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Radio Host Blasted for Gorilla Remark

October 2, 2003 GMT

BOSTON (AP) _ The co-host of a popular sports show has apologized for on-air comments comparing a zoo’s escaped gorilla to inner-city students who use a voluntary busing program known as Metco.

John Dennis made the remark Monday on WEEI-AM after seeing a newspaper photograph of the gorilla standing by a bus stop, saying the animal was ``probably a Metco gorilla waiting for a bus.″

The state-run busing program lets minority children from the inner city attend schools in nearby suburbs.

Neither Dennis nor WEEI officials immediately returned calls for comment. Station program director Jason Wolfe told The Boston Globe that Dennis and the station had apologized to schools and Metco officials and that the station was offering to air public-service spots for Metco.

Many of the city’s black leaders weren’t satisfied.

``Based on the fact that he’s making fun of black children, he should be gone,″ said Sadiki Kambon, director of the Black Community Information Center in the Roxbury section of Boston.

However, Metco board chairwoman Kahris White-McLaughlin said she would not seek Dennis’ resignation.

``It was a painful comparison,″ White-McLaughlin said. ``He brought back all of those stereotypical images of Jane and Tarzan and the negative things that people used to say about the continent of Africa. But we’re hoping that out of a bad situation, something good can emerge.″

The gorilla broke out of its enclosure at the Franklin Park Zoo on Sunday, injuring a 2-year-old and a teenager before it was sedated and recaptured almost two hours later.

John Hudson, a black father who has three children who have attended school in the mainly white suburb of Weston, said he wanted to know what Dennis meant by comparing students to wild animals.

``The only relationship I could find with it is the historical association of blacks and apes, from slavery, from the dehumanizing of black people,″ Hudson said.

Hudson and others said the offense was worse than comments by conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh on ESPN that led to his resignation late Wednesday. Limbaugh said Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

``I think it’s worse because you’re dealing with children,″ said Democratic state Rep. Shirley Owens-Hicks. ``I’m speechless. I’m beside myself that there are still people in this world who have such negative, racist thoughts and have the temerity to put those thoughts into words in a public venue.″

The controversy arises in a city that has long struggled with a reputation for racism, fueled primarily by the busing riots in the 1970s, after a court ordered integration of the schools. The voluntary Metco program started before court-ordered busing.


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