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KFI-AM Won't Rehire Suspended Host

Radio: Outspoken radio commentator Tammy Bruce came under fire for on-air remarks she made about the Cosbys.

September 03, 1998|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Outspoken KFI-AM (640) talk-show host Tammy Bruce, who came under fire from management two weeks ago for "unfounded, mean-spirited and simply inappropriate" remarks she made about Camille and Bill Cosby in early July, will not be returning to the station.

A KFI spokesman said Wednesday in response to an inquiry from The Times that "as of Aug. 31, KFI decided not to renew her contract."

Bruce could not be reached for comment. But the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the union that represents her, said that today it will "announce union grievances and legal action" against the station for its "attempt to silence her over her unjust suspension and termination."

Both Bruce and her lawyers, Patricia Bellasalma and Matt Fletcher, will attend a press conference at AFTRA headquarters. But Kristen Harper, a broadcast business representative for the Los Angeles local, said that both Bruce and her legal team are not allowed to discuss the situation.

"However, AFTRA is not under a gag order," Harper said.

Nevertheless, in a brief interview Wednesday, Bellasalma said she intends to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in Los Angeles, charging "disparate treatment" against Bruce by KFI and its owner, Cox Broadcasting.

Asked whether this meant that other hosts were not as harshly treated under similar circumstances, she replied: "That is correct."

A KFI spokesman said there was no further comment at this time.

On July 8, during her 11 p.m.-3 a.m. show, Bruce attacked Camille Cosby for an essay published that day in USA Today--the day after Mikhail Markhasev was found guilty of the murder of the Cosbys' 27-year-old son, Ennis. She not only criticized the article but also made derogatory comments about Mrs. Cosby's mental state and her husband's fidelity.

On Aug. 19 and 20, KFI aired a highly unusual, pre-recorded retraction and profuse apology eight times between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. by program director David G. Hall and vice president and general manager Howard Neal for remarks Bruce made six weeks earlier.

Bruce then issued a brief statement saying that her remarks were "protected and defensible speech" and that KFI's reaction had a "chilling effect on the nature of talk radio itself and the importance of the 1st Amendment."

Bruce, 36, an ex-president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, had been with KFI since 1994. She had been on suspension since July 10.

In recent weeks, hosts on the 11 p.m.-3 a.m. show had continued to refer to it as "The Tammy Bruce Show." But as of Tuesday night, hosts Tim Kelly and Neil Saavedra noted that they were on "The Tim and Neil Show."

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