Capitulating to the demands of civil rights organizations, Walt Disney Co. publicly apologized Tuesday for its role in an "inappropriate and unacceptable" radio promotion called "The Black Hoe," but critics rejected the gesture and said they will go forward with a boycott against the Burbank firm.
The apology came moments after black groups assembled in Los Angeles to denounce the family entertainment giant for allowing its KLOS-FM radio station last year to distribute dark, plastic gardening tools called "Black Hoes" as gag prizes on the air to listeners and advertisers.
Disney issued the statement after leaders from the Congress of Racial Equality told The Times they would call for a national boycott of the corporation Tuesday unless it publicly apologized and promised to revamp its syndicated "Mark & Brian" show, which broadcast the "Black Hoe" promo--a double-entendre for black whore--to millions of listeners around the nation.
As the news conference at CORE's Los Angeles headquarters was about to begin, Steven M. Bornstein, president of Disney's ABC division, released the following statement: "We would like to say publicly what employees involved were told then: This incident was inappropriate and unacceptable. The promotion could be viewed as offensive and derogatory. We sincerely apologize to our employees and anyone else for any offense that has been taken."
CORE Vice Chairwoman Dr. Sandra Moore said she is glad that Disney has admitted that the "Black Hoe" promotion was a mistake but believes the corporation needs to do much more to police the "insensitive antics" of KLOS-FM deejays Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps.
"This is much too little and much too late. We still intend to boycott," said Moore, who was joined at Tuesday's news conference by representatives from the Brotherhood Crusade and the Black Defense League. "ABC has admitted publicly that the 'Black Hoe' promotion ran for six weeks before management at the radio station did anything to stop it.
"The company needs to realize that these are public airwaves that Mark and Brian are contaminating with their racist slurs and bigoted jokes. Disney has a real problem on its hands here with Mark and Brian, and I think what they have to do is force these guys to undergo some sensitivity and diversity training. They need to stop the hatred."
Thompson and Phelps were unavailable on Tuesday, but ABC's Bornstein said the company required all staff members at KLOS-FM to take diversity training after several employees complained about the "Black Hoe" promotion. Bornstein also said KLOS-FM management already apologized to every employee who complained and disciplined those who were directly responsible for the "Black Hoe" promotion. ABC did not say how the employees were disciplined.
That, however, is not the way KLOS-FM Traffic Manager Judy Goodwin remembers her bosses handling the "Black Hoe" affair.
Goodwin, who filed a racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit three weeks ago against Disney, ABC and KLOS-FM, contends that she never received an apology from anyone in the corporation. In her suit, Goodwin claims just the opposite, maintaining that she became the target of harassment and retaliation after she complained about the promotion.
Goodwin's suit also disagrees with the notion that the individuals responsible for the campaign were disciplined. To the contrary, Goodwin names several of those KLOS executives as defendants in her harassment suit and alleges that each has since been promoted within the Disney organization.
According to the suit, KLOS executives, despite warnings by employees concerned about the sexual and racial slurs, ordered thousands of dark plastic gardening tools to be printed with the slogan "The Black Hoe." During July and August last year, station management directed the staff, including female black interns and employees, to ship the gadgets to advertising clients and listeners.
After her complaints, Goodwin was taunted by white male managers who snickered as they passed the gag gifts around the office, the suit contends. White managers and employees also shouted jokes to one another in "stereotypical, mock black accents" about how much "they loved their own personal Black Hoes," the suit says.
An ABC spokesperson this week said her suit was without merit.
KLOS-FM is one of Disney's strongest broadcast properties, generating total advertising revenue last year of about $27 million, analysts say. The "Mark & Brian" morning show is a key program on KLOS-FM, which ranks among the top 20 radio stations in L.A.