It took just hours for a conservative radio station in New Jersey to suspend two of its most prominent talk-show hosts after the pair repeatedly referred to state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, a practicing Sikh, as “Turban Man.”
“The guy with the turban,” New Jersey 101.5 host Dennis Malloy said on the airWednesday, referring to Grewal. He then declared he would never learn the name of the state’s top prosecutor, a key foe of President Donald Trump, reported Politico.
“Turban Man,” his co-host, Judi Franco, replied in a sing-song voice during a broader discussion about a recent action taken by the attorney general.
“Listen, and if that offends you, then don’t wear the turban and maybe I’ll remember your name,” Malloy said. “If you called me ‘Baseball Hat Man’ and I was in a culture where no one wore baseball hats … should I be offended?”
The comments mark another controversial episode in the history of New Jersey 101.5, where shock jock Craig Carton once ranted about the “damn Orientals and Indians” and mocked a former governor’s wife for suffering from postpartum depression.
But this latest incident, which gained widespread public attention after audio of the show was shared on Twitter Wednesday evening, was met with swift anger and, to the surprise of some, an apology and action by the station. The reaction seemed to highlight how quickly public outcry can can grow over insensitive comments in an age in which the level of political discourse has shifted dramatically since Trump became president.
The state’s top Democrats quickly weighed in to condemn the remarks and praise Grewal, who grew up in New Jersey and is the first Sikh American to serve as an attorney general in the United States.
Gov. Phil Murphy, who nominated Grewal to his position and has been a guest of the station numerous times, released a statement calling the comments “abhorrent and xenophobic” and urged New Jersey 101.5 to “hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments.”
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, also a Sikh American, tweeted, “Hey Racist Man,” at the Dennis and Judi show’s account.
As for Grewal, he started his day by tweeting at the station: “My name, for the record, is Gurbir Grewal. I’m the 61st Attorney General of NJ. I’m a Sikh American. I have 3 daughters. And yesterday, I told them to turn off the radio.”
He said it wasn’t the first “indignity” he had faced and it likely won’t be the last.
“Sometimes, I endure it alone. Yesterday, all of New Jersey heard it. It’s time to end small-minded intolerance,” he tweeted, thanking prominent Democrats who had come to his defense. “You’ve got my back – and the backs of all New Jerseyans. Others have faced far worse. We rise above this. Now let’s get back to business.”
See full report here.
Turbans are a religious article that “signifies equality and sovereignty” and can be worn by women or men who practice the Sikh faith, according to the Sikh Coalition.
Sim J. Singh, the senior manager of policy and advocacy for the Sikh Coalition, told ABA News that his organization has offered sensitivity training to New Jersey 101.5 employees following the comments.
“In addition to suspensions and any other responses affecting the individual hosts, we call on the radio station to issue strong public apologies on all of its communications platforms,” Singh told ABC News via email. “We have offered resources on media coverage of Sikhs and specifically requested that the station disseminate this information to all staff. Finally, we can offer cultural sensitivity training that addresses the negative impact of racism and xenophobia.”
“Words have consequences. Xenophobic remarks can fuel hate crimes, harassment, employment discrimination, and bullying against Sikh Americans and other communities. Whether it’s remarks by radio hosts with media-amplified voices or bigoted comments from elected officials about minority communities, we must speak up and hold one another accountable,” Singh added.
Prosecutor Gurbir poised to set another first for Sikhs in US (Asia Samachar, 31 Dec 2017)
Ravi Bhalla becomes N.J.’s first Sikh mayor (Asia Samachar, 8 Nov 2017)