LULAC, NAACP criticize local talker

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The Houston chapter of LULAC — the League of United Latin American Citizens — is mad at KTRH-740’s Chris Baker. Again.

KTRH talker Chris Baker

On his highly rated radio program last Friday, Baker had the audacity to read a LULAC press release on the air. It seems LULAC felt the need to weigh in on the illegal-immigrant cop killer via a press release. As Baker pointed out on the air, there was something notable missing from LULAC’s press release on the matter: slain HPD officer Rodney Johnson’s name. That stunned Baker, who encouraged listeners to call LULAC and remind the organization of the murdered officer’s name.

I was listening to the program. It was a good local talk radio host doing some very good talk radio. In fact, the podcasts from Friday still appear to be available on KTRH-740 for anyone who’d like to check them out (I know, crazy concept, listening to audio content for yourself instead of simply relying on a press release about it from a political interest group or from the station itself).

Apparently, however, some idiots decided to call and make threatening, possibly even illegal, calls to the organization, which saw this as an opportunity to turn and attack Chris Baker.

Here’s an excerpt from KTRK-13’s Gene Apodaca’s report:

A day after the murder, KTRH talk show host Chris Baker addressed the issue, urging his listeners to speak their minds about actions and inactions surrounding the death. But LULAC claims listeners did more than that. A 24-year-old receptionist who doesn’t want to be identified took most the calls.

She told Eyewitness News, “The one that got me scared is the one — the man said he was going to come and kick my a** and then shoot me.”

“We can’t let these talk show hosts divide us,” said Rick Dovalina with LULAC. “It is imperative that we keep focus, that we grieve together.”

In a statement from KTRH, the radio station’s program director says, “At no time did Chris Baker encourage his listeners to incite or threaten violence. … While our hosts are free to express their personal opinions about issues and events, KTRH does not take editorial positions.”

And here’s an excerpt from KHOU-11’s report:

On his show Baker read a news release from LULAC that condemned the shooting but didn’t mention officer Johnson by name.

Baker urged listeners to call LULAC to remind them of officer Johnson’s name and LULAC said some callers went too far.

The NAACP is also lending LULAC its support.

“We condemn the irresponsible actions of clear channel communications in creating this needless divisiveness in putting individual’s safety at risk,” said Yolanda Smith with the NAACP Houston Branch.

The Houston chapter of the NAACP Tuesday called for an end to what they said have been violent threats against LULAC.

Johnson’s widow, Joslyn, agrees.

“Please stop the violence” said Jocelyn Johnson. “It’s not going to resolve anything. It’s not going to bring him back. All it does is divide our city and our people. I don’t want it. My family doesn’t want it and Rodney wouldn’t want it.”

Neither Baker nor Clear Channel encouraged anyone to make violent threats against LULAC. That’s something nobody on this blog would defend, and one suspects that Baker’s Clear Channel boss Ken Charles wouldn’t defend that either (or leave any such podcasts on KTRH’s website for days!). Such threats are indefensible, and we condemn them.

However, the same First Amendment that protects the right of organizations like LULAC and the NAACP to express their views also protects the rights of Chris Baker and other talk radio hosts and even lowly bloggers like ourselves to express their views. Sometimes those views are controversial. They might even offend someone, somewhere. But the First Amendment does not end where controversy begins. Indeed, controversial speech is what it’s intended to protect. That’s important to keep in mind when political interest groups are condemning entire media organizations because they disagree with some talker’s point of view.

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX