Radio personality Geoff Edwards has left KFI-AM (640) a week after turmoil broke out at the station over his refusal to promote another talk-show host’s planned destruction of the recordings of Cat Stevens.
The destruction was intended as a protest against the former rock star’s reported endorsement of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death sentence against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie.
Edwards, who until his suspension last Monday hosted a daily 9 a.m.-noon talk show on KFI, condemned on the air a planned burning of Stevens’ records organized by afternoon talk show host Tom Leykis.
After a promotional spot for Leykis’ program was aired during his show Friday morning, Edwards blasted the record destruction, calling it “fascist” and likening it to attempts at censoring Rushdie’s novel.
Edwards said on the air that he would not be “joining forces with those who want to burn anything” and threatened to resign if a promotional spot for the burning was aired again during his show.
“If this radio station is supporting that . . . then I’m out of here,” Edwards said at the time.
“I didn’t do this for media exposure,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday. “I did it because I felt very strongly about it and was willing to take the consequences.
“I would do it again, because I reacted from my heart and that’s the way I feel.”
Edwards said he will miss hosting the call-in talk show and is negotiating the possiblity of hosting a similar kind of talk show on television.
“There’s sadness in leaving KFI, it’s such a good radio station,” he said, "(and) I was delighted with that show.”
His resignation was announced in a press release issued Friday evening.
The release quoted Edwards as saying: “I intend to explore other opportunities both in the Los Angeles area and nationally.” Said Edwards, who hosts the weekly “Big Spin” California Lottery program: “In the meantime I will continue my current television activities.”
Station Manager Howard Neal said last week that he had no quarrel with Edwards expressing a contrary viewpoint. Neal said Edwards’ suspension centered on his demand that the promotion for the record burning not be aired during his show. A radio personality does not have the right to determine the station’s promotion practice, Neal said.
“This was a case where the station is more important than the talent,” Neal said last week.
When reached at his home Sunday, Neal would not comment on Edwards’ leaving except to say that he wished Edwards well.
“There’s probably not any more to it than what the press release states,” Neal said.
In the release Neal is quoted as saying: “We are sad to see him go, but wish him all the best in his future undertakings.”
Neal said that Chuck Ashmann, who hosts another call-in program on KFI, would temporarily take over Edwards’ morning slot. A permanent replacement has not yet been announced.
The idea to burn Stevens’ recordings came from a caller who suggested it on the air to Leykis. Leykis urged listeners to collect their Stevens’ albums and tapes and bring them in to the station to be destroyed.
Stevens, who in 1979 became a Muslim convert and changed his name to Yousuf Islam, had been quoted as telling students in Surrey, England: “The Koran makes it clear, if someone defames the prophet, then he must die.”
Islam, in a statement released Friday, denied he wants to see the author killed, however, adding that he “simply stated the Islamic ruling on the Rushdie affair.”
“My only crime was, I suppose, in being honest,” Islam said in the statement released in London. “I stood up and expressed my belief, and I am in no way apologizing for it.”
He also said the novel “insults God and His prophets, including those prophets honored by Christians and Jews as well as Muslims.”
Leykis would not comment on Edwards’ resignation, but said the scheduled record burning would instead be a record “crushing” to be held Wednesday at 3:20 p.m. at a not-yet-disclosed site.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District had informed Leykis last week that in order to publicly burn the materials, he had to be issued a permit, following a hearing. Also, the Los Angeles Fire Department revoked the permit issued for the burning.
Leykis announced that he planned to “destroy those records and materials through whatever methods legally available . . . even if it takes a steamroller.”
“Since there was no safe way to burn them, we’re going to do it in an environmentally responsible manner,” Leykis said.