Los Angeles-based Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) is praising DirecTV for disciplining two on-air staffers who, after discussing New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, asked their listeners to call in with “the most racist Asian jokes you know.”
Although the disc jockeys apologized two days later, they invoked the Ku Klux Klan and did not adequately explain what they had done. After MANAA asserted the apology was not enough, DirecTV placed them on probation.
On the Feb. 15 “Nick and Artie Show” — produced by DirecTV Sports Group and syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks since Oct. 3 — Nick DiPaolo and former Howard Stern sidekick Artie Lange asked their listeners to call in with their “most racist Asian jokes.”
As an example, they offered Lin having to do teammate Carmelo Anthony’s laundry. The hour in which that occurred has since been taken off DirecTV’s website. They also criticized Woody Allen’s wife Soon-Yi for not showing enough enthusiasm at Knicks games, saying if she didn’t appreciate the U.S., she should go back to the Philippines (she’s from Korea).
On Feb. 28, MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki spoke with Chris Long, DirecTV’s senior vice president of entertainment and production, and Darris Gringeri, VP of public relations. They informed Aoki that although the solicitation did get callers, none of them were put on the air as someone realized it was a bad idea.
Long told Aoki he’d learned of the broadcast the following night, spoke to the disc jockeys and their supervisor, and asked them to apologize. After hearing the apology, MANAA’s board wasn’t satisfied.
“Artie Lange wouldn’t even come clean on what they’d done,” said Aoki. “He referenced the New York Post headline ‘Amasian’ and took that as a sign it was fair game to ask his listeners to call in with other Asian puns. DiPaolo corrected him, admitting they’d actually asked for stereotypical jokes.
“Lange dug an even worse hole by saying: ‘Right, we want bad, awful jokes that you hear like from someone at a Klan meeting at 4 in the morning after a couple of scotches and you can make fun of him ’cause it’s stupid. Uh, that’s what we wanted. And we wanted to make fun of that whole situation. And if we offended anybody in that process, we’re sorry about that ’cause that’s not what we’re about here.’”
Aoki asked rhetorically, “How can you say you wanted your listeners to hear what drunk Ku Klux Klan members would say and not think it would offend people?”
Added MANAA board member Miriam Nakamura-Quan, “I was appalled and surprised that their lackluster apology included a reference to the KKK. They contradicted themselves in the worst kind of way. You can’t get any more extreme or offensive than by invoking the spirit of the KKK. That doesn’t seem like a sincere and honest apology to me.”
After Aoki demanded a better on-air apology, Gringeri had Derek Chang, DirecTV’s executive vice president of content strategy and development — who oversees all programming for the company — talk to Aoki. On Feb. 29, Chang informed Aoki he’d spoken to the two hosts that day, told them their apologies weren’t sincere, and placed them on indefinite probation, adding that if something like this happened again, he’d “pull the plug” on the three-hour evening show.
Chang was also considering issuing guidelines to producers of DirecTV’s original programming to prevent such future lapses in judgment.
“MANAA thanks Derek Chang and DirecTV for taking decisive action and hopes it sends the message to other corporations that racist attacks against Asian Americans will not be tolerated,” said Aoki. “Obviously, no disc jockeys would encourage their listeners to call in with the most racist black jokes they know. So why should it be OK to go after Asian Americans? All of this detracts from the positiveness of what Jeremy Lin has accomplished. His inspirational story is moving people of all races to do their best both inside and outside the world of sports.”
Racially offensive comments surrounding Lin are popping up on a regular basis: On Feb. 10, FoxSports.com writer Jason Whitlock insinuated that Lin had a two-inch penis; on Feb. 18, ESPN producer Anthony Federico wrote an online headline referring to Lin’s disappointing performance — “Chink in the Armor.” He was fired the next day, and ESPN anchor Max Bretos, who had used the phrase on a broadcast the previous Wednesday, was suspended for 30 days.
MANAA is calling on all media companies to have discussions with their employees to prevent future racially insensitive incidents.
MANAA, which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary on April 9, is part of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC), which regularly meets with the top four television networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — pushing for better inclusion of Asian Americans in their programming. On the Web: www.manaa.org