'Were they acting N-wordly': Radio hosts fired over racist comments

Janelle Griffith

Two radio hosts in upstate New York were fired after making racist comments during a live broadcast Tuesday.

During a discussion about recent violence in Rochester, Kimberly Ray referenced a viral video of a group of men beating a couple with a two-by-four over the weekend.

"OK, let me ask you a question: Were they acting N-word-ish?" she asked Barry Beck during the broadcast. "There's your question." Ray did not use the racial slur.

The pair were hosts of "Kimberly and Beck," which aired 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays on Radio 95.1, a station owned by iHeartMedia.

Beck said the men were acting like thugs. "I think. They're thugs," he said.

Ray asked, "Were they acting N-wordly?"

The show producer, Pat McMahon, responded: "You can't say that. What are you doing?"

Ray asked, "Were they acting that way?"

The producer repeated, "You can't say that." He also told the pair: "Stop saying thugs. That's part of the problem."

Beck said: "No. It is not. They're thugs. If you look like a thug and if you act like a thug, and you’ve got three on one and beating up a white woman with a two-by-four, by God, you’re a thug,” Beck said.

Ray added, "And by the way, there are people in the black community who would say they are acting N-word-ly."

"But they can say that. You can't say that," the producer told her.

Beck said, "It's a double standard." To which Ray responded, "And I don't appreciate the double standard."

The producer, who was not fired, tells them it does not matter and that they do not understand the meaning of the word. He also said he apologized to anyone "who is offended by that."

Beck responded, "No one is offended."

But people were. Ray and Beck faced swift backlash.

In a tweet Tuesday night, Alex Yudelson, chief of staff for Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, called on iHeartRadio to terminate Ray and Beck immediately for their "unbelievably vile, racist comments."

"They have no place anywhere in society, but especially in the city of Frederick Douglass," Yudelson said.

Another iHeartRadio host, Deanna King, who is on "The Brother Wease Show," also on Radio 95.1, said she was appalled by what was said on the air Tuesday afternoon.

"I have never and would never spew such racist hate," King tweeted Wednesday morning. "I've told management I won't work at a company that employs people like this. I’m raising my children to love everyone and stand up for what is right. I will, too."

In a statement Wednesday, Robert Morgan, an iHeartMedia regional president, said, "We made the decision to terminate Kimberly and Beck yesterday as soon as we learned of their comments and informed them early this morning.

"We will not tolerate this kind of behavior, which is antithetical to our core values and beliefs and to our commitment to our community and everyone in it," the statement said.

Ray said she could not comment when reached by phone Thursday. Beck did not immediately return a request for comment.

Their termination was welcomed by the Rochester Association for Black Journalists.

"To suggest people were acting 'N-word-ly' is deplorable, insensitive and detrimental to our community — particularly during the current climate," the organization said in a statement. "These remarks by Kimberly and Beck were clearly racist and should not be on the airwaves."

The organization said it hopes this incident "serves as a clear example for the desperate need for more diversity on the iHeart radio stations in Rochester."

This was not the first time the duo was fired over remarks they made on air, according to the Democrat and Chronicle and Syracuse.com.

In 2014, they were terminated by a different Rochester station after they made fun of transgender people. They were also sued for slander in September 2015 by a philanthropist and former businessman who said they accused him of being a drug dealer during a live broadcast, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.