Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Talk Radio Brings Justice in Bogus Los Angeles Racial Discrimination Case

We earlier reported how an innocent prank, directed toward a black Los Angeles firefighter, resulted in his getting a settlement of $2.7 million when he played the race card and claimed discrimination.

Now, a follow up, via Patterico’s Pontifications. From the Los Angeles Times.
It seemed like a slam-dunk when the Los Angeles City Council made a near-unanimous decision to pay black firefighter Tennie Pierce $2.7 million to settle a racial harassment lawsuit that claimed he had been tricked into eating dog food by station mates, then taunted for months.

But almost immediately, other voices in Los Angeles demanded to be heard.

The talk show team on KFI-AM (640)’s “John & Ken Show” wasted no time making the case a cause celebre, pumping up listeners with daily drive-time diatribes against the settlement. Council members began backtracking. The fire chief intensified his push to toughen department discipline. And Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tried to offer something for everyone — vetoing the settlement but demanding an end to the kind of hazing that led to the headlines.

On Tuesday, the furor continued. The NAACP called for the ouster of fire Chief William Bamattre. The newly elected union head applauded the mayor’s veto, saying institutional racism is not a problem. And it became clear that fault lines between the mayor, city attorney and council were widening.

The case was only the most recent in a string of settlements of Fire Department harassment claims.

But it was a case tailor-made for radio talk-show fame, thanks to the hefty price tag and the notion, in some quarters, that Pierce — called “the Big Dog” by fellow firefighters because he is 6 feet 5 — was being paid off for a harmless prank.

Pierce, 51, alleged that a firefighter mixed canned dog food into his dinner at their Westchester station two years ago with the assent of two captains. He contends that the taunting he endured afterward forced him to leave the department.

After the settlement was announced Nov. 8, radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou urged listeners to send dog food to the 11 “nincompoop” council members who approved the settlement and to City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who recommended it. Last week, several council offices received cans of dog food; others received voice mail protests. In Northridge, a councilman’s secretary was pelted with a bag of kibble.

Firefighters, angry that their department was being maligned, began calling in to the radio program, and several sent along old photos of Pierce — shirtless and beaming — participating in crude firehouse pranks that involved half-naked men, shaving cream and what appeared to be mustard.

The photos were posted on the program’s website and displayed on television, and public outrage heated up.

“When people saw [Pierce] participated in pranks, that was what really ignited them,” Kobylt said. “If we didn’t have those pictures, it would have gone away a lot sooner.”

The pictures proved to be critical to the case’s undoing. Villaraigosa said the hazing they portrayed sickened him.
One can see why a lot of elites don’t like talk radio.

The NAACP obviously doesn’t like anybody blowing the whistle on a racial hustle. And members of any city council would much prefer to pay off a claim — using the taxpayers’ money — rather than have to deal with a contentious issue.

Top administrators at the Fire Department would rather widespread hazing not be made public.

And (although they would deny this) the Mainstream Media can’t like it when highly salient details in a case like this — details they didn’t know about or ignored — get reported by competing media.

So a lot of people’s lives would be much simpler if talk radio went away.

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