Controversial Milwaukee radio host off the air Monday

JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writer

Monday, November 8, 2004


(11-08) 16:38 PST MILWAUKEE (AP) --

A radio station pulled a conservative talk radio show from the airwaves Monday as Hispanics continued to protest its host and his use of a racial slur.

WISN Radio's parent company, Clear Channel Communications Inc., said Mark Belling's program would return but did not say when.

Several advertisers complained or pulled ads after Belling used the word "wetback" to describe illegal Mexican immigrants on his Oct. 27 show about potential voter fraud in Wisconsin.

"You watch the voter turnout on the near south side (of Milwaukee), heavily Hispanic, and compare it to the voter turnout in any other election, and you're going to see every wetback and every other non-citizen out there voting," he said.

In a statement, Cindy McDowell, market manager of Clear Channel's six Milwaukee stations, declined to say whether the company reprimanded Belling, whose show consistently tops the ratings.

"Everyone deserves a second chance. Mark will return to the air," the statement said.

At the beginning of Belling's 3 p.m. time slot Monday, an announcer said the station adamantly opposes racially offensive language.

The Associated Press could not reach Belling, whose home telephone number is unpublished.

Belling, an occasional fill-in for Rush Limbaugh, at first sarcastically apologized for his comment on the air, then joked about it for days.

Around 300 people demonstrated outside WISN's studios Friday, and Belling issued a seven-paragraph apology Saturday. But Hispanic leaders said it was insincere and too late.

Maria Monreal-Cameron, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, said Monday that Belling should be fired.

"He has every right in the world to free speech. He does not have the right to hate speech," she said, after meeting with the manager of the local CBS affiliate, which airs a weekly television show hosted by Belling.

Around 50 people were outside that station, WDJT-TV, on Monday, carrying signs saying "Belling must go." General manager Jim Hall denounced Belling's radio comments and said it was reviewing its contract with him.

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