Radio station apologizes for parade float that some have called racist
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- Neither the G105 radio station's "Showgram" nor its host, Bob Dumas, are strangers to controversy. The popular local morning radio show is known for a range of stunts over the years that follow a familiar pattern: The hosts enrage some of the local citizenry, "Showgram" fans rally to their defense, the station gets free publicity and then apologizes.
This week, "Showgram" is under fire for its float in last Saturday's Raleigh WRAL Christmas Parade. The entry featured a black man dressed in a skirt with fairy wings, strapped to a harness that was suspended from the back of a tow truck. Mr. Dumas, riding on the float, described the scene to parade goers as "Tyrone the Black Christmas Fairy" who was going to turn "crackers" into Beyonce.
Many people watching the parade or reading accounts of it later called the image inappropriate and took to Facebook and Twitter.
"I cannot believe that this happened," Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane wrote on Facebook to a concerned citizen. "Raleigh will not tolerate racism or anything that comes remotely close. This parade is a Raleigh tradition that includes everyone and should be treated as such."
Michael "Breeze" Rackoff, who up until late last week was the director of "Showgram," said he questioned the concept of the Christmas fairy when Mr. Dumas first proposed it in a staff meeting. The man suspended from the truck, Tyrone Dunston, is not a "Showgram" employee but is a longtime fan of the show.
Mr. Rackoff thought the show's parade entry should have had a different motif.
"It was originally going to be a military theme, up until the very last week," Mr. Rackoff said Wednesday. "There was also that idea of Tyrone hanging from a tow truck as a Christmas fairy, and I specifically remember looking at several people and saying, 'Ah, isn't that kind of racially insensitive to drag a black man behind a tow truck, be it in good spirits or not?'
"Obviously, no one thought it was an issue," he said.
But Tuesday, Dick Harlow, market manager for G105 owner Clear Channel Media, apologized to the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, which puts on the parade.
"Some very poor judgment was used," Mr. Harlow told The News & Observer. "It was meant to be a harmless stunt, and it was never our intention to offend anyone."
Jennifer Martin, executive director of the merchants association, said the group and parade sponsor WRAL-TV received complaints about the G105 entry.
"They apologized for what they've done and they regret that what they did was insensitive, and they will not be doing that display again," Ms. Martin said.
The Showgram has a history of trouble. Mr. Dumas and others have faced heat over comments about Lumbee Indians, about "American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino and how motorists can bother bicyclists who are trying to share roadways.
Mr. Dumas has been with the station for 20 years and has worked with a variety of co-hosts.
In 2007, Mr. Dumas was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent successful surgery to have it removed. He now raises money for The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation through his charity, Bob's Buddies. The charity held its annual all-day fundraising drive on G105 on Wednesday.
Ms. Martin said she is unsure whether this incident will affect G105's participation in future parades.
"That's something the parade committee will have to discuss," Ms. Martin said.
The mayor, on Facebook, said she is "glad to see the Raleigh Merchants Association take this seriously."
"I will follow up on this and question G105's participation in Raleigh's public events in the future," Ms. McFarlane said.
First Published November 23, 2012 12:00 am