SACRAMENTO—Radio personalities have to push the boundaries of political correctness to survive in an industry that faces fierce competition from the internet and the iPod, but some are questioning the timing and appropriateness of a handful of comments left by two local Entercom jocks on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Mike "Mikey" Muscatello, creative director and talent for KRXQ, was understandably frustrated when he arrived at the air studio for Sacramento-based 98Rock Wednesday afternoon to find someone had downloaded a virus on his computer. But it's how the jock chose to vent his frustration to listeners that has some raising eyebrows.
Muscatello repeated the comment on his Twitter page: "Computer has AIDS...fml (fuck my life)."
Muscatello works for KRXQ, a radio station owned by Entercom Sacramento. Entercom has become synonymous in Sacramento for pushing the boundaries of radio, sometimes achieving unexpected results that stir up controversy.
In 2006, a water-drinking contest led to the death of a contestant at Entercom-owned KDND "107.9 The End," and in 2009 three morning show personalities came under fire by a gay and lesbian advocacy group known as GLAAD after two of the hosts made derogatory comments against transgender children.
Those comments led to a temporary halt of the popular "Rob, Arnie and Dawn" show as well as a substantial drop in advertisers. The trio later hosted a commercial-free episode in which they apologized and explored the topic of transgender issues in America with a transgender woman and an advocate for equal rights issues in California.
But whether Entercom has learned its lesson from those two events is anyone's guess. When approached by FOX40 News about his comments published Wednesday afternoon, Muscatello seemed indifferent and offered no apology.
"I can see how a homophobic person would assume that," Muscatello said on Twitter. "[but] AIDS is a virus, correct?"
It's not the first time Muscatello has made comments that some might consider offensive. Earlier in the week, Muscatello had an exchange with a KDND personality who identifies himself as "Just Matt." The two traded anti-gay remarks back and forth on Twitter while discussing the recent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death from a bridge in New Jersey after his sexual encounter with a man was broadcast on the internet by his room-mate.
The exchange ended between the two disc jockeys October 2nd when "Just Matt" posted a status update that led with two anti-gay pejoratives.
"Fuck you, homo!!" Just Matt wrote. "See, it's that homophobic shit. You fag! Oh wait, my bad."
FOX40 never received an explanation by "Just Matt" on the October 2nd message, but shortly after our inquiry, the message was removed and replaced with an apology.
"I removed a tweet that I had posted," "Just Matt" wrote Wednesday evening. "It was brought tot my attention how insensitive it was, and I sincerely apologize for my poor judgment."
Ken Pierce, an activist with the Sacramento chapter of Equality Action Now, says political incorrectness for comedic effect isn't anything new or surprising.
"Some radio personalities make a living at using language that shocks, or even better, incite anger to help their ratings," Pierce wrote by e-mail Wednesday evening. "The fact that in this case he did so on social media with the name of his employer says to me the the employer is happy with increased traffic of calls and while condemning the posting in public, behind closed doors the personality may be getting a slap of the back rather then on the wrist."
Pierce went on to call the language "hate speech," and says the kind of comments left by Muscatello and "Just Matt" is something the gay and lesbian community is attempting to battle against given the recent spike in teenage suicides by children who claim they were bullied because they identified as gay.
Comedic political incorrectness is nothing new in the radio world -- shock jocks Howard Stern and radio duo "Opie & Anthony" made a career out of crude humor that took them from small-town radio gigs to national jobs on the recently-merged Sirius- XM Satellite Radio. But professional comedian and occasional Sirius-XM contributor Sean Hetherington says he's not laughing at these jokes.
"It's astounding that the people of the capital city of the most progressive state in our country tune in to this kind of radio in their car, their workplace, or their homes," Hetherington, who identifies as gay, wrote to FOX40 News by e-mail Wednesday. "This is the reason I left Sacramento. It's no wonder kids are killing themselves."
But some would argue, though both jocks clearly listed their employer online, that social media is protected as personal communication and shouldn't reflect on a person as a professional. Some media companies -- including FOX40's parent company Tribune Broadcasting -- have a "live and let say" approach to online communication so long as it doesn't reflect directly on the company.
FOX40 wanted to find out if Entercom Sacramento had such a policy and how they viewed the comments made by Muscatello and "Just Matt," but our messages left with KRXQ and KDND's program directors went not returned as of Thursday morning.