Fox pulls all advertising on WEEI, Entercom
WEEI sports radio host Kirk Minihane has been suspended without pay for a week by Entercom Communications, the station’s parent company, for disparaging on-air comments he made about Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews during two recent programs.
Minihane’s suspension was announced Friday night by Entercom president and chief executive David Field, just hours after Fox Sports informed him it was pulling all advertising from the company’s more than 100 stations nationwide, including WEEI.
“Kirk Minihane’s statements regarding Erin Andrews were offensive and deplorable,” Field said. “It is clear by the response from our listeners, advertisers, and employees that Kirk’s efforts to apologize and make this right have been insufficient and ambiguous. We want to make it unequivocally clear that his comments were unacceptable and do not reflect Entercom’s values and standards.”
Minihane, one of three cohosts of the morning drive “Dennis and Callahan” program, referred to Andrews as a “gutless b----” July 16 while discussing the sideline reporter’s awkward interview with Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright during the All-Star Game.
Minihane apologized for his comments in a statement posted on WEEI.com that night. But upon returning from vacation Wednesday — his first day on the air since the original comments — he punctuated a verbal apology by suggesting that Andrews’s success is based on her looks rather than ability, saying if she “weighed 15 pounds more she would be a waitress.”
Entercom’s announcement of Minihane’s suspension came approximately two hours after a letter from Fox Sports president Eric Shanks to Field was obtained by the Globe.
In the letter, Shanks informed Field that all Fox advertising would be pulled and no Fox Sports personalities would be permitted to be guests on WEEI.
“The comments made by Mr. Minihane were boorish and sexist,’’ wrote Shanks.
“Further, the ‘apology’ made by Mr. Minihane was juvenile and insincere. To make matters worse, the ‘apology’ was posted under a banner (allegedly approved by your Boston VP and Market Manager, Phil Zachary) hailing ‘The Triumphant Return of Kirk Minihane.’
“I had hoped by this time we might hear a sincere apology from WEEI, or perhaps someone from your office might have reached out to Fox (which through our film and television businesses is a significant advertiser on Entercom stations),’’ Shanks added. “However, none of that has been forthcoming, and needless to say we are disappointed.”
A Fox Sports spokesman said it is uncertain how much the network spends nationally in advertising on Entercom stations.
Entercom owns more than 100 stations in 23 markets.
Minihane and Zachary declined to comment.
“I regret that we need to take this action, but as one of our executives reminded me, “sometimes you need to vote with your feet,’’ Shanks wrote.
Katie Prisco-Buxbaum, vice president of communications for the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women, said Friday that Minihane’s latest comments raised questions of whether he had learned anything from the controversy.
“I think there has to be some sort of repercussions for continuing misogynist attacks on the air,” Prisco-Buxbaum said.
“This wasn’t a question of him . . . critiquing the job she was doing; he was just hurling hate speech at her.”
She said such language remains common in many male-dominated professional fields, whether sports, politics, or journalism, and that it can be considered normal in those arenas.
She said the suspension and Fox’s decision to pull advertising showed that there are consequences for such behavior.
“We’ll see what happens after his suspension, but I do think that at the very least some sensitivity training is in order,” she said.
Minihane’s on-air comments came when he was reacting to Andrews’s July 15 interview.
It appeared that Wainwright had acknowledged to reporters that he tossed easy pitches to New York Yankees star Derek Jeter in Jeter’s last All-Star game. Minihane accused Andrews of throwing a softball herself by failing to ask Wainwright follow-up questions and for blaming the ensuing controversy on social media.
“What a b----,” Minihane said on-air. “I hate her. What a gutless b----. Seriously, go away. Drop dead. I mean seriously, what the hell is wrong with her? First of all, follow up. Secondly, the guy admitted he did it. He told reporters that he threw a couple of pipe bombs to Jeter. So how is that social media’s fault?”
Cohost Gerry Callahan also called her a “bubblehead.”
In 2003, both Callahan and John Dennis were suspended for two weeks after Dennis compared a gorilla that had escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo to a Metco student waiting for the bus. Metco sends mostly black urban students to suburban schools.
The night Minihane made his comments, he issued an apology, saying, “My choice of words was wrong; I was wrong to have used them.”
”It was immature and completely uncalled for,’’ he added.
But the controversy continued. Candidates for governor were among those who weighed in.
“In 2014, when we want our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters to be treated with respect, this language was offensive and absolutely unacceptable,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement to the Globe last week.
“Erin Andrews is a professional who was doing her job, and a woman should be able to do her job without those outrageous comments.”
Last week, Republican Charlie Baker also said: “As a dad with a young daughter, I find these derogatory remarks toward women shocking and completely unacceptable,” he said.