iHeartMedia, the parent company of KFI-AM radio, suspended Los Angeles radio host Tim Conway Jr. and executive producer Sheron Bellio without pay for an anti-Asian skit they did while on-air on May 3.
A failed attempt at humor:
Conway and Bellio aired a nearly five-minute skit
earlier this month where they pretended to interview Yuko Sakamoto, the wife of radio personality Vic “The Brick” Jacobs, according to Deadline
- Bellio impersonated Sakamoto using a stereotypical Japanese accent while shouting, “Hiya!” and different variations of the Kiai.
- The skit happened days after the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month began.
- Bellio was also named employee of the month on May 1.
Apology and suspension: While on-air on May 21, Bellio expressed her apology to the AAPI community for her actions, adding their “failed attempt at humor” was insensitive.
- Conway admitted they were suspended and said they would return on June 1 with a “fresh perspective.”
- “We believe it’s important to take this time to recognize the issue of hate crimes against Asians that have significantly increased over the last few months,” Conway said. “In fact, these crimes have doubled in the last month.”
- iHeartMedia suspended Bellio and Conway after Guy Aoki, a civil rights activist and founding president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, pressured the company.
- Aoki, however, thinks their apology was not specific enough.
- “We were disappointed that they didn’t mention to their audience what they’d done, so those who weren’t listening when the bit originally aired had no idea why Tim and Sheron are getting suspended,” he said.
- Robin Bertolucci, the station’s program director, described Bellio and Conway’s action as “thoughtless and unacceptable.” She also assured Deadline “the situation is being handled appropriately internally.”
- Sakamoto told KTLA5 she was “not happy about the skit at all,” but “hopes this can be a teachable moment.
What is the radio station doing: As part of the radio station’s plan to combat racism, Bertolucci said KFI started running public service announcements on May 21, educating listeners on how they can help with the anti-Asian hate issue.
- The KFI news team is also preparing a special focusing on anti-Asian violence, what is being done to stop it and what people can do to help.
- The two-hour special will air on May 30 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
- Mark Thompson and Wayne Resnick are filling in during Bellio and Conway’s absence.