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Communities react to a Columbus radio station’s promo, calling it “racist” and “insensitive”

One of Clear Channel’s sponsors states that station’s promotion is “patently offensive”

By Ingrid Marie Rivera, La Prensa Correspondent

COLUMBUS: Over one dozen Latino and activist groups are planning to file a complaint with the FCC and are asking Clear Channel’s WTVN 610 AM Radio (Columbus OH) to apologize after promoting a giveaway to Phoenix, Arizona as a place “where Americans are proud and illegals are scared.”

The immigrant groups have called the radio station’s trip giveaway ad—depicting Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman on a Green Card—“racist” and “insensitive,” after the winner is offered a “few pesos” and is invited to “spend the weekend chasing aliens and spending cash in the desert.”

The radio station launched the promotion in response to Coleman’s suspension of city travel to Arizona to protest its new immigration law, SB 1070. The station encouraged city employees to enter the drawing.

The law, signed in April by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, allows its local police to ask for immigration documents if they stop or detain someone that they suspect is in the country without documentation.

The contest ended May 27th, 2010 and the winner is from Grove City.

Rubén Castilla Herrera, Reform Immigration for America Ohio state director, said he was “absolutely disgusted” with the ad. He said he also believes it is important to speak out against such actions/ads in order to prevent a copy-cat Arizona bill in Ohio.

“We definitely consider it to be hurtful, detrimental to our community,” Herrera said “It has racist connotations. It’s clearly profiling a group of people. You have to contest it; you can’t let racism go on,” he said. Herrera added “Even if you’re doing this for fun, this is not funny. It incites those people that hate,” he concluded.

WTVN program director Mike Elliot was not available to speak with La Prensa before the Memorial Day Weekend. Elliot told The Columbus Dispatch the contest was the most popular the station has ever had, with about 5,000 people entering the drawing for a free round-trip airfare to Phoenix, cash and hotel accommodations.

Elliot said the station will not apologize and disagreed the promo had racial overtones.   

Herrera said—with the help of José Luis Mas, attorney and chairman of the Ohio Hispanic Coalition—they will contact the sponsors of the radio station and ask them to consider removing their ads.

One primary sponsor for the radio station, Roush Honda, pulled at least one of its ads after being contacted by Mas.

Marketing Manager for Roush Honda, Gary Harkin, responded to Mas in a letter that his company has supported the station for many years with a rotating ad on the station’s Web site but once learning of the Arizona trip ad, they immediately cancelled their latest online investment.

“Roush Honda was NOT a sponsor of this promotion, and in no way finds this promotion amusing, tasteful, or appropriate. In fact, you and I both referred to the promotion as “patently offensive,” Harkin replied to Mas in a letter.

Mas agreed with Herrera that it is important to respond.

“We’re proud Hispanic-Americans, and the idea of chasing aliens is unacceptable. It’s an outrage,” Mas said “It was a bad joke. Besides being in bad taste, we have the right to object within the confines of peaceful activity,” he said.

The National Council of La Raza said Friday, May 28, 2010, that in conjunction with other activist groups, it will file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission that the contest has triggered outrage in Latino communities across Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, and nationwide.

“The passage of SB 1070 has provoked a lot of reprehensible anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric but a radio station bankrolling someone to ‘hunt’ human beings for sport represents a new low,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO in a written statement, “The owners and directors of WTVN might think that this is all in good fun but what is happening to Latinos – citizen, legal, and undocumented alike – in Arizona is no joke,” she said.

She added in her statement “We will ask FCC Commissioners to ensure that threats against American citizens—such as the one encouraged and promoted by WTVN—are not taken lightly and dealt with in an appropriate manner as soon as possible.”

Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) held a press conference at their site on the same day the contest ended, May 27, 2010, to vocalize their opposition to the ad, and roughly 30 people attended. Joining them also were the civil rights groups Ohio Hispanic Coalition and the League of United Latin American Citizens; each presented statements denouncing WTVN. 

After the press conference, a group of activists organized by RIFA and Antonio Bustamante, a lawyer from Arizona, visited the station to deliver 500 letters from the community denouncing the station’s promotional giveaway. But Herrera said the five that went were not allowed inside the station and were turned away.

A group of seven people returned to the station on Friday, May 28th, and delivered the 500 letters to an administrative assistant at the station. They were told they would be able to meet with Clear Channel’s station manager, Brian Dytko, some time this week, Herrera said. Dytko did not return calls seeking his comment.

More than 170 people have signed an Online petition sponsored by the Ohio Action Circle, a statewide blog promoting immigrant rights, to condemn the promotion because it mocked the mayor, immigrant community and Latinos, it said.

Mayor Coleman was not available for comment.

People have also expressed their opinion on the station’s FaceBook page.

One person wrote on the Online networking site, “I support the Arizona trip promo 100 percent...It has nothing to do with degrading illegal immigrants, rather I see it as taking an opportunity to poke fun at Mayor Coleman and other liberals who want to portray conservatives as racists and bigots—just because we want to live in a nation based on the rule of law.”

The radio station replied on the page, “Thanks for getting it!”

But another person wrote: “We have an immigration problem. But taking frustration about that
problem out on the weakest link in the chain is a cowardly, racist, divisive, intellectually lazy distraction that hinders a solution. You might have a lot of support for your contest, but it is wrong, wrong.”

See the videos of RIFA’s two attempts to contact the radio station here: http://ohioactioncircle.blogspot.com/2010/05/attempt-to-respond-to-wtvn610s-anti.html 
Contact info for WTVN 610AM:
(614) 486-6101; 2323 W 5th Ave, #200, Columbus.

Anti-immigrant groups have also used Nickelodeon’s cartoon heroine Dora the Explorer to depict “illegal” immigrants by blackening her eye and depicting her with a battered lip and bloody nose. [Debbie Groben of Sarasota created a mug shot of Dora the Explorer and entered it in a contest for the fake news site FreakingNews.com.]  

On the Internet: http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org/


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