July 1999 – Raunchy radio and television personality Howard Stern continues to drive away major advertisers after the shock-jock made scornful comments about the shooting tragedy in Littleton, Colorado. Meanwhile, the company responsible for putting Stern on the air has thus far taken no action to rein in the monster it created.
Bumble Bee Tuna was the latest major sponsor of Stern’s five-hour daily radio broadcast to drop the show following his comments, when he joked about the high school massacre that left 12 students and one teacher dead, and the two classmates who were responsible for the violence dead by their own hand. The day after the killings, Stern laughingly made on-air disparaging sexual remarks regarding the perpetrators and their victims.
A number of advertisers who had been Stern’s most cheerful sponsors – despite the shock-jock’s scandalous antics in the past – finally seemed to have reached their limit. Geico Direct Insurance, online bookseller Amazon.com, Snapple beverage company, and Joseph A. Bank Clothier all pulled out of the show because of Stern’s comments.
Other national sponsors, however, still seem intent on keeping the Stern garbage floodgates fully operational. Disney, Mitsubishi, Subway, and Toyota, among other companies, have made no public move to disassociate their products from Howard Stern.
But the past stubborn support for Stern coming from companies like Subway and Toyota actually has been the exception. When most advertisers discover the foul flavor of Stern’s show, they seem only too eager to put their advertising dollars into less offensive programming.
The AFA Stern Project, headed by AFA of Michigan director Bill Johnson, has been at the forefront of making those advertisers aware of the nature of Stern’s broadcasts. The Project monitors Stern’s radio show in 24 markets and sends out more than 1,000 letters a month to advertisers to inform them of what they are sponsoring. Over 6,600 companies have withdrawn from advertising on the Stern show since the AFA Stern Project began in May 1996, representing 87% of the companies contacted.
CBS sits on hands, Stern flaps gums
While many in the country were outraged by Stern’s crass comments about Littleton, and while major sponsors had apparently had enough of the shock-jock, the one company that was responsible for turning Stern loose on America seemed stoically resistant to any attempts to remove him.
Stern’s daily radio broadcast is produced by CBS-owned Infinity Broadcasting, and syndicated by CBS Radio. Stern’s television version of the show, which airs as a late-night Saturday program, is syndicated by CBS’ Eyemark Entertainment.
In May AFA ran a full-page ad in the Washington Times entitled “CBS, We’re Not Laughing,” which called on CBS to fire Stern. The ad noted the once-proud news and entertainment heritage of CBS, adding, “Now that legacy is being passed to a man who trivializes the gruesome murder of America’s children and calls it humor.”
The ad asked CBS President Mel Karmazin, “Will you have the moral courage to stand with America’s families or will you dishonor our dead children with your silent complicity?”
Will CBS sue AFA?
Ironically, the only comment CBS appeared to make following Stern’s heartless comments was to threaten AFA with legal action over the ministry’s website. At AFA’s Internet homepage, Stern’s actual on-air comments the day after the Littleton shootings were available for people to hear for themselves.
In a letter to AFA president Donald E. Wildmon, Thomas F. Lane of the CBS Law Department said if AFA did not remove Stern’s comments, the network would “have no alternative but to take appropriate legal action to protect Infinity’s rights.”
Since the AFA Center for Law and Policy had already ensured that the airing of Stern’s comments was legal under copyright laws, Wildmon returned a letter in which he said the ministry would not remove the radio clip. Wildmon noted the network’s defiance in keeping Stern on the air even after the Littleton commentary.
“That CBS would sue us for providing Stern’s comments shows the depths of depravity to which CBS has sunk,” Wildmon said.