It's been about a week since I got the first email about the racist remarks on Zeb Bell's radio show on KBAR (or is it KKKBAR?) in Idaho's Mini-Cassia area. As soon as I heard about the incident, I remembered a letter to the editor that I wrote to The Times-News in Twin Falls many years ago, probably in 2000 or 2001. I found a copy yesterday in a file of past letters to the editor I'd saved. Here it is:
My husband tells me he was listening to an AM radio talk show one recent morning when a caller suggested a hunting season on homosexuals. The show’s hosts both agreed with the caller. We are not sure which station this was, only that its hosts were both men and the station aired commercials for businesses in the Mini-Cassia area.
It’s outrageous that such hateful speech can be heard over our local airwaves, even if the comment is made in jest, which my husband says this was. Yes, free speech is protected by the First Amendment, but this kind of bigoted babble builds and perpetuates a cultural climate in which hate crimes take place.
I can only imagine the reactions of out-of-state motorists who might have been listening to that show while passing through our area. "Sheesh," I can almost hear them mutter. "Idaho really is full of kooks." Most local listeners neither condone prejudice nor find it funny. Radio advertisers might want to monitor more closely the content of shows they sponsor.
Was that an early version of Bell's show? It's impossible to know, but if I had to place a bet ...
Meanwhile, if you haven't been following this saga, I've put some links below. And let's just say (as Tara does here) that as much as Bell might like it to be, hate speech is not a partisan issue, nor is he the victim in this story. I am sure that most Republicans are as sickened by racist and homophobic rhetoric as Independents and Democrats are. Then again, isn't it interesting that none of Idaho's Republican bloggers have weighed in on this matter?
Should Zeb Bell be pulled off the air? In this letter to The Times-News, Gary Eller suggested that we may be better off having his hatred where everyone can hear it, rather than underground.
This one speaks for itself, shamefully.
Idahoans, we are better than this.
Update 1 p.m.: Of course, there's more. One e-mailer reminds me that it's important to let people know that Frosty Wooldridge, a frequent guest on Bell's show (and perpetrator of last week's remarks) also works with none other than former KKK poobah David Duke.
And here is a list of sponsors of Bell's program. If you live in the Magic Valley, please contact them and respectfully say you'd like to see them withdraw their support for Bell's show.
Kim Lee, owner manager of KBAR and Lee Family Broadcasting (208) 436-4757
Les Schwab (541) 447-4136
JB's restaurant of Burley (208) 678-0803
Ramsey Heating (208) 678-0459
Mtn West Realty (208) 878-3500
Ministers and other faith leaders in the Magic Valley are being asked to speak out as well.