Caraballo urges party to distance itself from radio station

by MAX PIZARRO
PoliticsNJ.com

In the wake of last week’s state trooper flap, Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo says he will recommend to his party's leadership that the Democrats not run advertisements in the fall with 101.5, one of 12 stations owned and operated by Millennium Radio.

On their daily talk show, 101.5’s the Jersey Guys over the years have butted heads with then-Acting Gov. Richard Codey, the Latino, Asian and gay communties, and now the New Jersey State Police.

The latest dustup occurred last week when the show’s hosts discussed on the air State Trooper emails in which officers vowed to step up ticket writing in the wake of bad publicity the department received following Gov. Jon Corzine’s car accident. The comments drew a call from David Jones, president of the State Troopers’ Fraternal Association and a 28-year veteran who had already been fuming over past comments the Jersey Guys allegedly made about a trooper killed in the line of duty.

Citing the inflammatory nature of the latest on-air remarks, Jones subsequently revealed publicly the home address and license plate number of Jersey Guys co-host Craig Carton.

On Friday, State Police Colonel Rick Fuentes asked Jones to stand down. But the troopers are adamant in making their case that the Jersey Guys are using the bully pulpit of their radio show irresponsibly.

“We have documented cases of motorists challenging troopers and making derogatory remarks,” said Christopher Burgos, first vice-president of the fraternal association. “We believe free speech has to be accountable. The longer a trooper is on a highway stop, the greater the chances are of something happening.”

He said what the talk show hosts did was akin to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, a key fundraiser for the Democratic Party, has himself been the butt of ethnic and sexual jokes on the Jersey Guys’ show. His friends say he’s not about to press for advertising with the Jersey Guys.

The talk show hosts, Carton and Ray Rossi, regularly target the majority party. On the radio station’s website they appear in a photograph with U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie and note they have “unveiled an information program for the people of New Jersey to report politicians taking part in despicable acts such as bribery, fraud, pension padding, nepotism, cronyism and other mischievous acts.”

But their critics say they have gone too far for too long in demonizing ethnic groups and homosexuals. At one point, the hosts threatened to “out” all of New Jersey’s gay elected officials.

“These guys (the Jersey Guys) make me sick to my stomach,” said State Chairman (and Assemblyman) Joseph Cryan. “I think they hurt people.”

He said it is too early in the campaign cycle to make a determination about advertising, but that the party has no ads on the station now and no plans to run ads.
Michael Jennings, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans, likewise says his party has no ads on the radio station and has no plans to run ads.

“The Senate Minority Leader (Leonard Lance) said we would evaluate the situation in the fall, and at that time we would make a decision regarding whether or not we will run ads,” Jennings said.

GOP State Chairman Tom Wilson said he doesn’t believe the party should pull advertising from 101.5 come autumn when campaigning intensifies.

“I think these guys are entertainers,” Wilson said. “People who listen to the radio show can make up their own minds. Business people looking to advertise doesn’t mean they’re endorsing everything on the show. …I happen to be a Libertarian Republican. If you don’t like what’s being said, don’t listen to it.”

Caraballo disagrees.

Incensed over what he believes is continued race-baiting on the part of the shock-jock talk show hosts, the Newark Assemblyman sees the Jersey Guys as a pair of low-rent Imus’ who mostly specialize in bashing people who are vulnerable.

“They kept doing this stuff because they thought they could get away with it,” said Caraballo, who is in a primary battle in the 29th district. “And now they’ve discovered how funny it is when they put state troopers at risk.”

In Caraballo’s view, there’s a difference between expressing oneself under the provisions of the First Amendment, and exciting what Caraballo describes as “violence and hostility.”

“This isn’t about the First Amendment,” said Caraballo. “In the case of comments they have made about Latinos, they know that those who are undocumented don’t fight back because they can’t risk being deported. They are also hoping that those of us who don’t have this issue of being undocumented won’t respond because we don’t want to be confused. The fact is, it has nothing to do with being documented or undocumented. They’ve insulted my community, and you insulted our intelligence, and we’re going to respond by hitting you where it hurts.”

Where it hurts, Caraballo said, is in advertising revenue, and he celebrated the decision by companies such as AT&T and Dunkin Donuts to pull their advertising from 101.5.

Wilson says there is a line, but in this particular case the issue comes down to intent.

“I don’t think it was the intent of the Jersey Guys to put people in harm’s way,” said the GOP state chair. “I also don’t think it was Dave Jones’ intent to hurt people (by publicly exposing the license plate number and home address of Carton, who lives in Philadelphia, not Jersey). He reacted in the way he thought was appropriate.”

But people desisting absolutely from buying things because there may be messages attached to them that are offensive in some way, would essentially add up to the end of commerce, in Wilson’s judgment. There is no purity in the world, no escape from the taint of a disagreeable subject or subtext.

“Do you not buy gas because it’s from Venezuela? Do you buy clothing made in China knowing the company is not aggressively supporting workers’ rights?” Wilson conjectured. “Where does it end?”

Caraballo urges party to distance itself from radio station