity to try out for the NFL wearing the University of Missouri uniform."
Berry continued saying Missouri has "a problem of culture, a problem of priorities, and you got a problem of pandering." Berry also warned that Missouri's reaction to the protests were like "Neville Chamberlain [who] became the illustration of what is wrong when you pander to a bully" -- citing the British Prime Minister often criticized for unsuccessfully appeasing Hitler in the lead up to World War II.
MICHAEL BERRY: So now the president of the university has resigned. Now, think of the message this sends. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. The football players at the University of Missouri? The football players decide who the president will be? An institution of higher learning -- you're doing research on molecular biology that may lead to a cure for cancer. You're doing aeronautical research, you're doing chemical research, molecular biology research. You're educating how many thousand people? And you're letting a few thugs decide who your president will be?
Good, you do have a problem. But it's far bigger than the creative shaping of poop by somebody on your campus. You got a major problem with your priorities. If you can't rein in a few football players to shut their mouth and play football, else they lose their scholarship? You've got a real problem on your hands. You've got a problem of culture. You've got a problem of priorities, and you've got a problem of pandering.
And let me tell you something. As Neville Chamberlain became the illustration of what is wrong when you pander to a bully, there will be no peace in your time at the University of Missouri. This will not be the last time this group of thugs flexes their muscles. You can rest assured on that. When you pander to a bully you empower that bully, you feed that bully. He will grow bigger and stronger. And bullies are only effective when they have power to exercise. There will come another day and you will face off against that bully in a bigger battlefield. You've just made a huge mistake. The country continues to make a huge mistake on university campuses, workplaces, schools, the military. This is a country built on merit and accomplishments and if you don't want to play by those rules, you don't get to be on the team. Shut up about race already.
Berry has criticized civil rights protests by mocking the Black Lives Matter movement in a weekly segment satirizing shooting victims in Chicago in his attempt to prove his claim that "black lives matter, just not to black people." In addition, he has previously attacked African-American UCLA students who called for improved diversity on campus, calling them "pack animals" and saying they need to "get the F over themselves."
Referring To Chicago As "Thuglandia," Berry Continued His Weekly Segment Mocking Chicago's Gun Violence Victims
During the October 12 episode of The Michael Berry Show, Houston based radio host Michael Berry continued his recurring segment mocking gun violence in Chicago.
Referring to Chicago as "Thuglandia," Berry said one of the victims, who was 15, was found shot behind his home "bleeding his life away into the dirt." Berry described another victim who was shot in a car as having "bled out all over the upholstery...like that scene in Pulp Fiction."
Berry said the "one thing you should learn from all of this is that black lives matter, just not to black people."
Berry's reoccurring segment on Chicago violence, which he refers to as the "butcher bill," often mocks innocent victims of gun violence as well as gang related shooting victims. The Chicago segment and other race based segments represent a small portion of the inflammatory rhetoric appearing on the Michael Berry Show, which also includes appearances from a black face comedian, as well as homophobic and islamaphobic commentary.
"Most White People Would Like To Get As Far From Black People As They Possibly Could And Never Have To See Another Black Person"
Radio host Michael Berry said "black people don't know how to exist without white people to blame their problems on" and "most white people would like to get as far from black people as they possibly could and never have to see another black person" during a call-in segment on his radio show, which he also used to promote October as "White History Month."
During the October 1 broadcast of his show, Berry asked listeners to call in and list stereotypical things white people like. When one caller said white people "like to talk about black people," Berry responded by describing how blacks and whites talk about one another. "Most white people would like to get as far from black people as they possibly could," said Berry, continuing, "Black people are obsessed with white people... black people don't know how to exist without white people around to blame their problems on."
(CALLER) FELTON: Michael Berry.
BERRY: Go ahead sir.
FELTON: White people like to talk about black people.
BERRY: [laughs] You know I'm going to tell you something, Felton. I don't say this to hurt your feelings, I really don't. But this is the God's honest truth and nobody's ever going to admit this to you. The fact is, most white people -- not all white people - most white people would like to get as far from black people as they possibly could and never have to see another black person, and never have to deal with black-people issues, never need to talk about black people. I'm telling you, Felton - and you don't have to believe this - I'm telling you that if white people are not around black people, they literally never talk about them. I've spent time with both groups and I'll tell you that black people are obsessed with white people and white people simply want to get away. White people go on snow skiing trips to Utah and Colorado and they never see a black person and they don't stand around going, "Boy, I tell you what! Them black people lazy! They lazy and they violent and they try'n a get our womens!" They don't do it. The only time white people talk about black people is because black people cannot let them go. They can't. Black people don't know how to exist without white people around to blame their problems on.
FELTON: That's not true, Michael Berry.
BERRY: Felton, you can't just say, "Nah uh."
FELTON: I don't blame white people for my problems.
BERRY: Well you -- Felton, please don't personalize it. I'm speaking generally in a sagacious way about social tendencies.
BERRY: So don't take it the wrong way. It isn't that white people don't like you or other black people. It's just, white people have other things they're worried about. You know, how to get their, you know, next latte or smoothie or, you know, stuff like that. You know that's really what white people are -- that's what they really, really care about.
FELTON: Hey, I like lattes and smoothies.
Berry kicked off the show by talking about "White History Month," which he said non-white people should celebrate by wishing white people "Happy White History Month." He then extolled all the things white people have done for society and compared the month to a "Jewish holiday":
BERRY: Every year at this time, I will be approached in person, on email, by folks who are not white. And they will say, 'What do I say to you people? Should I, you know, should I recognize it or is this just something ya'll do internally? I want to participate, I want ya'll to know that I, you know, I'm proud for ya'll, that ya'll too have a history that you can be proud of and that ya'll have done some things too.'
And I always say, do what comes naturally. White people are naturally excited about "White History Month," but they're probably not going to mention it publicly, unfortunately, because they don't know who all knows and they don't want to seem self-centered or too absorbed, narcissistic. So the proper thing to do is, for those of you who are not white but you say, you know what I want -- you want to encourage multiculturalism and include the white people in what you're doing, and let them celebrate, you know, their unique special identity and some of the contributions their people, the white people, have made to society. The right thing to do is simply to approach them and say, 'Happy White History Month.'
People often ask, 'What is the proper greeting for White History Month?' And it's simple, it's just -- it's like Easter. Just, 'Happy White History Month.' You can add anything you'd like to that. A nice line for a lot of white people, if you're not white, is to say, 'Happy White History Month. You know I was doing some reading on the Michael Berry Show website and I didn't realize white people had done so much. I was, I was really impressed, I mean, you should be proud.'
And you will notice their countenance will change and they will smile and it's like, you know, it's like it used to be for somebody who came to this country from Vietnam. You know, they didn't, you didn't know much about it and then everybody started saying 'pho' and so they could feel proud of what they grew up eating, and were ashamed of it, and now they realized they could be proud of that.
So, over the course of the coming month, we will assist those of you who are not white in how best to celebrate. It's like a Jewish holiday. It's happening all around you but you're really not sure why, you don't quite know the history and 'what is this Seder stuff and Passover and what does all this mean?' We're here to help you and to celebrate. And to all of -- some of you out there are white, to all of you we offer you our heartfelt greetings, "Happy White History Month." And we will have various forms of celebration over the coming month. But of course we know you'll be having your own private celebrations and this is a time of mirth and merriment amongst the white people in this country and their community. An opportunity to really celebrate and educate young white people that their people have also made contributions to world society and entrepreneurism and sport and culture and language and science and mathematics and engineering and technology. White people have actually been involved in some of these things, too. And so it's a great opportunity for us every year to learn a little bit about white people and to kind of take a moment from the greater whole and just set aside a moment to celebrate our history as white people.
Berry has a long history of making racially-charged comments and currently has a recurring segment on his show devoted to mocking minority victims of gun violence. Berry has said he is "proud" of the segment in comments on social media, praising its "awesomess" (sic).
In addition to mocking black victims of violence and making inflammatory race-based statements, Berry also likes to talk politics on his show. He recently hosted presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a friend "for over 10 years," according to Berry, who introduced Cruz to the crowd at his 2012 Senate primary campaign victory party.