HOWARD STERN replacement Adam Carolla seems to be following in his predecessor’s provocative footsteps. The morning show host, who has repeatedly come under fire in his career from activists accusing him of slurring Asian Americans, faced off against one of his harshest critics Wednesday in a spirited live on-air debate.
“There is not a racist bone in my body,” Carolla told Guy Aoki, head of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans.
Carolla, who took over for Stern at KLSX-FM (97.1) last January when the shock jock leaped to satellite radio, added that he has said far more positive things about Asians over the years, and that any of his humor considered to be offensive was a consequence of creating “thousands of hours” of live comedy. At one point, he advised Aoki to “lighten up.”
Aoki has said that Carolla continually used the words “Chinaman” and “gook” at KLSX and his previous “Loveline” show on KROQ-FM (106.7), but he said he and several other Asian American groups were especially outraged when a routine last January mocking the Asian Excellence Awards contained recordings of people saying “ching chong.” Aoki said the term was equivalent to the “N-word,” which he said Carolla would never use on air.
Though Carolla apologized on the air in February when Aoki and others complained, Aoki said he doubted the sincerity of the apology and met earlier this month with executives from CBS Radio, the parent of KLSX, to address his concerns. Carolla invited Aoki on the air in the hope of “burying the hatchet,” he said Wednesday.
Wednesday’s segment, which started 20 minutes before the show’s end and stretched a few minutes past 10 a.m., never got really heated or personal, but grew more lively when Carolla attributed the “ching chong” routine to the show’s sports correspondent Dave Dameshek. Though Carolla said he should have checked the routine before it aired, Aoki and Teddy Zee, the producer of the awards show who accompanied Aoki to the program, said that Carolla seemed to be dodging responsibility for the routine.
Carolla ended the show by saying he hoped that the controversy could be laid to rest, and that he would “try my best” not to use offensive terms.
“I think it went fine,” said Jimmy Brusca, producer of Carolla’s show, following the debate. “It’s nice that two people with differing opinions can sit down and clear the air.”
However, in an interview following the show, Aoki indicated he was less than satisfied.
“He wanted to get across the fact that he is not a racist, which wasn’t the point at all,” he said. “There are certain limits where you can’t go. He’s insensitive at the least. We’ve sent more letters of complaint to him than anyone else in our 14-year history.”