Northland residents slam syndicated radio show's 'mentally challenged' segment as offensiveA segment on a syndicated radio show aired in Duluth is being decried by some Northland residents as insensitive and offensive to people with cognitive disabilities.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
A segment on a syndicated radio show aired in Duluth is being decried by some residents as insensitive and offensive to people with cognitive disabilities.
The segment, part of the Dallas-based “Lex and Terry 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 program or the station, KZIO 94.1, happened upon it as she was driving to work on Tuesday morning.
“I really feel like a line was crossed,” said Bauers, who was unimpressed by the argument that the bit was a parody. “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 Anderson, 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.
Rebecca Cich agreed.
“It’s really unfortunate that people will listen to that,” said Cich, who is director of the Duluth branch of the Center for Independent Living of Northeastern Minnesota and a member of the Duluth Commission on Disabilities. “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.
Calls to Red Rock Radio Corp., which owns KZIO 94.1 — known as 94X — weren’t returned on Wednesday. An e-mail sent to the Lex and Terry Show wasn’t answered.
Andy Denemark of United Stations Radio Networks, which distributes the show, said he wasn’t familiar with the segment and couldn’t comment on it.
But the segment isn’t new, nor is controversy surrounding it. In 2009 a Florida legislator called on the University of Florida’s campus radio station to stop airing the program because of the same segment, according to the “disabilityscoop” blog.
Denemark said the program is aired on a “couple dozen” stations and has been successful. United Stations’ website bills Lex and Terry as an “original blend of male-oriented content with a focus on lifestyle, relationships and edgy humor.” It says theirs was the No. 1 “morning drive time” program in Fargo, N.D.; Gainesville, Fla., and Panama City, Fla., in spring 2010.
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.
Defenders point out that people offended by the program could simply change stations.
But that misses the point, Bauers said.
“If I saw somebody being accosted physically, would I just walk away from that?” Bauers said. “Of course not. And I feel like a group was being accosted that can’t speak for themselves, and I’m not going to just walk away from that.”