Two hosts of a talk radio program in New Jersey have been suspended after referring to the state’s attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, as “turban man” during a segment on Wednesday. Grewal is Sikh.
Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco, who host a conservative-leaning talk show every weekday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on New Jersey 101.5 F.M., will be off the air for 10 days, the station announced.
“We take these comments seriously and echo Dennis and Judi’s sincere apology to Attorney General Grewal and his family, as well as the Sikh and Asian communities,” Ron deCastro, the station’s president, said in a statement posted on its website. “Dennis and Judi are known for their plainspoken brand of humor, but in this case, the language used was clearly demeaning and inappropriate.”
Grewal, a first-generation American who grew up in Essex, N.J., became the country’s first Sikh state attorney general when he took office earlier this year. Malloy and Franco were discussing his recent order to suspend marijuana prosecutions in the state when Malloy said he would never know Grewal’s name and would just call him “the guy with the turban.”
“Turban man!” Franco said, imitating a condom company’s slogan.
“Yeah, turban man,” Malloy said. “And listen, if that offends you, then don’t wear the turban, man. I’ll remember your name.”
The comments drew strong rebukes from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D) and the state’s ACLU chapter, which tweeted: “Racism isn’t cute. It’s just racist.”
“Outraged by the abhorrent and xenophobic comments mocking @NewJerseyOAG on The @DennisandJudi Show,” Murphy, who appointed Grewal, wrote on Twitter. “Hate speech has no place in NJ, and does not belong on our airwaves.”
Grewal responded, as well.
“My name, for the record, is Gurbir Grewal,” he wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Sikhs in the United States have been the target of slurs and hate crimes and are sometimes confused with Muslims. Men who follow the religion typically wear a beard and turban.
Grewal also shared a video from a speech he gave at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies in which he talked about the ways racism had affected his political career.
“Scroll through any of the online comments about my work or my office or any news story, it can really be stomach turning,” he said, noting that he’d been receiving death threats since he became attorney general. “I have been called a towel-head, a raghead, a terrorist.”
In an interview with the New York Times last year as he prepared to take office, he spoke about how he was harassed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by a stranger who would wait outside his office and shout, “I’ve found him, I’ve found bin Laden!”
Malloy issued an apology to Grewal and the East Asian community in New Jersey on Thursday afternoon.
“Speaking on behalf of Judi and myself today in offering our heartfelt apologies to the attorney general of the state of New Jersey, who is a man who certainly deserves more respect than our comments reflected on Wednesday,” Malloy said in a video apology. “I made a mistake on Wednesday in saying something that was out of bounds, and it was wrong.”
The station’s parent company, Townsquare Media, declined to comment.
According to NorthJersey.com, the two hosts are known for their blunt talk on everyday issues with a conservative slant. They have defended President Trump and made fun of NPR and former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, while mixing in “light-hearted banter” and talk about the “mundane aspects of everyday life,” according to the website.
Multiple callers phoning in to the station during Malloy and Franco’s slot Thursday defended the hosts’ remarks, according to NJ.com.