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N.Y. Station Stirs Furor With Song Mocking Tsunami Victims

By Mark Egan
Reuters
Tuesday, January 25, 2005; Page C07

NEW YORK, Jan. 24 -- A radio station here apologized Monday for repeatedly airing a joke song that ridiculed victims of the recent tsunami in South Asia and used racial slurs.

WQHT-FM, known as HOT 97, ran the segment on its "Miss Jones in the Morning" show. The piece used racial slurs to describe people swept away in the disaster and made jokes about child slavery and people watching their mothers die.

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"You can hear God laughing, 'Swim, you bitches, swim,' " was one line in the song.

The hip-hop and R&B station, known for its "shock jocks," apologized on its Web site, saying it "regrets the airing of material that made light of a serious and tragic event. We apologize to our listeners and anyone who was offended."

WQHT's program director and deejay Tarsha Nicole Jones, who uses the on-air name Miss Jones, apologized on the program and said the segment should not have been broadcast.

The piece drew wide criticism from New York's City Hall to the capitol in Albany, with many lawmakers calling on the Federal Communications Commission to fine HOT 97.

"At a time when virtually the entire world has come together to help in the tsunami tragedy relief, employees of HOT 97 have come up with this song," said New York State Assembly member Jimmy Meng, a Democrat from Queens. "We are disgusted and demand immediate action by the FCC."

An FCC spokesman had no immediate comment.

The piece was also denounced by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which said it had received calls from offended Muslims.

Emmis Communications Corp., which owns the station, issued an apology and said each of the seven staff members on the show has agreed to contribute a week's pay to tsunami relief efforts.

The incident is not the first time HOT 97 has been accused of racism and poor taste. The station made headlines when deejay Star, now at another radio station, called Jennifer Lopez a "rice-and-bean eater" and satirized the plane crash that killed R&B singer Aaliyah in 2001.


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