HealthPartners, AT-T pull ads over KDWB parody


Two of Clear Channel’s CHR KDWB-FM’s sponsors have pulled all advertising in response to controversial comments made on “The Dave Ryan in the Morning Show” last month. HealthPartners and AT&T pulled after an uproar over on-air content that made fun of Hmong-Americans (an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand).

During the show late last month, a Hmong listener texted a suggested song title “30 Hmongs in a House,” for which Steve “Steve-O” LaTart, the show’s producer, then penned mock lyrics set to Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” The parody talked about how Hmong live like “sardines” and made reference to Hmong women getting pregnant by 16 with “seven kids by 23” and “over the hill by 30.”

“We found it to be offensive and not in line with what we as an organization represent,” HealthPartners spokesman Jeff Shelman told Pioneer Press.

He also told The Star-Tribune HealthPartners was contacted by the Coalition Against Racism for Everyone, which encouraged the company to pull its ads.

HealthPartners had been advertising for an online clinic called Virtuwell, which was launched in October.

An e-mailed statement to the Star-Tribune on behalf of Bob Bass, president of AT&T Minnesota, described the song as very demeaning to the Hmong: “Therefore, we cannot financially support KDWB when it allows discrimination to be included in its broadcasts. As such, we have withdrawn all advertising from KDWB.”

The station issued an apology Wednesday on Facebook that, in part, said: “While we’ve received positive feedback from many Hmong listeners who let us know that they found the song in question very humorous, we apologize to anyone we may have inadvertently offended, as this was never our intent.”

Steve-O’s Facebook page has been getting quite a few comments back and forth from listeners—angry and not.

Meanwhile, TakeAction Minnesota fired off a letter to KDWB PD Rob Morris condemning the parody song and calls for Steve-O’s firing. They also want the station to host an on-air conversation with Hmong community leaders to discuss “racial stereotypes, racial disparities and the harm caused by ‘Morning Show’ personalities.”

TakeAction Minnesota is a progressive group “committed to furthering racial, social and economic justice.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Adding the Facebook dimension to an on-air faux-pas like this can be explosive. Advertisers and potential advertisers often check stations’ and talents’ FB pages to see how popular they are with listeners. If they see a bunch of controversy and anger voiced, look out…!