A radio station in New Jersey has suspended two midday show hosts after they referred to the state’s Sikh attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, as “turban man” on their show Wednesday.
In a clip of the show on NJ 101.5 obtained by NJ.com, show host Dennis Malloy could not remember Grewal’s name during a segment about a recent action the attorney general took in temporarily suspending prosecution of marijuana cases in the state.
“The attorney general, you know, I’m never going to know his name,” Malloy says. “I’m just going to say the guy with the turban.”
“Turban man,” co-host Judi Franco sings.
“Listen, if that offends you, then don’t wear the turban, man,” Malloy says. “And I’ll remember your name.”
“Is that highly offensive?” Malloy asks after a pause.
“To me? No,” says Franco. “To people who wear turbans? Could be.”
Grewal went on Twitter and posted a response Thursday morning.
“My name, for the record, is Gurbir Grewal,” he wrote. “I’m the 61st Attorney General of NJ. I’m a Sikh American. I have 3 daughters. And yesterday, I told them to turn off the radio.”
Grewal is the first Sikh state attorney general in the United States.
“We are aware of the offensive comments made by Dennis and Judi during (the) broadcast,” the station said in a blog post announcing the two had been taken off the air.
The station later said the two were suspended for 10 days and would not return to the air until August 6.
Malloy and Franco issued an apology posted on the station website on Thursday.
“We offer our sincerest apologies to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal as well as the Sikh and Asian communities for a series of insensitive comments we made on our show. For 21 years, the Dennis and Judi show has been unscripted and free-form. We use humor and sarcasm to make a point and add color to the broadcast; in this instance, we were off the mark. It was a mistake we both deeply regret. We respect all cultures and beliefs and are deeply sorry for the pain caused to the Sikh community, our co-workers and our beloved listeners,” the two said in their apology.
CNN has asked Malloy and officials at the station what point he was trying to make when he said, “Listen, if that offends you, then don’t wear the turban, man. And I’ll remember your name.” There has been no reply so far.
New Jersey 101.5/WKXW-FM president, Ron deCastro, said station officials take the comments seriously and echo the hosts’ apology.
“Dennis and Judi are known for their plainspoken brand of humor, but in this case, the language used was clearly demeaning and inappropriate. New Jersey is a state that is rich in diversity, and our radio station has served as the people’s voice for nearly 30 years,” deCastro said.
Megan Daly, spokeswoman for UNITED SIKHS, told CNN: “This is an appalling comment that points to a lack of education and cultural sensitivity.”
She said her organization plans to reach out to the radio station to offer a visit to a Sikh gurudwara, or place of worship.
Sim J. Singh, a senior policy manager with the Sikh Coalition, said in a written statement that his organization had called for the duo to be suspended and for NJ 101.5 “to issue strong public apologies on all of its communications platforms.”
“Sikhs maintain our articles of faith, including unshorn hair and turbans, to represent equality and justice,” he wrote. “However, these visible markers of religious identity also make us a target for bigotry by harassment, bullying of our children, and hate crimes.”
“Hate speech has no place in New Jersey, and it does not belong on our airwaves,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement, calling the comment abhorrent and xenophobic. “Station management must now hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quotation by a Sikh Coalition leader to a UNITED SIKHS spokeswoman.