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

More on DePetro

The John DePetro firing today continues to get attention from both dailies. DePetro lost his job as a talk-show host on WRKO Radio (AM 680) yesterday after having referred to Green-Rainbow Party gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross as a “fat lesbian” the day before.

The Herald’s Jessica Heslam manages to break quite a bit of news in her article, reporting that:

  • DePetro’s engineer was also fired because he’d supposedly been tipped off beforehand that DePetro was going to go off on Ross and did nothing, a charge that DePetro denies.
  • A major WRKO advertiser, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, had been complaining about DePetro’s anti-gay shtick for quite some time.
  • DePetro’s ratings were not only bad, but were trending downward.
  • DePetro has hired a lawyer. (OK, everybody hires a lawyer, so maybe that’s not news.)

The Globe goes with think piece that’s heavy on what it all means but light on news. Andrea Estes and Suzanne Ryan seem to take DePetro at his word that management had no reason to fire his engineer, quoting him as comparing that action to “clubbing a baby seal.”

As for advertiser pressure, the Globe offers this, from Talkers Magazine publisher Michael Harrison: “You never know what’s going on behind the scenes. Sometimes a host is on thin ice with management and they use any infraction as an excuse to sever ties.” Indeed.

The Globe does have a fuller account of what DePetro actually said. Estes and Ryan write:

According to a tape of his Thursday show, DePetro was venting about the previous night’s gubernatorial debate. “I could go now a lifetime without Grace Ross,” he said. “She has nerve. This whole business of ‘well since we’re being ignored,'” he said, mocking Ross’s effort to get equal time in the debate.

“No, you’re irrelevant. Get off the stage!” he continued, directing his remarks to Ross. “I couldn’t stand her at the end. At one point I was about to yell: “Will somebody tell that fat lesbian to shut up….

“Shut up. Go home,” DePetro said. “Burger King is looking for another third-shift person to work the grill. Enough.”

“I was traumatized by you being on the stage,” he said of Ross.

What legal grounds would DePetro have in a business in which everyone knows you can be fired for any reason at any time? This is sheer speculation, but I would imagine that, by labeling DePetro as so homophobic that he had to be terminated, management has hurt DePetro’s chances of landing another job.

Given that what DePetro said is no worse than — or not even as bad as — things you hear on Howie Carr’s WRKO show every day, or over on sister station WEEI (AM 850), he might be able to argue that he’s been unfairly tarnished.

In an interview with the Globe , the Shorenstein Center‘s Alex Jones says of DePetro’s rant, “That seems like well within what has come to be acceptable language on talk radio. Certainly it’s uncivil and rude, but when was that not what they were looking for?”

It’s hard to disagree.

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DePetro is dismissed


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  1. Stella

    This, DK, is news. All four major military newspapers published:Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:Donald Rumsfeld must go.DePetro is just one less gasbag, who no doubt will be quickly replaced.

  2. Anonymous

    Funny, now the Herald has an editorial which is praising WRKO’s decision to fire Depetro. This is the same paper that has Howie Carr as one of their star writers. Will the media hypocrisy ever end? Dan, you are in a position to take on all these media hypocrites. You must act!

  3. Anonymous

    Gotta agree with 11:52. Sounds like a Purcell call to chill discussion. The tabloid was offended by people doing something for shock value? Please. Depetro is collateral damage in this skirmish of the culture wars. PC winds are blowing and Herald punted on an opportunity to support free speech. ‘RKO overplayed their hand, not waiting until AFTER the election to suck up to Deval supporters. (Regan is quite the paragon of sincerity, eh?) Like Depetro wouldn’t have given them an air-tight excuse to fire him if they just waited a bit longer or for his contract expiration ? Now I have to listen to Barnicle and Depetro comes off as some kind of crusader. Ugh.

  4. Anonymous

    Just wondering: how does Depetro’s throw-away line, quickly apologized for, compare to Grace Ross’s appearance at a rally calling for the destruction of Israel? is the bigger ignoramus?

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 3:15: The last I checked, Grace Ross was in no danger of either (a) being elected governor or (b) getting hired as a radio talk-show host. I agree that it would have been nice if one reporter had asked her during the course of the campaign about the Green-Rainbow Party’s horrendous stance on Israel. But let’s not confuse her with someone who matters, OK?

  6. Anonymous

    Hmm, Grace Ross is a waste of time and is getting in the way of discussions by viable candidates. Where else have I heard that recently? Give me a minute, it will come to me….

  7. MeTheSheeple

    I checked Anon 3:15’s links, and found a fair amount of ambiguity. The rally in question was not called to clamor for the destruction of Israel; it was in opposition to Israel’s bombing of Lebanon. While they’re related issues in a complex morass of awful actions, one does not necessarily imply the other. Ross could certainly show up to oppose the bombing of Lebanon — just as much as the United Nations Security Council could pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire. Neither one necessarily implies that Ross, all of the protesters, or the United Nations Security Council support the destruction of Israel.This sort of subtlety is often ignored, which is why we’re now in the “Either you support everything the United States does in Iraq, or you hate America and want to keep Saddam Hussein in power” sort of political discussion now.If nothing else, the new “Borat” movie is showing that you can find some really ignorant and stupid people in many crowds. Could you find someone to say something completely asinine at a Democratic National Convetion or a Republican National Convention. That’s not the same thing as saying everyone at those conventions would hold the same asinine beliefs.The link posted by Anon 3:15 also talks about Ross’ appearance at a fundraiser for “political prisoners” and bold-faces a great deal of text that doesn’t seem to appear on every copy of the flyer, e.g.: flyer, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily prove that Ross knew the entire agenda, now, does it?These are the kinds of questions that should be asked of somebody, not the kind of possibly slanderous statements that should be randomly tossed around. I’d suggest that if Anon 3:15 feels so strongly about this issue, perhaps (s)he should start working the telephone, rather than sniping anonymously from behind a hazy cloud. Ross may very well be the next Eichmann, but there’s far from anything conclusive in the material.

  8. Anonymous

    Left out of the discussion about free speech, political correctness, double standards, shock jock radio, etc is subtlety. You can get away with a lot by being subtle but if you express yourself crudely any message you have, no matter how important, will be lost. For centuries, communicators have been able to get away with outrageous (for their times and places) social commentaries because of how subtley they delivered them. This is an important reason why Howie Carr thrives while amateurs like John DePetro don’t last while delivering many of the same messages.

  9. Don

    If he called someone a “skinny heterosexual” would he be fired for that too?

  10. Anonymous

    If Dan Kennedy or some other local media reporter doesn’t do an article on the hypocrisy of Wolfe’s decision (given the fact that Howie and Dennis and Callahan still broadcast their filth), than I have lost all faith in local media coverage.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 10:53: Your comment is rather odd, given that that’s exactly what I’ve been doing here since Friday morning. Let me pull together all the strands: Entercom is being hypocritical, Wolfe is being disingenuous, and Howie Carr, John Dennis and Gerry Callahan have been trucking in homophobia and veiled racism for years. (And, of course, in Dennis and Callahan’s case, one famous incident of unveiled racism.) Now, what else would you like me to say?

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Me The Sheeple: In my response, I wasn’t thinking so much about that rally as I was about the Green-Rainbow Party platform, which calls for U.S. divestment from, and a boycott of, Israel. Here is the “Green-Rainbow Party Statement on Palestine,” which reads like a Hamas wish list.This article from the Weekly Dig is interesting, too, and you’ll see that Ross is not entirely clear about the degree to which she supports the party platform.Clearly if Ross were not pulling one percent in the polls, her party’s call for what would amount to the destruction of Israel would be a major campaign issue. And props to Universal Hub for following this.

  13. Anonymous

    Anon 10:53 here…I guess you have really said all that needs to be said, however, I don’t think saying it on a blog really has the impact that say reporting it in a newspaper. If some a newspaper media reporter would really make Entercom and Wolfe have to answer for their blantant hypocrisy then it might at least feel like the local media was really holding them accountable.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 10:53: Are you suggesting that I be that person? I changed jobs a year and a half ago. I no longer write the Phoenix’s media column. This is where I write these days, except for very occasional pieces in the Phoenix and in CommonWealth Magazine. You should read this, by Eileen McNamara, which may be what you’re looking for.

  15. Secret Agent Cathy

    I see that, except for Don, nobody has yet suggested that “lesbian” isn’t a slur. I didn’t hear DePetro and I’m sure he said it in a totally hateful way, but I still think it’s worth pointing out that “lesbian” isn’t a bad word, any more than “Jew” is. So. I have. Cathy (lesbian Jew)

  16. Anonymous

    Eileen McNamara’s blanket condemnation of the evils of modern talk radio failed to mention the most egregious incident ever heard on Boston talk radio from May 2004: outrageous as Severin, DePetro, Limbaugh, Carr, Dennis and Callahan are, Randi Rhodes saying that a President of the United States should be taken out and shot like Fredo in “Godfather II” is far worse than anything they’ve said. She did a similar bit in 2005 that she later apologized for. Maybe McNamara considers that kind of rhetoric to be “speaking truth to power”.

  17. Anonymous

    Cathy See if you can tell the difference between the merely rude and the disgusting:”Tell Cathy to shut up.”and”Tell that lesbian Jew to shut up.”The latter uses your status as a minority to silence you, the former doesn’t. If DePetro had instead said, “Tell Grace Ross to shut up!” he would still have a job.

  18. Anonymous

    Anon 10:38 Your point is a good one, but it still doesn’t address why one guy gets away with such talk and another is fired for it. Yes, I am talking about the fact that Howie Carr remains on the air. Now one can say,”Well, Howie has better ratings and WRKO wanted Depetro out anyway”, yet that still doesn’t address the issue. Does WRKO have a policy or not? At this time it appears quite selective (thus is no policy at all).

  19. Anonymous

    Ernie B3 here.Jason Wolfe used this as an excuse to get rid of DiPetro and not pay him the remainder of his contract (assuminmg there is one) DePetro should get a lawyer if they stop paying him. Easy victory for him. lay up. The firing was arbatrary and capricious.Now Wolfe now has to get rid of Scotto. Maybe his contract runs out soon? I don’t know.But Larry Lucchino et al. don’t want their Red Sox games giving conservatively bent anti-intellectual radio talk show hosts huge rating jumps. And they certainly don’t want to be constantly associated with them, which they will be starting next spring.And the shows suck and Wolfe knows it. This is just part of the demolition before they can start construction.

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