GM pulls ads from John & Ken Show


The mess at KFI-AM LA continues: Major advertisers for the afternoon show John & Ken are pulling out of ad buys after a boycott and rally organized by the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and immigrants rights activists in SoCal.

The show became the target of an ad boycott 10/6 after the show’s hosts John Kybolt and Ken Chiampou gave out the business cellphone number of DREAM act (which gives college aid to illegal immigrants) advocate Jorge-Mario Cabrera in September. The hosts encouraged their listeners to call him and voice their opposition to the bill, which has since passed.

The boycott was actually called after Greg Ashlock, market manager for CC Radio/LA, initially agreed to meet with NHMC but canceled the meeting because their request had become an ultimatum demanding that John and Ken be removed from the air.

Cabrera, who ended up receiving hundreds of hateful calls, described his ordeal to the Los Angeles Times: “It’s never been as cutting, as humiliating as these calls were… These calls were intent to diminish me as a person.”

The latest company to pull out of their advertising commitment is GM, who issued this statement on Wednesday morning via Twitter: “This was a radio ad buy from a group of dealers, and we quickly asked the ad group to cancel it, which they are doing now.”

GM’s official twitter account has been sending similar messages out to followers for hours now in response to a Twitter campaign championed by Cuentame, a Latino advocacy group working in concert with NHMC on the advertising boycott. GM joins the ranks of Verizon, AT&T Wireless, Vons and Ralphs as companies who have pulled advertising buys from the controversial radio show, according to the LA Weekly.

Cuentame founder Axel Caballero praised GM for their action and credited the power of social media for its power to put pressure on major companies. He also told The Huffington Post that Cuentame would continue “to push back against the racial and violent rhetoric that is peddled by folks like John and Ken, who are only interested in pushing their hate agenda.”

Meanwhile, John & Ken have apologized repeatedly to Jorge-Mario Cabrera for the hateful calls he received.

Here is a statement from KFI:
“Don’t Censor John and Ken”
The National Hispanic Media Coalition has embarked on a campaign to censor John and Ken that is based on misleading and false statements.  We want to set the record straight:

–John and Ken are being attacked by the NHMC because of their outspoken opposition to the California Dream Act.  Not only is this an issue over which reasonable people disagree, it is also one that sparks strong feelings.  Taking a stand is their job – and their right in a democracy like ours.  Their opposition to the Dream Act is not “hate speech,” it is protected speech.

–Jorge-Mario Cabrera’s cell number that was broadcast is not a private number – it is a business number regularly used by Mr. Cabrera on press releases and other materials sent to the media, including to KFI’s news room.

–In fact, the press release that falsely accuses John and Ken of violating Mr. Cabrera’s “privacy rights” includes this same cell phone number, the same one John and Ken read on the air, as the contact number.

–It is false that John and Ken have “incited violence and threats against” Mr. Cabrera.

–CHIRLA claims its staff was “terrorized” and that it “received over 430 abusive and threatening calls.”  We are unaware if a police report was filed, or if anything was done about these threats other than to use them as a publicity tactic.

–John and Ken have repeatedly and publicly condemned listener calls that are abusive or threatening.  

–NHMC’s Alex Nogales, who is driving the boycott of KFI, has consistently misstated the facts.  He says KFI refuses to meet with his ORGANIZATION.  False.  In fact, KFI met with a representative of NHMC and other leaders of the Latino community on Thursday October 13th.  Instead of working towards a constructive resolution, like others in the community, he has made one single non-negotiable demand – that John and Ken be fired.   

–We do agree with NHMC in one area.  The rhetoric surrounding this issue has become too heated, and has gone too far.  The language used by some callers to Mr. Cabrera is unacceptable and wrong, and John and Ken regret that.  Furthermore, both KFI and John and Ken apologize to Mr. Cabrera for the ugly calls he received.  John and Ken aired their apology on Monday October 17th, a copy of which is available here.

We want to thank the Latin Business Association, the Latino Coalition, and the Latino Institute for Corporate Inclusion for their efforts to encourage a more constructive dialogue.  We will continue to engage with them and others in the Latino community.

RBR-TVBR observation: Let’s face it—advertisers hate controversy and ad boycotts even more. But we do think a non-negotiable demand that they be fired may have been a bit too much to ask—where is the compromise there? In hindsight, an immediate suspension for a week and immediate apology from the station and John and Ken may have saved the boycott action, but who knew it would go this far. The language John and Ken threw down may have been OK in Detroit or Pittsburgh, but not LA. KFI is going to have to up the ante considerably if they want to keep the show supported by advertising. We suggest an on-air dialogue between the groups, station management and John & Ken that allows listeners to call in—for three days or so. Put it to bed the right way. Let the station air the grievances of its community and listeners.