The segment on the nationally-syndicated “Lex and Terry Show,” which airs on Red Rock Radio’s Active Rock KZIO-FM (94X) Duluth, is being called by some area residents as insensitive and offensive to people with cognitive disabilities.
The segment, part of the Dallas-based show, involves asking a panel of “contestants” questions to determine which one is “mentally challenged.”
JoAnn Bauers, who said she doesn’t ordinarily listen to the United Stations Radio Network-distributed program or the station, happened upon it as she was driving to work: “I really feel like a line was crossed,” she told the Duluth News Tribune. “Sure, ‘Saturday Night Live’ would do a parody about Sarah Palin, but would they do a parody on her disabled child? I found it extremely offensive.”
Bauers told her co-worker Kathy Anderson about the segment. It touched a nerve with her, whose 21-year-old daughter is afflicted with Sanfillipo syndrome, a rare disease that is characterized by progressive intellectual decline, among other symptoms. “To me this is so insensitive and so offensive to say, ‘Pick the mentally challenged person in this group’ by the way they talk,” Anderson said.
The show’s content is particularly disturbing in light of the current Un-Fair Campaign in Duluth against racial discrimination, Anderson said. Mocking people with cognitive disabilities is just as offensive as racism, she said, and it disparages people who often don’t have a voice to speak for themselves.
“It’s really unfortunate that people will listen to that,” Rebecca Cich, director of the Duluth branch of the Center for Independent Living of Northeastern Minnesota and a member of the Duluth Commission on Disabilities, told the paper. “It’s all funny until it hits home.”
Cich said people with disabilities are the largest minority population — 20 percent — but often are the last group to be considered.
United Stations Radio Network’s EVP/Programming Andy Denemark told the paper he wasn’t familiar with the segment and couldn’t comment on it. Incidentally, RBR-TVBR asked Andy to comment as well, and the response was the same.
Denemark said the program is aired on a couple dozen stations and has been successful.
After hearing about the segment, Anderson contacted friends, including other members of a support group for families affected by Sanfillipo syndrome. Critical comments she and others made on a Facebook page for 94X were removed within an hour, she and Bauers said, and they were blocked from making further comments.
A posting on the 94X Facebook page refers people with “programming concerns or comments” about the program to the Lex and Terry website. Comments to that post both defend and criticize the program.