Phone calls poured in to stations across the AM dial to denounce Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who said at a news conference over the weekend that Arizona had become “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry” and that local TV and radio hosts should do some “soul-searching.” “I would say that his comments have incited stupidity around the world,” said Garret Lewis, host of The Morning Ritual on 790 AM KNST. “People have the image now that we’re a bunch of racist bigots and there are shootouts in the streets. Again he has absolutely no proof that any of this is true.”
104.1 FM KQTH, said Mr. Dupnik’s statements “showed him for the buffoon he is.” Later, a caller named Lee called the sheriff “a blithering idiot.” Caller after caller came up with their own colorful descriptions.
In the incredulous language of the AM dial, Mr. Justice defended his show, and dismissed the notion that Arizona’s heated political culture served as the backdrop to the shooting or an inspiration for the suspect, Jared L. Loughner.
“This is a crazy person!” he said. “Politics is out the window — you’re a nutbag! No amount of controlling talk radio is going to change that!”
“People need to go and point fingers,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but some people do. They have to find somebody to demonize.”
Some callers however made it clear that they believed the state’s conservative-leaning radio hosts bore responsibility.
“You ought to be ashamed,” said a caller named Dale to Mr. Justice’s program. “You are part of the problem.”
Mr. Justice, his voice cracking, responded: “There’s nothing I have said on this radio station that could have inspired” this guy.
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