Democracy Dies in Darkness

Arts and Entertainment

A radio host was warned not to criticize President Trump. So he quit.

By Amy B Wang

June 20, 2017 at 5:59 PM

Bruce Bond (Courtesy of Bruce Bond)

Every Saturday morning for three years, Bruce Bond hosted a talk show that aired on Pennsylvania's 92.1 WTPA-FM.

For three hours each week, he and a co-host would banter with guests, having "engaging and interesting conversations on a variety of topics," the station's website read.

That was before Bond's profile and the page for his show, the very practically named "Bruce Bond Late Afternoon Show on Saturday Morning," disappeared from WTPA's site. Bond said he quit last week after the station's general manager, Tim Michaels, sent him an email Thursday directing him not to criticize President Trump on air — or his show would be canceled.

"This is to serve as notice that it is not permissible on WTPA airwaves to talk [disrespectfully] of the President," Michaels wrote in the memo, which Bonds later shared on Facebook. "I have received backlash in the form of emails, phones calls and such. I have listeners threatening a boycotts of sponsors and social media campaigns against the station, I have spoken with several parties personally this week that are very angered and have discontinued listening to WTPA, and are encouraging their friends to do the same. This cannot continue to happen."

The message ended with a reminder that Bond had been warned before: "I have asked previously to cease political discussion. If this cannot be [achieved] we will have no choice but to discontinue the show."

For Bond, the memo was the final straw after more than a year and a half of pressure from his supervisors to stay silent about anything related to politics — particularly, after the election, any negative mention of Trump.

"They just didn't want me to talk about Trump in a disparaging, negative way, if at all," Bond said. "I couldn't go further with it. Trump is like a big deal. Everybody talks about this guy. How can I do a talk show when I can't mention what people are talking about out there?"

So he resigned.

"I just felt that I couldn't go on and continue doing that talk show at that radio station," he said.

Related: [Pro-Trump protester arrested after rushing stage at controversial ‘Julius Caesar’ production in New York]

Michaels emphasized in an email to The Washington Post that Bond had resigned voluntarily and said he had "crossed the lines of what was acceptable."

"Bruce Bond was hired for the purpose of hosting an entertainment type show," Michaels wrote. "He was cautioned many times about turning it into one of a political nature. . . . WTPA is a classic rock radio station and we do not take a position on the air politically, as we know we have listeners of all political affiliations listening to our station. We do not wish to offend anyone of any political party."

When asked, Michaels did not provide examples of instances or shows in which Bond had crossed the line.

"I do not have record of exactly what was said," Michaels wrote in a subsequent email. "However, I received a large number of emails and phone calls from angry listeners. That is what prompted me to remind Bruce of our previous discussions on the matter."

According to Bond, a first inter-office memo from the station's higher-ups came in December 2015, just as the presidential race was getting underway. After the field had narrowed to Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Bond said "the entire radio station staff . . . got the memo just to keep Trump and Hillary out of it. Just don't even mention them."

That was difficult for a few reasons, he said, a big one being that stories about Trump continued to dominate news cycles, making their way into the public consciousness even for people who wouldn't normally have cared about politics.

Related: [People mad about the Trump-like ‘Julius Caesar’ are sending death threats to the wrong theater]

Bond acknowledged that he "disliked Donald Trump many years before he become president" but said he never went in with an agenda to bring up politics on his Saturday shows, which were unscripted.

"I'm doing a talk show. I tell my listeners at my talk show it's 'fun talk radio,' " Bond said. "Does [Trump] come up? Yes. Of course. What conversation doesn't Trump come up in these days? Am I negative most of the time toward whatever comes up in regards to Trump? Yes."

Bond said he couldn't pinpoint any final straw that prompted the radio station to send the fourth memo last week. Some examples of Trump-related things he's mentioned in recent months, he said, was when Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April and raved about "the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you have ever seen."

"I played that a lot and still have that on my sound-effects board," Bond said. "Even stuff like that aggravates the conservative population and the ownership of the radio station."

He would also poke fun at Trump's dress, referring several times to a cartoon that showed the president with his tie flap all the way down to the floor.

When Kathy Griffin came under fire for her gruesome photo stunt depicting Trump's severed head, though, Bond said he defended the president on his show.

"I was on President Trump's side on that one," he said.

Bond said he was sad to leave the show but felt it was the only solution. "I like to talk about anything," he said. "And I don't want to be restricted."

Over the weekend, Bond posted a farewell message to his listeners, noting that Saturday's episode would be the 155th and final episode for his show.

"I really hated to quit my very fun & honest show but under these rules, I could not continue being honest to my fans & listeners," Bond wrote. "Toni-Toni-Toni was the best co-host I ever had in radio and we were really having fun every Saturday morning. I'm sorry that there is this really ugly political environment in this country with the current President. Unfortunately, Central PA can't handle someone as liberal & brutally honest as I can be quite often. Thanks for understanding my side of this story."

Read more:

No, Stephen Colbert is not being investigated by the FCC for his Trump joke

Trump critics are boycotting Dolce & Gabbana. The brand trolled them with $245 T-shirts.

Debra Messing calls out Ivanka Trump: 'Please stop blindly defending your father'


Amy B Wang is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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