YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Complaints Lodged Over Deejay's Call for Killing Homeless : Protest: Groups opposed to radio host's remarks file objections with the FCC and stage demonstration at KFI-AM.


Advocates for the homeless Thursday staged a demonstration and filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against a local radio station whose early morning talk show host called for the extermination of street people.

"If homeless people cannot survive on their own, why shouldn't they be put to sleep?" was the question KFI-AM (640) "shock jock" Emiliano Limon posed to listeners this summer, adding that he was not trying to boost ratings but truly believes the homeless should be killed because they are "a burden . . . a waste of space."

One caller agreed, voicing the Nazi salute " Seig heil " and suggesting: "Let's start building the ovens, baby." To which Limon responded: " Mach schnell (right away)."

Limon, 26, a novice broadcaster who earns $140 a week for hosting the Sunday morning show, said Thursday that he regrets using the German phrase and did so only in jest without knowing what it meant. But Limon's limited apology fell short of demands by homeless advocates, who say his attitude is symptomatic of a growing national intolerance toward the plight of the poor.

Two groups filed complaints Thursday with the FCC--the Los Angeles County Commission for Public Social Services, an advisory group appointed by the Board of Supervisors, and the Los Angeles Coalition to End Homelessness, a private, nonprofit organization. About 25 members of the coalition also staged their second protest demonstration outside the radio station on Armore Street near downtown Los Angeles.

The coalition called on the FCC to force the station to provide equal time on the air for contrasting opinions and for an early review of the station's license. The commission's complaint sought no specific remedy from federal authorities.

"Just as it is well-established that free speech does not entitle one to yell 'fire' in a crowded theater, so too must journalists avoid invitations to murder or other forms of violence," the commission stated in its FCC complaint.

But the station and several anti-censorship groups defend Limon's right to voice his opinions.

"I don't believe these are the kind of statements, bankrupt as they may be, that the government should have a role in suppressing," said Terry Francke, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition. "The First Amendment, after all, is not intended for the expression of pleasantries, but precisely to protect expressions that people find repugnant."

KFI program director David Hall agreed: "We're sorry if Emiliano offended anyone, but we stand behind his right to say what he wants."

Milton Gross, chief of the FCC's political branch in Washington, said the station is not required to provide equal time to the coalition or any other group, because the rule known as the Fairness Doctrine was repealed seven years ago.

However, Hall said the radio station will broadcast Limon's show live this Sunday from a homeless shelter "somewhere in Southern California" to give homeless people a chance to contradict the host's opinions. Limon has been a volunteer worker there for the past three weeks, shelter officials confirmed, but Hall asked that the shelter location not be revealed because he is concerned about Limon's safety.

"The shelter operators will pick the homeless people Emiliano will interview so it doesn't look like we're stacking the deck," Hall said.

But Bob Erlenbusch, the coalition's executive director, said allowing Limon to confront the homeless will not satisfy the group's demands for equal time. Pointing out that Limon compared homeless people to unwanted dogs, Erlenbusch said, "He owes 50,000 homeless people an apology. It is particularly important to draw attention to this when the mood of the country is . . . for ripping kids out of their mothers' arms and putting them in foster care or orphanages in the name of welfare reform."

Erlenbusch acknowledged that the coalition has received more than $120,000 in donations from another radio station, KROQ-FM (106.7), since the coalition criticized it for a disc jockey's comments mocking the homeless. But Erlenbusch said the group is not using the Limon incident as a vehicle to solicit money from KFI.

"It's a matter of principle only," he said.

Limon said his experience as a volunteer at the shelter has made him realize that some homeless people who fall on hard times indeed deserve compassion. But his new solution to the problem is unlikely to satisfy homeless advocates. Rather than exterminating those "who don't want to improve their situation," Limon said he now believes that they should be herded into camps "out in the desert."

Los Angeles Times Articles