By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

John DePetro’s big gay timeout

Did WRKO (AM 680) punish John DePetro for gay-bashing — or for diluting the brand?

You may have heard that DePetro, the self-styled “Independent Man,” was taken off the air yesterday after calling Grace Ross a “fat lesbian.” (Ross, the Green-Rainbow Party’s candidate for governor, is indeed an out lesbian. I do not know what her BMI is.) This comes several months after DePetro was suspended for referring to former Massachusetts Turnpike head Matt Amorello as a “fag.” (Amorello is not gay.)

Herald reporter Jessica Heslam has the goods here. Don’t bother with the Globe story. Here’s a highlight: “It was unclear last night what DePetro said on the air, other than a description of [Ross’] sexuality and weight.” Sheesh.

But here’s what I don’t get. For years, WRKO’s signature personality has been Herald columnist Howie Carr, who holds down the afternoon-drive-time shift. One of Carr’s principal stocks in trade is making fun of lesbians and gay men. Another is making fun of overweight people — or “fat bastards,” as he invariably calls them.

Nor does Carr eschew the specific. He and his crew find it impossible to talk about gay politicians such as U.S. Rep. Barney Frank or former congressman Mark Foley without playing a deeply offensive sound effect that never fails to elicit titters. (Carr’s excuse is that it’s a tape of former Boston city councilor David Scondras clearing his throat. Could be, but that sure isn’t what it sounds like.)

For years, Carr referred to former Massachusetts House Speaker George Keverian, who’s struggled with his weight his entire life, as “George Keverian, D-Papa Gino’s.” Again, Carr’s got a ready-made excuse: Keverian allegedly once got in an altercation over a parking space at a Papa Gino’s.

DePetro trucks in the same garbage, but I would argue that he delivers it in a less sneering and offensive manner. Mind you, I’m not excusing DePetro. If his punishment is a preview of sweeping changes at WRKO, I would welcome it. But there’s no evidence that management is going to hold Carr to the same standard.

And let’s not forget that WRKO broadcasts the deeply homophobic Michael Savage‘s syndicated show every weeknight.

So what is DePetro’s real sin? Gay-bashing? Or stepping onto Howie Carr’s turf?

“This corporation has zero tolerance for this type of nonsense. We have a high standard,” George Regan of Regan Communications, which represents WRKO, told the Herald. (For what it’s worth, Regan also represents the Herald.)

I’ll believe it when I hear it.

Disclosure: DePetro replaced Pat Whitley when Whitley retired from the daily grind a few years ago. (He still does his weekend restaurant show.) That brought an end to my paid Friday appearances with Mark Jurkowitz and Monica Collins, as DePetro and his producer decided they didn’t want to continue with Whitley’s “Mess with the Press” segment.

DePetro comes across as a decent guy in person, and I’ve made one or two unpaid appearances on his show. So make of this what you will.


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17 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Don’t forgot Scott Allen Millerhttp://iamscotto.blogspot.com/2006_10_08_iamscotto_archive.htmlIt’s also worth noting that the media coverage rarely if ever mention that he is a Democrat. Press accounts usually refer to him vaguely as a “community activist” but not as a member of the steering committee of the Progressive Democrats of Cambridge who has so much clout that Deval Patrick came to his home for a barbecue two months ago. (Rumor has it that Scondras’ barbecue sauce was a little on the salty side.)

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Miller is in favor of same-sex marriage. He and I once spent a morning on the air fending off the gay-bashers. I don’t think anyone is going to defend Scondras’ outrageous behavior.

  3. mike_b1

    Isn’t Carr simply projecting? Or can he now get through the doorway without first buttering his sides?

  4. Citizen Charles Foster Kane

    Entercom really does pick and choose who to discipline. Several years ago Gerry Callahan repeatedly called Tommy Lee Jones “Al Gore’s butt buddy at Harvard”. Jason Wolfe’s response to my complaint was something to this effect: I didn’t hear the broadcast but people like Callahan because he’s a man’s man.I was also highly amused to hear Dennis and Callahan slamming Kerry for his stupid mangled joke about Bush. You’d think those guys, of all people, might be a little circumspect given their own little joke problem that resulted in something like two weeks of suspension.

  5. Anonymous

    Have I become too cynical? Because I believe all these “suspensions” are meted out with a wink, and the host and station both benefit from the emeregnce of another “outrageous” personality while they can assure the advertisers who might become offended that they “took action.”I think Dan finds Carr’s homophobia and — what should I call his constant references to girth? Profile profiling — more obnoxious because it’s clear Carr is capable of doing more, and is indulging his basest instincts. There’s no substance to DePetro, so outrageous behavior is the only thing he has to sell. He’s the North Korea of local talk hosts.Bob in Peabody

  6. Anonymous

    Dan, I was referring to Scott’s recent fondness for off-color jokes targeted art gays. No one’s going to defend Scondras. I’m surprised to see you defending the “joke” about his salty BBQ sauce.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    I’m not defending Scotto’s joke. I’m pointing out that he’s in favor of same-sex marriage and thus represents a departure from WRKO’s otherwise homophobic airwaves.

  8. DougH

    FWIW, Kevin Whalen at Pundit Review Radio (WRKO’s Sunday evening show) is also pro-gay rights (his partner Gregg not so much)

  9. o-fish-l

    “But there’s no evidence that management is going to hold Carr to the same standard.” — DKDan, I agree with you strongly on this one. Now that DePetro has been fired, there is a glaring inconsistency in enforcing any standards at Entercom. I hear worse than “fat lesbian” not only from Howie but Dennis and Callahan too. Not that I find much of it offensive. While the Scondras soundbite is back, I notice Howie no longer plays the wolves howling at the mere mention of Cheryl Jacques name. The DePetro firing just seems to leave a huge grey area as to what is acceptable. It seems to be more about ratings than content.BTW, since Ross is visibly overweight and her own website proclaims that she is lesbian, what exactly are the acceptable words nowadays to describe those characterisitics?Dan, do you anticipate DePetro filing suit on this or will they pay him through the contract? I’m curious as to how that stuff works.

  10. Anonymous

    Dan – I can’t stand Depetro, however, your point about Howie Carr is a very, very good one. Everyone who follows local radio realizes what hypocrites Jason Wolfe and WRKO are. That said, don’t you think you should finally demand answers from WRKO and Entercom? I would hope that you corner this guy Wolfe and really see to it that he addresses the blatant hypocricy between Depetro’s firing and Carr’s being the big wig of the station. My take is that WRKO wants to seperate entirely from right wing radio. They have been making steps with their attempt at that short lived “lifestyle” related show (Boston at Night”). Also, with the Celtics and Red Sox on the air will they even have time for Howie Carr? Those games are going to be cutting into his show and I don’t think he’ll be too pleased about that.

  11. Ron Newman

    Don’t forget “Corrupt Midget”, for Billy Bulger. I have to guiltily admit enjoying that one.

  12. Anonymous

    I think you have to view Depetro in the context of Depetro. He’s the one who says these stupid things that contribute nothing to his analysis of anything – Fag Matt would have been cool if it had been funny, but instead it leaves you scatching your head and asking why. This one isn’t as offensive, but given his recent problems and the warnings that must have come with them, he was being held to a unique standard, and rightly so.Howie is warm, loveable and funny as hell. He’s also smart as hell, and beneath the rough veneer he offers top notch political insights. There’s just no comparing Depetro with him on any level.

  13. Anonymous

    >> But here’s what I don’t get. For years, WRKO’s signature personality has been Herald columnist Howie Carr, who holds down the afternoon-drive-time shift. One of Carr’s principal stocks in trade is making fun of lesbians and gay men. DePetro trucks in the same garbage…But there’s no evidence that management is going to hold Carr to the same standard.<<The difference is Howie Carr HAS RATINGS! (and therefor, revenue!)Depetro’s numbers are invisible!Depeptro is expendable…and I can’t imagine it having a negative effect on WRKO’s billing.Howie is irreplacable. Howie is really the only thing on WRKO that generates ratings and Revenue.While I don’t approve of the logic…that’s the reality of the situation. 🙁

  14. jdj

    Some of the previous posters have stolen my thunder, but the hypocrisy of Jason Wolfe taking the high road and firing someone for making “derogatory” comments is hilarious to me. This guy owes his entire career to guys like Gerry Callahan & John Dennis, who do nothing but spew derogatory comments for 4 hours every morning and somehow get ratings. D&C have made a cottage industry out of characters like “Bryce Fairy” the gay tight end, get endless laughs out of a soundbite where Jeff Garcia lisps a word, and even inferred that Pedro Martinez was gay because he (gasp!) *likes to garden*. Somehow their “derogatory” comments haven’t bothered Wolfe for years, but name calling towards Ross suddenly warrant a firing.

  15. Anonymous

    I read Kennedy’s comments on HowieCarr and thogut, wow, jealousy is a terrible thing!C’mon, Dan. Depretro is a poor excusefor a talkshow host, and an even poorerexcuse for an ad hominen attack ona media rival. Grow up–or better yet,grow a pair!

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 3:13: I know you’re not Howie, because if you were, your comment would have been much better written.

  17. h buchanan

    howie and john D are very entertaing. That’s why I listen?

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