The Dallas Times Herald canceled its popular but controversial "Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In" feature yesterday after a column by the imaginary Joe Bob Briggs last Friday mocked efforts by rock stars to raise money for starving Africans.
In a front-page apology in yesterday's editions, the editors said the Times Herald "deeply regrets that the column was published."
"It was a misdirected attempt at satire," the apology said. "A great deal of insensitivity was reflected in the column."
Joe Bob, created about three years ago by Times Herald metropolitan columnist John Bloom, was supposed to be a drive-in movie critic and a self-declared redneck. His weekly efforts occasionally drew protests from women, blacks and others who felt his comments were in bad taste.
However, Times Herald editor Will Jarrett said the column also had its loyal fans. "It was extremely popular. In some areas, if the section of the paper that has Joe Bob wasn't in their newspaper, we'd get phone calls from people saying, 'Read Joe Bob to us.' "
Jarrett said there has always been "a little bit of a residue of unhappiness and controversy surrounding it, and by and large the people editing it did a good job of knowing where the line was. This one, everybody agrees, went over the line."
The Friday column carried a headline that read: "Joe Bob, drive-in artists join forces for minorities with 'We Are The Weird.' "
In a satire on the rock song "We Are the World," written to help victims of starvation in Africa, Bloom wrote: "We are the weird, We are the starvin, We are the scum of the filthy earth, So let's start scarfin . . . " The column also made a reference to "stupid Negroes."
Jarrett said there was "not much reaction" Friday when the column first appeared, but he said about 200 people came to the newspaper yesterday to protest the column.
"The Times Herald historically has had a good relationship with the black community here," Jarrett said. "We have taken on a number of major civil rights issues, so there has been a lot of good will. That is probably one of the reasons why they were all so upset."
Bloom will not lose his job, according to Jarrett, and will continue his metropolitan column as well as a sports column called "Jock Talk with Joe Bob."