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State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Gopal applauds suspension of ‘Turban Man’ radio hosts

By Nikita Biryukov, July 26 2018 11:56 am

State Sen. Vin Gopal on Thursday applauded New Jersey 101.5 suspending Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco after the two mid-day hosts referred to state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who is Sikh, as “Turban Man” throughout a segment on Wednesday.

 

“I think it’s a great, positive move,” Gopal said. “Religious discrimination shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere – it shouldn’t matter what religion, so I’m happy to see 101.5 is taking this seriously.”

 

During a segment on Wednesday, during which the two hosts were discussing the recent freeze Grewal imposed on marijuana prosecutions, Malloy said he could not remember Grewal’s name and said “I’m just going to call him the guy with the turban.”

 

The two then referred to Grewal as “Turban Man” for the remainder of the segment.

 

The station announced later on Wednesday that it was suspending the two hosts.

 

“We are aware of the offensive comments made by Dennis and Judi during today’s broadcast,” the station said Wednesday night. “We have taken immediate action and have taken them off the air until further notice. We are investigating the matter and will have further comment shortly.”

 

It was not immediately clear what was being investigated.

 

The incident has drawn a fair deal of attention on social media and gained some national coverage after Gov. Phil Murphy joined the chorus of outrage at the hosts’ remarks.

 

“I’m outraged by the abhorrent and xenophobic comments made earlier today mocking Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on ‘The Dennis & Judi Show’ on New Jersey 101.5,” Murphy said in a statement Wednesday night. “Hate speech has no place in New Jersey, and it does not belong on our airwaves. Station management must now hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments.”

 

But, that reaction has not been uniform, and some of the program’s fans have taken to social media to express their discontent with the station’s decision to waylay the show.

 

The fans’ gripes have some breadth of scope, with some claiming the hosts were making a joke and others claiming the outcry and the station’s response was an infringement of first amendment rights.

 

“Some of the supporters of the hosts are claiming it’s their first amendment rights, and it’s our first amendment right to be outraged, and I think everyone across political lines was pretty much outraged,” Gopal said. “It’s ok to disagree with someone’s policy or their platform, but once you start going after their religion, it’s off the line.”

 

The first amendment is meant to protect citizens from government censorship. That protection does not force a private company like N.J. 101.5 to condone speech it would rather not.

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