A Missouri state lawmaker is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to revoke the license of a St. Louis radio station for racist and offensive comments made by one of its hosts. Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) has sent a letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai accusing Entertainment Media Trust classic country/talk KQQZ (1190) of violating the FCC’s rules against obscenity, indecency and profanity.
At issue are comments made by Bob Romanik, host of “Kool Killer Kountry,” who is known for using the n-word and “various misogynistic and homophobic slurs over the years,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Romanik made headlines in recent days after Rep. Bob Burns (D-St. Louis County) called into the show and defended the host, triggering a backlash and calls for Burns to resign.
An excerpt from the show posted on YouTube includes Romanik talking about “a movement for the white people.” In the snippet, Burns said he listened to the show, thanked Romanik for “standing up for what you do” and said he would do well if elected in Illinois. The host lost a Republican primary for a state Senate seat in Illinois last month.
Burns contends that the way the audio excerpts posted online by a group calling itself Romanik Watch were edited makes them misleading and that he phoned into the show to talk about veterans. “This is a case of some things I said on different topics that were taken out of context and mixed together by others to purposefully mislead the public,” he said, per the Post-Dispatch. Burns has balked at calls for him to resign.
In his letter to the FCC, Nasheed wrote that “the normalization and toleration of hate-speech” has contributed to an increase in white nationalist activity. “Too often, racist views are turned into violent action through the encouragement of racist personalities like Mr. Romanik and radio stations like 1190 KQQZ-AM,” Nasheed said.
An FCC spokesperson told the Post-Dispatch that the agency is reviewing the letter and offered no further comment. The Commission has traditionally refused to take action over content-related complaints saying the First Amendment prohibits the FCC from censoring radio and TV stations. Under federal law it’s only allowed to go after stations when they air any obscene, indecent or profane language with most of its enforcement actions focused on “sexual or excretory material.” But the FCC itself admits there are limits to its reach there as well, such as the safe harbor period between 10pm and 6am.
The dust-up has put KQQZ, which positions itself as “Hot Talk-Kool Killer Kountry,” in the media spotlight with extensive regional coverage, along with reports in the Washington Post and the AP. Romanik, the self-described “Grim Reaper of Radio,” hosts a show called “On the Dark Side” which KQQZ boasts on its website as “The Kraziest Son of a Bitch you’ll ever hear on the radio. Radio like you’ve never heard it before and will probably never want to hear again,” adding, “’On the Dark Side’ is the most controversial show on radio today. ‘The Grim Reaper of Radio’ is not politically correct or politically incorrect, he’s politically insane!”
KQZZ bills itself as “The First Amendment and All-American Station” and assistant general manager Bill Thomas was unapologetic when contacted by the Post-Dispatch. “As soon as they take the n-word off all the black radio stations throughout this country — on all the rap stations, on all the comedic routines that the blacks use the n-word — then we’ll quit using it,” he said.