Radio host Matt Siegel of Kiss 108 FM′s “Matty in the Morning” returned to the airwaves Thursday following his abrupt sign-off during Wednesday’s broadcast after being told to stop joking about pop star Demi Lovato’s announcement that they are non-binary.
Siegel, who said he was being muzzled by the station, initially told listeners he was “ending [his] portion of the radio show,” but later said in a text, “I ain’t leaving.”
And on Thursday, he was back.
“I’m here. Good morning,” Siegel said as he opened the show, before diving into what happened during Wednesday’s show.
“I was on a roll, and I haven’t been on a roll in a long time,” Siegel said. And that’s when I got the call [from corporate management] and I just snapped. I just said, ‘I can’t be here anymore.’”
At issue were comments Siegel made while discussing Lovato’s announcement that the singer would be changing their pronouns. Siegel said his boss at iHeartMedia, which owns Kiss 108 FM, called him and told him to stop.
Siegel’s comments drew criticism from a prominent transgender rights group and online observers as insensitive and harmful.
Siegel spoke about Lovato’s announcement again Thursday morning.
”Somebody has to say this is ridiculous, you know. And the company was like – ‘What? You can’t talk about that,’” he said. “It’s like somebody has to say ‘Are you kidding?’ Like life’s not complicated enough. Now you’re telling young people they don’t know what they are. I say, please. You know what I’m saying?”
Siegel said that after Wednesday’s show, he talked at length to his wife, who said “You’re not ending your career over bleeping Demi Lovato.” Siegel said he also spoke with the company and received “full support” and “the freedom to say what I want.”
“So I’m here,” Siegel said.
What bothered him most amid the rush of headlines that followed Wednesday’s segment, he said, was that many thought it was part of a “radio stunt.”
“It was no radio stunt, if you were looking at my eyes when I wanted to quit,” Siegel said.
Siegel went on to say said that if “we live in a world where you can’t say what you want, and I’m not talking about swearing, but in traditional radio boundaries, if I can’t say what I’m thinking I don’t want to do it any more.”
But for financial reasons, he said, he did not want to walk away from his career.
“It’s their inheritance,” he said, referring to his children.
During Siegel’s Wednesday rant, he said he was “going against the ‘woke thing,’” according to a recording of the segment uploaded to YouTube.
“It’s a joke,” he said, “the whole binary thing. I don’t care what Demi Lovato does. But now we have to worry about ‘you might offend someone.’”
In an interview with Boston.com Wednesday, Siegel echoed those sentiments, adding “We were having fun with it ... it’s a comedy show, so I did it in the context of jokes.”
Siegel faced similar messaging from the radio station prior to the November presidential election when he was criticizing Donald Trump.
“They pulled the plug on me and they said ‘You cannot talk about what you’re talking about,’” Siegel said. “If I’m left wing and I go anti-Trump, I get in trouble, and today I was anti-wokeness and I can’t do that.”
The radio station’s general manager Alan Chartrand said on Wednesday that Siegel “threatens [to quit] all the time in a joking kind of way. This isn’t the first time he’s threatened this would be the last show.”
Siegel’s comments prompted pushback from advocates for the LGBTQ community.
“Public understanding of what it means to be non-binary is growing and listeners expect better from the media and people with a platform,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, wrote in a statement to the Globe.
“When a prominent person such as Demi Lovato shares their story, it matters. It tells other non-binary folks that they are not alone. Lovato and other non-binary and trans people are worthy of respect. We are not jokes or punchlines. We’re your neighbors, your coworkers, friends, and family members.”
Siegel, who launched the 6-10 a.m. show in 1981, celebrated its 40th anniversary in January.
Travis Andersen and Mark Shanahan of the Globe staff and Kevin Slane of the Boston.com staff contributed to this report.