NEW YORK – The host of a New York morning radio show and the rest of her on-air crew were suspended indefinitely Wednesday for airing a tasteless song parody that mocked victims of the catastrophic south Asia tsunami (search).
"What happened is morally and socially indefensible," said Rick Cummings, president of Emmis Radio (search), in announcing the disciplinary action. "All involved, myself included, are ashamed and deeply sorry. I know the members of the morning team are contrite. They know their actions here are inexcusable."
The song, a parody of the charity single "We Are the World," aired last Friday on Emmis station WQHT-FM, known locally as Hot 97. The station was subsequently flooded with thousands of angry phone calls demanding the firing of morning show host Tarsha Jones (search), known on air as Miss Jones.
The DJ offered an on-air apology, and the station initially announced that she and a half-dozen other members of the morning team would donate a week's salary to tsunami relief. The station, in a statement posted on its Web site, said management later decided "stronger action was necessary to demonstrate the severity of the situation."
The song included references to "screaming chinks" and orphaned children "sold into child slavery." The chorus began, "So now you're screwed, it's a tsunami, you'd better run ... go find your mommy."
The decision to suspend the DJ and her crew was immediately hailed by groups upset over the song.
"I think this is definitely a step in the right direction," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. "The egregious nature of this offense mandated something beyond a week's pay."
Others had called for advertisers to boycott the station and for Emmis to fire its staffers — a call reiterated by City Councilman John Liu, whose Queens district includes a large Asian population.
"It's clearly not sufficient," Liu said. "Miss Jones and [sidekick] Todd Lynn need to be terminated, taken off the air permanently."
The death toll in the tsunami is estimated at anywhere from 144,000 and 178,000, with more than 140,000 more people still missing.
Hot 97 has been criticized for poor taste before. In 2001, two different morning hosts were suspended after an on-air mocking of the plane crash death of R&B singer Aaliyah.