Monday, June 04, 2007

Black clergy group joins fight to get radio host fired

Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH -- Local NAACP leaders said Friday they plan to pressure the Federal Communications Commission and corporate sponsors to fire radio host Big John.

A former Volusia County councilman, John used an old saying black leaders consider racist in talking about mayoral candidate Dwayne Taylor.

John said the statement questioned Taylor's competence, but was not racist.

A controversy provoked by the comment continued Friday with a leader of the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance mobilizing his group to censure John.

John appeared Friday night on the Fox cable news show "Hannity and Colmes" to further defend his remarks. John called Taylor a rich man's candidate, and insisted he was bashing the city commissioner's four years in office, not the color of his skin.

"He's never done anything for poor people; he's never done anything for poor black people," John said during the televised interview.

Taylor should face his record and quit hiding behind the wealthy and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, John told the TV host.

The controversy began a week ago on his Big Talk show on WELE (1590 AM) when John said, ". . . the higher the monkey climbs, the better you can see its ass. And we'd really see Dwayne's butt if he got to be the mayor."

Black leaders condemned the statement as racist, while John said it was purely a political comment about Taylor's ability to be mayor.

John's boss at WELE said he is not firing the former Volusia County councilman, and he has demanded an apology from those accusing John of racism.

"No remorse," John said Friday. "Not yet."

John said he's received many messages of support.

"It's been very good for me," he said. "It had nothing to do with monkeys being equated to black people. It had everything to do with the man's competency."

The Rev. Ronald Durham, president of the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance, doesn't believe John's explanation. Durham rushed home from vacation Friday to talk with other members of his group about a response.

"There are all kinds of expressions he could use if he was trying to indicate someone was not smart enough," Durham said. "We say, for example, their elevator doesn't go to the top floor. He chose an expression that has historically been used to perpetrate racist attitudes and portray African-Americans in a negative way."

Doug Wilhite, president of Wings Communications, which owns WELE, continued efforts Friday to get either the Rev. Al Sharpton or Rev. Jesse Jackson here to mediate.

"I would like to have peace in our community and have people respect each other and enjoy the diversity in our community," he said.

Wilhite apologized to anyone who was offended on Wednesday, calling John's remark "in poor taste," but "not racist."

But things went badly during a telephone call Thursday when Wilhite asked for an apology to John from Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County-Daytona Beach Branch of the NAACP.

"She knows he's not a racist," Wilhite said.

Slater told Wilhite he shared blame by supporting John.

"I don't know what's in Big John's heart," Slater said. "I don't know what's in his head. But I do know what came out of his mouth."

Public discussion has been good to increase awareness and understanding, she said.

"The people who support him have never been called names," she said. "They've never had to bear the things we had to bear."

John said he's used the same expression about white people.

"I think we're all equal," he said. "I say the same things to black people I say to white people. People are fed up with being politically correct."

John said Taylor abandoned poor people, especially poor black people.

Taylor declined to respond.

"I have more important things to do in the community and that's what my focus is on," he said.

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