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Published: Tuesday, 1/11/2011

TPS' Pecko says Wilson's apology over comment is insufficient

The Friday remarks were made during Mr. Wilson's afternoon show and elicited calls over the weekend from the NAACP, Urban League, and various school district officials for an apology and an inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the airwaves and can reprimand stations for content of their programs.

Mr. Pecko said he was continuing to consult a lawyer about the possibility of filing a complaint with the FCC. Mr. Pecko said he did not consider the issue one of freedom of speech but of potentially racist speech delivered over the airwaves.

"I think it was a very degrading and callous description, and very disturbing," he said on Monday. "I'm going to wait and see what the attorney says."

Mr. Wilson said over the weekend that he was not referring specifically to TPS students as monkeys and that his comments were not meant to be racial in nature.

During the first portion of his show Monday, he explained that he was equating the school system's focus on students' passing required tests to that of teaching an animal to perform a parlor trick.

He said he could have inserted any animal that is trained through repetitive activity into the metaphor, such as a dolphin or a hamster.

He also said The Blade, in its coverage, misrepresented his comments and "duped" those in Toledo who are sensitive to racial issues into reacting for a story.

"Unfortunately, I used the example of teaching monkeys to peel bananas, little monkeys to peel bananas. I could have used dolphins. I could have used hamster trails, or gerbil runs, or Pavlov's dogs, things along that order, but I didn't, and some people subsequently took offense by thinking I was comparing TPS students with monkeys.

"If you were one of those, then I'm sorry you were offended, but The Blade got it wrong. I never said it. I never inferred it … " he said on his show, Brian Wilson and the Afternoon Drive.

Mr. Pecko, who has been TPS superintendent since early August, said on Monday: "I did listen, and that was not an apology. He was really just restating his position."

The superintendent, who said on Monday he had not heard the entire Friday broadcast, said the comments were directed at students. He also said Mr. Wilson's premise was incorrect and that the school district does not merely teach by rote. He said TPS succeeds in some areas and in other areas needs to raise student achievement.

A glaring issue for the district has been the underperformance of some majority-black, inner-city schools that the state has labeled in "academic emergency."

WSPD is an affiliate of San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications.

A company spokesman did not respond to a Blade request for an interview and did not respond to written questions posed in an e-mail according to instructions laid out in the voice mail of the spokesman's assistant.

Andy Stuart, the station's vice president and general manager, released a written statement Monday that characterized Mr. Wilson's on-air explanation Monday as an apology to anyone offended by his use of the term monkeys.

"He told his listeners that while he did not mean to offend anyone, and was not making a comparison to Toledo's students, he recognizes that his use of this word was inappropriate and he apologized for that," he said. " … We appreciate this opportunity to clarify this matter."

John Jones, president of the Greater Toledo Urban League, criticized Mr. Wilson over the weekend. He called in to the radio show on Monday.

He said that he tried to listen to the entire broadcast on Friday but that it was not available online. He said that later, over the weekend, he was able to listen to the entire broadcast and said that his group has since lessened and revised its criticism of the radio show host.

Mr. Jones said he believes Mr. Wilson was trying to outline some appropriate criticism of the district, in his view. He, however, did not agree that he had been "duped" by The Blade, and he questioned the wisdom of Mr. Wilson's use of the term "little monkeys," a term known to be offensive to the black community.

He said using such terms — innocent or not — is upsetting because the words and history behind them can destroy any hope for real communication on extremely important topics to the community.

"For our organization, and myself, I don't believe that, quote, I was duped, from this perspective: The concern that I had was ... more around the usage of the phrase that could be unfortunately taken out of context and how that could remove the focus from any point being made," Mr. Jones said on the show.

A spokesman for the FCC said that he could not comment specifically on the issue, but he said, in general, there are decency rules stations must follow and that radio stations are licensed in an effort to further the public's interest.

Contact Christopher D. Kirkpatrick at: ckirkpatrick@theblade.com, or 419-724-6134.



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