Brian Wilson of Clear Channel News-Talk WSPD AM says he was not referring to race in any way when he made a monkey reference while discussing students in Toledo public schools. But that isn’t stopping the local superintendent from complaining to the FCC.
The firestorm kicked off Friday 1/7/11 when Wilson complained that the public schools do not teach students to think and then said, “But certainly, teaching little monkeys to peel bananas and so on and them learning to do it correctly on cue does not mean that they’ve learned everything except a funny parlor trick.”
The remarks kicked off protests and demands for an apology from the school system, teachers’ unions, parent organizations, students and civil rights groups. The latter have noted the historical use of various simian references as derogatory remarks aimed at African-Americans. Wilson denied that he was making any type of racial reference.
According to local reports, Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Jerome Pecko said he will ask the FCC to look into the matter. He has asked for Wilson and the station to apologize, and has offered to take Wilson on a tour of schools in the system so he can see for himself what goes on in local classrooms.
Wilson addressed the issue on his own website not by apologizing but by referring to a Toledo Free Press article that gives the context of his quote. TFP has him saying, “Then you’ve got as far as solving the problems of education in Toledo, you also have to look at the curriculum, which pretty much sucks, dictated by the federal government especially under the No Child Left Behind business, which now has teachers teaching answers to the tests, not concept, not individuality, not entrepreneurialism, not anything like that, of course some of that hasn’t been taught for years. But certainly, teaching little monkeys to peel bananas and so on and then doing it correctly on cue, does not mean that they’ve learned everything except a funny parlor trick. Similarly with children, just because you can teach them the answers to what are the capitals of the 50 States in America, that’s a fun exercise but it doesn’t teach them how to think, doesn’t teach them how to be objective, doesn’t teach them to be entrepreneurs and individuals and things along that order.”
WSPD’s conservative talk lineup includes three heavy hitters: Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.
RBR-TVBR observation: We don’t see any room at all for the FCC in this dispute – its area of regulatory action kicks in when the content gets indecent, and even that authority is currently being wounded in the judiciary. Fortunately for all Americans who love and respect the First Amendment, the FCC has no authority over statements that may have merely been in bad taste.
The first remedy citizens of Toledo who object to Wilson’s taste have at their disposal is their radio channel controller, whatever type it may be. It won’t matter if Wilson’s words are of Shakespearean quality or utterly incomprehensible if they go unheard.
The second is one that many local citizens suggested on reader comments to the Toledo Blade – go after Wilson’s advertisers. And it’s true – if you want to get a broadcaster’s, or any business’s attention, there is no better way than to hit it in the wallet.
Of course, many of those commenting to The Blade expressed support for Wilson. And so it goes – democracy, that is.