Barking up wrong tree on the Olympics: Minister of Culture

March 8, 2018 GMT

Barking up wrong tree on the Olympics: Minister of Culture

CLEVELAND, Ohio-Last Sunday I went to my radio dial to hear my favorite classical music program hosted by Dennis Lewin. The Dennis Lewin Radio Program on WCLV FM wasn’t there. Instead of Lewin, I heard a show featuring The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

I thought what the heck? I needed my weekly shot of local culture.

I first met Lewin when he was playing keyboards for Beau Coup, a local rock sensation in the late ’80s. His whole family - his grandfather, dad, sister and brother - are all musical geniuses. Lewin, a classically trained pianist, has been doing his 2-hour radio show at noon on Sundays on WCLV FM 104.9 for ten years. The guy is an institution. Pop, rock, jazz, classical ... he plays it all.

So, I call Lewin to ask what’s going on? Where is he? He said you’ll never believe it. On his February 18 broadcast, between playing music he was jawboning with the board operator. He asked him if the Olympics were still going on. The guy says yes. Then the board op asks Lewin if he’s been watching the games. According to Lewin, he said he wasn’t because he had a problem with the fact that in Korea they eat dogs.

Lewin, a pescatarian, is a big animal guy. He has a sweet dog named Glennda.

I read a story in USA Today around the time of the Olympics that stated 2.5 million dogs are raised in North and South Korea every year for human consumption. Often the dogs are treated badly before they are devoured.

Lewin says he didn’t make a big deal about it on the air. He just said the dog issue turned him off to the rest of the event. Then he went back to music. It didn’t amount much more than a casual comment, he says.

A woman who was listening to the show in her car emailed the station to complain, according to an email WCLV Station Manager Jenny Northern sent to Lewin. Northern’s letter said the listener was born in Korea, and took offense at the comments. The listener also mentioned that Lewin had made other ethnic comments on air, including “Polish jokes.”

In her email, Northern asked Lewin - who admitted to making the remarks - to apologize to the listener, as well as on the air, for his words that were perceived of as derogatory to specific ethnic groups. He was also told that making ethnic jokes, which he admitted to doing as well, would not be tolerated

Lewin was told that going forward his show was to be pre-recorded, and reviewed by the station before it aired. He chose to resign instead.

I called the station for a response. In an email reply, Communications Specialist Calle Andrus said “Based on a mutual agreement between the producer and the station, The Dennis Lewin Radio Program will no longer continue to air on WCLV 104.9 ideastream. As of Sunday, March 4, concerts from The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will be broadcast from noon to 2 p.m.”

Lewin, for his part, is now broadcasting on WHKW 1220 AM. “The Dennis Lewin Radio Program: Turning You On to Classical Music WHKW” will air at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoons.

You want to know how good he is? It took the entire Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to replace him at WCLV. Impressive.