Radio hosts apologize for NJ attorney general 'turban man' slur

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A New Jersey radio station has pulled two hosts from the air for repeatedly referring to the state's attorney general as "turban man" during their show.

New Jersey 101.5/WKXW-FM hosts Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco made the comments Wednesday while discussing Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's recent order to suspend marijuana prosecutions in the state.

In a statement issued Thursday, the hosts said they respect "all cultures and beliefs" and "deeply regret" their comments. "We offer our sincerest apologies to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal as well as the Sikh and Asian communities for a series of insensitive comments we made on our show," Malloy and Franco said. "For 21 years, the Dennis and Judi show has been unscripted and free form. We use humor and sarcasm to make a point and add color to the broadcast; in this instance, we were off the mark."

The station suspended the hosts for 10 days. Ron deCastro, the station's president, said in a statement that he echoed Malloy and Franco's apology.

"Dennis and Judi are known for their plainspoken brand of humor, but in this case, the language used was clearly demeaning and inappropriate," deCastro said. "With Dennis and Judi’s help, we will use this incident as a learning moment to further a dialogue of inclusiveness for all residents of our great state."

Grewal is the country's first Sikh-American attorney general. (Many men who practice Sikhism do not cut their hair and thus cover their head with a turban, which is considered sacred.)

Malloy and Franco acknowledged their words might be offensive, but Malloy said: "if that offends you then don't wear the turban and maybe I'll remember your name."

Grewal responded on social media Thursday morning.

"My name, for the record, is Gurbir Grewal. I'm the 61st Attorney General of NJ," Grewal tweeted. "I'm a Sikh American. I have 3 daughters. And yesterday, I told them to turn off the radio."

In response to a request for an interview with Grewal, his director of communications told Fox 5 via email that the attorney general "is back to conducting the work of the state this morning" and would not be doing interviews.

The ACLU of New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy, and several other New Jersey officials denounced the hosts' statements.

"Outraged by the abhorrent and xenophobic comments mocking @NewJerseyOAG on The @DennisandJudi Show on @nj1015. Hate speech has no place in NJ, and does not belong on our airwaves. Station management must hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments," Murphy tweeted. "Hate speech has no place in NJ, and does not belong on our airwaves."

Before becoming the state's attorney general, Grewal served as Bergen County prosecutor, which the chief law enforcement officer of the state's most populous county.

Ramsey Police Chief Bryan Gurney expressed his support of Grewal.

"Gurbir is a man that will look you in the eye, shake your head and then ask about your family. He remembers everybody's name and the name of your children," Gurney tweeted. "New Jersey is very lucky to have him as our attorney general. Any disparaging remarks about him or ignorant."

Ravinder Bhalla, the mayor of Hoboken, is also a Sikh-American who wears a turban. He expressed his outrage at the radio hosts' comments.

"Hey 'Racist Man' @DennisandJudi : I'm a Jersey guy, born & raised, and so is NewJerseyOAG Grewal - this type of racist garbage has no place in Jersey. Get with the program!"

During his campaign for mayor in 2017, racist flyers featuring a picture of Bhalla with the message "Don't let TERRORISM take over our Town!" were posted in public. After his election, he told Good Day New York that the flyers were "very hurtful" but familiar.

"I'm as American as apple pie. I played Little League baseball," Bhalla said."I'm a die-hard Yankees fan. My mom was a soccer mom."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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