The manager of three local radio stations issued an on-air apology and disciplined a pair of Sunday morning talk show personalities, saying they suggested the on-camera shooting deaths of two Virginia journalists was a hoax — to raise support for stronger gun laws.
The comments were made during a Sunday morning call-in show, “Cracker Barrel,” which airs on KTTS FM, KSGF FM and KSGF AM. The stations are owned by the E.W. Scripps Company.
The remarks came four days after the deaths of television reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward from the WDBJ7 station in Roanoke, Virginia. Parker and Ward were shot by a former co-worker on live television.
Stations manager Rex Hansen issued an on-air apology last week saying the “hoax” comments made on Aug. 30 were “not factual, disrespectful and downright wrong.”
Hansen said the discussion took place between the show’s host and his telephone screener, who sometimes contributes to on-air discussions. The show’s host is Joe Rios and the telephone screener is Rick Masters.
In describing their remarks, Hansen said one of the employees said he believed the shooting was a hoax “to the degree that there might have been some thinking that it was intended to influence gun laws, so they fabricated the event.”
“Well, unfortunately two people died. The camera man and his anchor partner. That was a fact,” Hansen said explaining the stations found the remarks inappropriate.
Hansen said the two employees were suspended from the station. He would not give the lengths of their suspensions.
Cracker Barrel is a show that runs from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday mornings during which listeners are encouraged to call in and talk about whatever issues they want to discuss.
Rios was not at the station Tuesday when a reporter for the News-Leader called and asked to speak with him. The Aug. 30 edition of Cracker Barrel is not posted on the station’s websites. The most recent edition of the show posted is from Aug. 2.
Cracker Barrel is not the only place where such conspiracy theories have surfaced. Numerous websites and social media forums contain posts in which people have speculated the deaths of Parker and Ward were faked as a conspiracy to raise support for gun laws.
Hansen’s full on-air apology reads:
“Integrity. Respect. Compassion. Not just words, but three of the core values we live by here at KTTS. I’m general manager Rex Hansen. Last Sunday on Cracker Barrel two of our employees not only displayed poor judgment when talking about the recent murder of two of our colleagues from television station WDBJ in Virginia but went in a direction that was not factual, disrespectful and downright wrong. We apologize for their comments. They do not reflect the values we hold high here at the E.W. Scripps Company. Thank you.”