Bubba the Love Sponge takes victory lap on radio after court win over Todd "MJ" Schnitt
This is what a victory lap sounds like in the world of shock jock radio:
Kicking off his show with a parody song that gloated "I could use your lawsuit to fertilize my lawn," shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem turned his broadcast this morning into an extended celebration following his court victory Wednesday against fellow radio personality Todd "MJ" Schnitt.
Clem, his lawyer and his on air crew spent lots of time this morning talking with a woman they said served on the jury; she had called into the show after they asked jurors to contact them (the judge barred Clem and Schnitt from initiating contact with jurors, keeping their names from the press).
Calling her Jane Doe and disguising her voice, Clem and his crew asked the woman which legal strategies seemed to work, thanking her and the other jurors for taking them time to serve.
"I actually don't think you did anything wrong," "Jane Doe" said on air about Clem's legal strategy, noting that the jurors were sequestered from the news and had no idea of the controversy surrounding the trial, such as a drunk driving arrest involving one of Schnitt's attorneys. "It was crazy...I am in shock and awe."
During the conversation, Clem also said his team allowed one juror to remain who had won a contest on Schnitt's show. And in an exchange which might speak to where the juror worked, Clem asked if he noticed what brand of bottled water he consumed during portions of the trial.
"For the record, that had no bearing (on the jury's decision)," "Jane Doe" said. Earlier, when Clem asked if she wanted free Bubby Army merchandise, she replied quickly: "Hell, no."
"I think I out-legalled them," said Clem, who started his show on WHPT-FM (102.5) talking with reporters from WSTP-Ch. 10 and local cable newschannel Bay News 9 crowded into his Tampa studio at 6 a.m. "The thought we were trying to convey was about the 1st Amendment, and I think the jury got it. The system worked; it really did."
Clem admitted he was nervous as the jury deliberated Wednesday at the end of a two-week trial which local TV stations streamed online every day, drawing coverage from ABC's Good Morning America. Schnitt filed his defamation lawsuit five years ago, alleging that Clem's insults and exhortations to fans damaged him substantially, encouraging fans to confront him in public and throw eggs at his home.
Clem told Bay News 9 this morning he and WHPT owner Cox Radio likely spent "close to $2-million" over the life of the lawsuit, saying he was nearly bankrupted funding his defense.
A six-member jury rejected Schnitt's claims of defamation, deliberating less than three hours. According to a story in today's Tampa Bay Times, one alternate juror, Alana Wilshire, said earlier Wednesday that Schnitt needed to "put on his big-girl panties and get over it...I think anybody that runs and cries and hides in their house needs to grow up, you know? Develop a thicker skin, especially if you're in the public eye."
Schnitt didn't talk to the media crowded into the courtroom Wednesday, but issued several statements on Twitter. "My wife & I were protecting our reputations & also standing up for so many others who have been defamed, but didn't have the means to fight," he wrote. "This was never a 1st Amendment case. I love our Constitution. The 1st doesn't allow you to lie and make false and defamatory statements."
Schnitt also passed along abusive messages from fans of Clem, often called the Bubba Army on air and in the trial: "The jury just elected @toddschnitt as the official village idiot of Tampa Bay!" wrote @MikeDamato1. Another tweeter named @LawlBucci wrote "It's okay, @toddschnitt, your 17 fans still support you..."
Clem said he didn't expect his show to change, given the court victory reinforced their claims that they crossed no lines in their broadcasts. His show this morning turned into a mini party, as Clem aired compliments from callers and asked jurors on the case to call into his show, noting that the judge barred them from contacting jurors but not the reverse.
He didn't say if his team would sue to have Schnitt pay their legal fees; with five years of depositions and a two-week trial, the total amount of funds spent on his defense is likely considerable.
And the judge in the case has not yet ruled on the request for a mistrial lodged by Schnitt's lawyers after their lead attorney was arrested for DUI after drinking with a paralegal from the firm representing Clem. Schnitt's lawyers have alleged the arrest was set up by Clem's attorneys.
On Thursday, Clem talked of hosting a mock funeral for Schnitt, who hosts a 3 p.m show weekdays on WFLA-AM (970), making plans to tell his story on fellow shock jock Howard Stern's satellite radio show and hinting that he might return to satellite radio on Sirius XM himself.
"It's the one dark cloud for five years that's been hanging over our heads," Clem said on air. "My next step is to move on...concentrate on the show and make the show the best I can."