Regular Guys' Wachs: "Culture Clash" Over Illegal Immigration Led To Firing
October 24, 2006 at 5:50 AM (PT)
CLEAR CHANNEL Classic Rock WKLS (96 ROCK)/ATLANTA's firing of THE REGULAR GUYS takes an unusual turn as RG LARRY WACHS charges that the firing was a successful attempt by sister Spanish WVVA (VIVA 105.7) morning team JUAN "YOGI" TAPIA and JOSE "PANDA" CARIAS to suppress the REGULAR GUYS' First Amendment rights and smear their reputations in a "culture clash" over illegal-immigration opinions.
CLEAR CHANNEL's firing of WACHS and partner ERIC VON HAESSLER on MONDAY came, according to WACHS, without telling the duo why they were fired and without due process and was the result, he claims, of a months-long campaign by YOGI AND PANDA touched off by an on-air disagreement over illegal immigration. WACHS' comments late MONDAY were apparently prompted by reports that CLEAR CHANNEL and YOGI AND PANDA had planned to release a joint statement today (10/24).
...a culture clash, a suppression of 1st Amendment rights, and a ridiculous smear campaign...
A statement on WACHS' REGULARGUYS.COM blog notes that WACHS and VON HAESSLER "have been silent during a paid suspension while we awaited the results of a company investigation into a minor incident that has since snowballed into something that now demands a public response due to the fact that the principals on the other side are attempting to distort the facts and smear my reputation as a citizen and broadcaster and, in the short term, withhold my income without review or discussion with us."
How This All Began
WACHS says that the genesis of the problem came in MARCH, when the REGULAR GUYS invited YOGI AND PANDA onto their show to discuss the national illegal-immigrant protests and YOGI AND PANDA's support of the protests and boycotts, after which YOGI AND PANDA "complained to local CLEAR CHANNEL management that they had been 'disrespected' and that we should be lectured and punished for being in disagreement and making humorous comments about their point of view, all of which occurred exclusively on the air. CLEAR CHANNEL management told them on more than one occasion that the opinions we express on the air are fair game, as are theirs, and protected not only by CC company policy, but also the 1st Amendment, and that if they didn't want to look bad on the air, perhaps they shouldn't agree to come on our show in the future. Nonetheless, the complaints continued unbeknownst to me through the year."
YOGI AND PANDA's characterization in their lawsuit of the "bathroom incident" of OCTOBER 9 is not accurate, according to WACHS, who says that he was in the restroom first, had his voice recorder out and visible to YOGI AND PANDA when they went in, and "there is no way they could not have seen me, further evidenced by the recording of them yelling insults at me from behind the stall doors, which proves they knew I was there, knew I was recording, blowing up their claims of expectation of privacy, and that they still had an axe to grind about my on-air opinions going back seven months.... They chose to go into the bathroom stall and shout epithets in Spanish, not knowing I understand enough to know they were insulting me. Never have I engaged them in anymore than a simple wave hello off the air in the entire time we both worked there. In addition, the company has approved similar bits like this in the past."
Another Wave Of Complaints
WACHS says that the incident set off another wave of YOGI AND PANDA complaints, to which CLEAR CHANNEL "offered reasonable solutions to satisfy their ongoing and baseless grievances, but, insisting it was about the 'honor of their culture,' Mr. TAPIA and Mr. CARIAS went ahead and filed the criminal charge in FULTON COUNTY MAGISTRATE COURT against me and then filed civil complaints in SUPERIOR COURT of FULTON COUNTY, GA against the company for 'negligent hiring' and harassment and invasion of privacy charges against me personally, omitting in the affidavit the salient fact that all remarks made about them and immigration were on the air, never off the air."
"I have been more than willing, at the company’s request, to agree in writing not to even so much as speak of YOGI AND PANDA on the air going forward," writes WACHS, "for the sake of company harmony, and clear up any misconceptions they have about my opinion of them personally, which was on the favorable side, since they serve their audience well and deliver good ratings numbers and revenue.
"A case of a humorous prank has turned into a culture clash, a suppression of 1st Amendment rights, and a ridiculous smear campaign against me as well as termination of my income without due process."