Friday, October 03, 2003

John Dennis's simian stupidity. Yesterday I described John Dennis as the luckiest man in the media (second item): he made a grotesquely racist remark comparing gorillas to black school kids, and he got away with having to issue nothing more than an apology.

Today, he's a little less lucky. The management of WEEI Radio (AM 850), under pressure from the city council and the community, suspended Dennis for two days. Will that be enough? Stay tuned.

This is really a mind-blowing media scandal. It's hard to imagine what the thought process was that led Dennis to blurt out that Little Joe, the gorilla who briefly escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo, was "probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus to take him to Lexington." Yes, Dennis has apologized, but why did it even enter his head in the first place?

Dennis -- a former sports anchor on Channel 7 -- is one-half of the Dennis & Callahan morning team, which specializes in lowbrow and offensive humor. I'm not a frequent listener, but I'm familiar enough with it. Their speciality is crude jokes about gays and lesbians. Until now, I wasn't aware of their having indulged in racism, but maybe I just haven't been listening at the right time.

Callahan, a columnist for the Boston Herald, comes across like a guy totally within his element -- that element being cruel locker-room humor for dumbass white boys. Dennis is more like the nerdy kid who can't believe he's being allowed to hang out with the jocks.

Loathsome as Callahan's act can be, I suspect his instincts are such that he would never make this kind of mistake. Dennis, by contrast, comes across as way, way too eager to ingratiate himself with his new buddies.

What should happen next? I don't know. More than anything, WEEI management should stop acting like it wants to get away with as little as possible -- an apology here, a two-day suspension there, some public-service announcements for Metco -- and deal with this in a serious and public way.

A Boston Globe editorial today argues that Dennis got off "far too lightly." I can't disagree with that.

Meanwhile, over at the Herald, it looks like it's going to be columnists Howard Manly and Callahan, in the parking lot, right after work: Manly today (sub. req.) refers to Callahan as Dennis's "reactionary sidekick."

This isn't over. Nor should it be.

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