Volume 74, Number 39 | February 2 - 8, 2005

Hot 97 feels the heat over slur-filled tsunami song

Koreans join the picket line outside the radio station’s Hudson St. headquarters. (Villager photos by Corky Lee)

By Lincoln Anderson

Demanding that Hot 97 FM “drop her like she’s not,” about 100 protesters rallied outside the station’s Hudson and Houston Sts. office last Friday, calling for embattled D.J. Miss Jones to be fired for playing the now infamous tsunami song.

“No more hate!” the demonstrators chanted in the freezing cold.

They were joined by Asian-American civic and business leaders and over a dozen local politicians, from congressmembers and assemblymembers to city councilmembers, who urged the Federal Communications Commission to slap penalties on the station and sponsors to pull their ads. Already most of the station’s major sponsors, including Coca Cola and McDonald’s have dropped Hot 97.

The insensitive tsunami song, sung to the tune of “We Are the World” — ironically, a song that raised money for African famine victims in the 1980s, and which now is being reissued to help African AIDS sufferers — makes fun of the plight of the 200,000 people who died in the recent South Asian tsunami. The song refers to “screaming chinks,” “Africans drowning” and “little Chinamen swept away” — with the twisted refrain, “You can hear God laughing, ‘Swim you bitches swim.’ ”

“That thing is just not appropriate,” said Chris Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, “and I think it’s a disservice to the whole city. New York, this country is very diverse, and we really have to see that.”

Chinatown activist Paul Lee, who came with York Chan, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, said Chinatown businesses plan to target the station’s sponsors.

“Look, our membership doesn’t listen to Hot 97,” Lee admitted. “We’re going to go down the list — if it’s soft drinks, we’ll tell our carriers to not carry it, or put it in a less prominent place. We’re prepared to go long term.”

C.C.B.A. raised $350,000 in Chinatown for the tsunami victims, Lee noted.

“This is just the beginning. The company is responsible,” warned Councilmember John Liu of Hot 97’s parent company, Emmis Communications, the country’s seventh-largest radio network. “They are going to pay.”

There were so many politicians jostling for mike time that Councilmember Margarita Lopez gave up trying to make a speech, but she told The Villager, “I wonder how people would have reacted if someone had played a song like that about what happened on Sept. 11…. When you allow hate to be promulgated, you will be next — don’t be surprised. When are we going to learn about this — it’s such a simple law of human relationships?”

Said Councilmember Christine Quinn, “This type of hate, as a member of the L.G.B.T. community, [I feel that] an attack against the Asian community is an attack against the L.G.B.T. community…. If they don’t fire the people responsible, we’ll close them.” The firing of Miss Jones and Todd Lynn, another station employee, is being called for, but, noted Quinn, “The more time goes by, the more people will be responsible.”

Councilmember Bill Perkins said media mogul Rupert Murdoch must pull his advertising, too.

“We think Rupert Murdoch needs to step and do the right thing,” Perkins stated. “We think he’s stonewalling.”

Congressmember Jerrold Nadler said shock jock Howard Stern’s offensive remarks “pale” in comparison to the tasteless tsunami song, and he called on the F.C.C. to take action.

There were more than a few young Asian hip-hop fans, who felt betrayed that the music they enjoy had been used to belittle Asians.

“As a true hip-hop D.J. and a true hip-hop head and as a person of color, [I think] Hot 97 is not part of the hip-hop community at all,” said D.J. Cuttin Kandi, 29, from Queens, who teaches hip-hop and activism at Brooklyn’s El Puente Academy.

Rocky Chin, a former City Council candidate, said, “The fact is, what we’re talking about was a tremendous natural disaster — These remarks were manmade. They have an impact that we can prevent.”

Noting his specialty in law school was the First Amendment, Councilmember Alan Gerson said speech — no matter how distasteful — at a protest should be protected, but that because a radio station is a licensed enterprise, operating on a narrow band of public airwaves, there need to be limits on inappropriate speech.

“There should be a full-fledged F.C.C. review,” Gerson said.

The station issued the following statement: “Hot 97 finds the acts of its morning show crew last week socially and morally indefensible; our entire radio family is ashamed by this. Miss Jones and all participating members of the morning show crew remain on indefinite suspension. Further, Hot 97 is redirecting the full salaries of those individuals to charities aiding in tsunami relief for the duration of this suspension.”

In another incident connected with the station a few years ago, a feud between rappers Li’l Kim and Foxy Brown led to a machine gun shootout outside Hot 97’s building on Feb. 25, 2001. One man was injured.

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