Radio stunt angers Latino groups; Verizon and AT&T pull ads

About 30 people demonstrated against the John & Ken Show outside the KFI offices in Burbank on Thursday, October 13, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Verizon and AT&T Wireless have pulled their advertising off KFI’s “John and Ken” show in response to a campaign by several Latino groups to drive the controversial radio talk hosts off the air.

Vons and Ralphs, which have advertised on the show in the past, have agreed to not advertise in the future.

The National Hispanic Media Coalition made the announcement during a demonstration Thursday in front of KFI’s offices in Burbank.

The campaign to fire John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou began after the duo read the phone number of Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a local immigration rights advocate, on the air. Within minutes, Cabrera, a staff member with the Coalition of Humane Immigration Rights of L.A., reportedly received hundreds of hate-filled calls.


The National Hispanic Media Coalition has written confirmation from the companies, according to Rosalia Tenorio, spokeswoman for the coalition, which was the lead player in organizing the demonstration.

About 35 protesters walked in front of the KFI building on Olive Street, chanting phrases such as “KFI drop the hate” and “John and Ken must go.” Written transcripts of some of the messages left for Cabrera were also read aloud.

“We stand by responsible journalism,” Maria Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the coalition where Cabrera works, said. “We stand by journalism that creates dialogue, not confusion and hate.”

In a statement, KFI defended the “John and Ken” show hosts.


“Expressing your opinion is not a firing offense,” KFI officials said in a written statement. “KFI stands behind John and Ken and their right to speak their minds — opinions shared, incidentally, by over a million California listeners each week and protected by the 1st Amendment.

But Alex Nogales, president and chief of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said the talk show hosts had been “hate-mongering against Latinos for years.”

And when Kobylt and Chiampou stand behind the 1st Amendment to incite hate against Latinos, they are abusing those rights, said David Rodriguez, spokesman for the League of United Latin American Citizens.

“It’s one thing to run out and express your free speech, but it’s quite another to turn around and demonize a community and victimize a community of hard-working immigrant folks, who all they want to do is make a living and be part of this society,” he said.

After Cabrera’s phone number was aired, KFI officials agreed to meet with coalition members, but then canceled, organizers said.

Greg Ashlock, market president of KFI’s parent company Clear Channel Radio-Los Angeles, said that after he agreed to meet, coalition members sent out press releases demanding the station fire Kobylt and Chiampou.

When it became clear the organizers wouldn’t settle for anything less, Ashlock said, he canceled the meeting.

Ashlock did have a last minute meeting with members of about eight Latino groups, including the National Hispanic Media Coalition, just before the demonstration, he said, but the protest went ahead as scheduled.


KFI officials said they have met with other Latino groups during the past several days.

“We (have met) with a larger, more representative group of local Latino leaders — including representatives of LULAC, the nation’s oldest and largest Hispanic Civil Rights organization, the Latin Business Assn., the nation’s largest Hispanic business group, and others — to have an open, fruitful discussion about any concerns they may have,” the station said.

Nogales, meanwhile, predicted more advertisers would follow in the steps of AT&T Wireless and the other three companies and pull out of the “John and Ken” show soon.

“I can guarantee you that next week it’ll be twice or three times that number,” he told demonstrators.