A Buffalo, New York, radio show host was fired Wednesday after he likened Black women’s complexions to toaster settings.
During The Morning Bull Show on 97 Rock, host Rob Lederman confessed his skin tone desirability preferences to co-host Chris Klein and lead host Rich “Bull” Gaenzler.
#NEW: – Cumulus Media, the owner of 97 Rock, announced Wednesday they “swiftly terminated” morning show host Rob Lederman citing his comments are in direct violation of their company principles. MORE: https://t.co/zE7eFsQiHy
— News 4 Buffalo (@news4buffalo) March 25, 2021
Lederman went on to mention that he needs “a little bit of mulatto still coming through,” before Klein interrupted.
“Is Gayle King not your realm?” she interrogated. Lederman replied, “Gayle King is not even on my toaster level.”
ESPN reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques tweet audio of the conversation.
Didn’t hear this live but internet keeps receipts. @97RockBuffalo morning hosts compared how they like their toast to black women’s skin tone. So just in case y’all missed it too, take a listen pic.twitter.com/6nVolu5a23
— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) March 24, 2021
In response, the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists took their frustrations to Twitter as one of the many groups responding to inflammatory on-air exchange.
A spokesperson for Cumulus Media, the owner of 97 Rock, released a statement to WKBW announcing Lederman’s termination in addition to both Klein and Gaenzler being suspended.
“CUMULUS MEDIA operates from a clearly-defined set of programming principles and there is no question that Rob Lederman’s comments made on The Morning Bull Show are in direct violation of those principles. We swiftly terminated him and suspended the remainder of the show’s on-air talent. We apologize, and deeply regret the incident.”
In an interview following the Wednesday morning episode, Lederman explained how he does not align with racism and that the incendiary comments were out of character.
“I never saw myself as anything close to even thinking a racist thought,” he told The Buffalo News. “It’s just not who I am. So when I heard that and heard how it sounded, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, that sounds terrible.’ Now, can I take back those words? No. If you listen to them, were they meant to be hurtful? Absolutely not.”
The former comedian’s comments ignited fierce backlash from multiple people and organizations including Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who immediately denounced the conversation on Twitter.
“The racist commentary made on The Morning Bull show on 97 Rock is outrageous and intolerable,” he wrote. “There is no place in our society for these statements or beliefs. I strongly condemn what these individuals said on the radio this morning.”
Another Twitter user wrote, “I won’t lie and say these comments didn’t impact me. As a black woman, I’ve heard things like this all my life. That does not mean they hurt any less.”
Due to Gaenzler’s involvement, not only was he suspended from 97 Rock, but he was also fired from his role as University of Buffalo public address announcer, according to WKBW.
“The University at Buffalo Division of Athletics is committed to sustaining a culture of diversity and inclusion and strongly denounces racism in all forms. Rich Gaenzler is not currently under contract with UB Athletics. We will move forward with [the] selection of another public address announcer for UB football games next season.”
Another group that employs Gaenzler, Pegula Sports, also joined the bandwagon and extinguished his duties as in-arena host for the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bandits.
One of 97 Rock’s sponsors, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, removed advertisements for the radio station from their lineup.
“Immediately upon learning about this exchange, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation and the Ride for Roswell pulled all ads and marketing from this station,” they said in a statement, WKBW reported. “The comments this morning conflict with our values and culture. We embrace actions that respect the dignity and equity of all people, and forcefully reject any and all forms of racism.”
Lederman’s exit comes after working with 97 Rock for the last 30 years, where he became a prominent figure.
“I wish you knew me,” he said, according to WGRZ. “And I wish that you were not judging me by any ignorant comments that I made in an attempt to be funny. That failed miserably.”