By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com May 22 2014 1:10 PM ET
Following yesterday’s extraordinarily transphobic segment, Kimberly Ray and Barry Beck, hosts of The Breakfast Buzz on Rochester, N.Y., radio station 98.9 The Buzz, were fired by the station's parent company, Entercom Rochester.
"This morning Entercom fired Kimberly and Beck effective immediately," Entercom Rochester vice president and general manager Sue Munn said in a prepared statement. "Their hateful comments against the transgender community do not represent our station or our company. We deeply apologize to the transgender community, the community of Rochester, and anyone else who was offended by their comments. We are proud of our past work on behalf of the local LGBT community and we remain committed to that partnership."
The segment, which featured the hosts playing on a number of false and hateful antitransgender clichés, quickly drew the ire of local and national media outlets, along with many of the show’s listeners.
“It’s nonsense broadcasts like this that spreads harmful misinformation, encourages bullying, and shouldn’t be tolerated by radio stations nor its advertisers,” Andrea Raethka wrote in a Rochester Democrat & Chronicle editorial. “I plan on contacting the radio station to express my disgust as well as express my disappointment to their advertisers to let them know I’m not happy with them supporting such hateful, transphobic radio personalities.”
“Amid a stream of transphobic jokes, willful ignorance, and nasty slurs, Kimberly has the gall to suggest that she understands all the ‘sensitivities’ involved in transgender issues,” Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder wrote. “Of course, that’s only when she’s confronted by an impressively brave and eloquent caller who does their best to push back against the morass of prejudice with a little education — ‘[this is] incredibly disrespectful toward transgender people.’ Not that it does much good: Before kicking them off the air, another host, perceiving the caller to be female, says: ‘Thank you,sir.’”
LGBT media watchdog GLAAD was quick to address the issue, reaching out to the station, and posting a public statement.
“Transgender healthcare is not new or outlandish, and it isn't 'special' healthcare, as the sensationalized segment purports,” GLAAD media strategist Dani Heffernan wrote. “It's the same healthcare that non-trans people access everyday when they need it, but it is often denied to transgender people just because of who they are. The hosts should be held accountable for their irresponsible behavior, and at a minimum a formal apology should be issued. Furthermore, listeners of 'Breakfast Buzz' should be directed to resources that provide accurate, fair-minded information about transgender healthcare coverage.”
After initially tweeting, “Freedom of Speech includes the freedom to offend others. You aren’t granted a right to not be offended in this life #getoverit #ROC,” Ray deleted her personal Twitter account. Beck deleted his account soon after.
While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against the government taking legal action against anyone on the basis of their speech, it is not a license to say offensive things without consequences from individuals and employers.