As a list of prominent civic leaders who are refusing to appear on radio station WPRO until it fires controversial host John DePetro continues to grow, Republican gubernatorial candidate and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung has said he will not appear on DePetro’s show but will not be boycotting other hosts on the station.
“There has to be some limits about what can be said even on talk radio. John [DePetro] has stepped over the line too many times,” wrote Fung in a tweet late last week.
He continued, via Twitter, to clarify his position:
“WPRO is a private business that employs many Rhode Islanders. I will respect the ultimate decision of their management team and will not interfere in their decision making process. During this time of high unemployment, it would be especially unfair to allow the statements of one person to impact a major employer to the detriment of others. The unions should not be dictating how a business operates. My entire focus is putting Rhode Islanders back to work. I will not be boycotting all hosts.”
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said he can’t remember when he was last on the DePetro show and he doesn’t feel it would be “genuine” to sign the pledge.
According to the website of the group For Our Daughters, www.forourdaughtersri.org, several Cranston officials have signed a pledge supporting the full boycott of WPRO, including City Council members Sarah Lee, Steve Stycos and Michael Farina, Cranston School Committee members Andrea Iannazzi, Jeff Gale, Stephanie Culhane and Michael Traficante and former Cranston council president Anthony Lupino. As of Monday, Warwick Representatives Frank Ferri, K. Joseph Shekarchi and Patricia Serpa had signed the pledge.
Ken Block, who is also seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for the state’s governorship, said in a recent statement that he supports the full boycott of the station.
“As a husband and father, I deplore the insensitivity and mean spirit displayed by John DePetro, and I believe he should have no place on the airwaves in Rhode Island. Therefore, I will decline to appear [on] WPRO as long as John DePetro remains employed by the station,” Block said.
“Helen Glover, Dan Yorke, Matt Allen and many others have delivered conservative viewpoints to their listeners without using vulgar words,” he continued. “You don’t need name-calling to make a compelling argument, and there is no place on the Rhode Island airwaves for discourse that disgusts.”
DePetro has frequently been the focus of controversy during his career, and recently caused an outcry with comments made regarding union members who protested outside a fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate and state treasurer Gina Raimondo. The protestors criticized Raimondo over pension reform, and referred to her as a “crook.”
On his show, DePetro referred to the protestors as “parasites,” “cockroaches,” “union hags” and “whores,” among other names.
Liz Larken, president of the Cranston teachers’ union, was specifically referenced in DePetro’s remarks. She is a member of the steering committee of For Our Daughters, which is described as a “grassroots advocacy organization committed to promoting gender equity and combating misogyny in public speech and debate.”
The group has called on the Rhode Island-based jewelry company Alex + Ani to pull their advertising on WPRO, saying DePetro is “Rhode Island’s loudest hate machine.”
It has also asked elected officials not to appear on the radio station until DePetro is fired.
Statewide leaders listed as having signed the pledge in support of the boycott include Gov. Lincoln Chafee, U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Reps. James Langevin and David Cicilline, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, House Speaker Gordon Fox, Raimondo, gubernatorial candidate and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, state Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio and state Sens. Hanna Gallo and Josh Miller. The Rhode Island Republican Party is also listed as backing the boycott.
DePetro, who has not been on the air in several weeks, apologized for his remarks about the protesters while calling into his own show earlier this month.
“The tone expressed was not consistent with the strong support I have shown women in our state and in my own life,” he said.
On his website, www.depetro.com, DePetro has thanked “everyone who has reached out to me, with all your thoughts and prayers.”
DePetro did not immediately respond to a voice message seeking additional comment on Monday.
There are indications of a pushback from DePetro and his supporters. Most recently, DePetro’s website on Dec. 14 posted a link to a petition on the site www.change.org. The site credits Peggy Price, identified as a “local woman,” with having started the petition in defense of DePetro.
“John DePetro is under attack by a paid organized union smear campaign designed to silence his vocal criticism,” reads an introduction to the petition, which is credited to RI Citizens for Free Speech and addressed to WPRO.
“Do not allow politicians and unions to suppress free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment!” the introduction continues. “We will not tolerate the censorship of the callers or the host of The John DePetro Show!”