BUFFALO, N.Y. — On March 24, a Cumulus Media Classic Rock station with a 33-year heritage and strong brand affinity across Western New York and much of Ontario’s most populous areas found itself in the center of a controversy that attracted binational attention.
One of its morning hosts, against his own better judgment, made comments about how his toaster settings corresponded to the skin tone of some African American female celebrities. Not only were the comments aired live, but they also appeared in a condensed version of the “Morning Bull” distributed as a podcast. That proved to be an even graver error. And, it has now cost WGRF-FM “97 Rock” its Program Director and its entire wake-up program.
As RBR+TVBR first shared via Twitter Wednesday evening (4/7), Cumulus Media issued a statement to Buffalo media confirming that, “Upon further consideration following the racist incident that occurred on The Morning Bull Show, we decided to terminate the whole morning show in addition to the Program Director.”
This results in the exit of Rich Gaenzler and the female component of the Morning Bull, Chris Klein, who is heard in an audio clip of the incident widely distributed on Twitter to be egging on Rob Lederman. He’s the longtime 97 Rock morning show voice whose presence dates back to Norton in the Morning, the predecessor to The Morning Bull. Lederman prefaced his comments by noting, “I may get into trouble for this.”
That proved to be an understatement, as his comments not only led to the dismissal of Gaenzler and Klein, but also PD John Hager.
Hager’s dismissal is particularly noteworthy. In 2018, he was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in recognition of his years of service at WGRF. After starting as a part-timer, Hager took the overnight shift in 1983 and later moved to afternoon drive. In January 1985, a format change to Adult Contemporary led to Hager’s exit. But, he’d find his way back in September 1988, relaunching 97 Rock after an infamous April Fools’ Day prank at the former WPHD “brought back” the rock ‘n’ roll brand as a joke Buffalo hoped wouldn’t be.
Now, Hager is on the sidelines, victim of a morning show segment gone wrong.
While Lederman was immediately terminated, Gaenzler and Klein were suspended following the March 24 broadcast, which gained national attention after Marcel Louis-Jacques shared an audio clip of what Lederman said via Twitter. Louis-Jacques is the Buffalo-based reporter for ESPN NFL Nation and covers the Buffalo Bills.
The next morning, WGRF offered music in-between station liners and IDs. By 10:30am, midday host J.P. was on the air. Afternoon host Carl Russo took over at 3pm.
As dawn broke in Buffalo on April 8, all vestiges of the Morning Bull were erased from the WGRF website. Continuous music continued between station liners and IDs, as has been the case since March 25. The 97 Rock Twitter feed has been scrubbed of any Morning Bull posts, while the Morning Bull’s Twitter feed still exists but hasn’t been updated since March 24. Meanwhile, 97 Rock’s Facebook page has also seen all mentions of the Morning Bull removed — except for a 90-second statement from Cumulus/Buffalo Market Manager Jim Riley that served as a formal apology for Lederman and the Morning Bull.
Lederman’s comments led such local advertisers as Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and West Herr Automotive Group to cancel their contracts with Cumulus/Buffalo, Nexstar-owned WIVB-4 reported Wednesday.