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.