Thursday, January 18, 2018
TV and Media

Bubba the Love Sponge: YouTube audio with n-word not what it seems

Tampa shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem has denied that an audio clip on YouTube featuring him using the n-word is an accurate portrayal, insisting that an anonymous enemy has stolen sound clips and edited them to make him look racist.

The audio appeared Saturday, with Clem voicing a profane version of an advertisement for Vermont Teddy Bears. During the advertisement, which lists different types of toys a man could give to his girlfriend, he touts a "jungle fever bear" to be given when a woman has sex with "n------."

Moments later, he references a "n-----" having rough sex with a woman "Kunta Kinte style." Critics of Clem have circulated links to the audio, which plays over a blank screen, on Twitter and social media outlets for days, saying the audio is proof that the shock jock is racist.

Clem denied the allegation, insisting he never said the words as they appear in the audio, pointing out spots he believed were edited together.

The shock jock theorized "someone who had access to my world" cobbled together the audio from snippets recorded when Clem worked for Clear Channel-owned WXTB-FM (97.9, 98 Rock). He was fired by Clear Channel in 2004; his morning show now airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Cox Radio's WHPT-FM (102.5, The Bone).

"I'm not a racist, period," said Clem. "I never said the word in that manner, ever."

Still, even if the audio has been edited from other clips, doesn't that mean Clem recorded himself saying the n-word? "Did I say (the n-word) at some point? I probably did," Clem said. "But have I said it in a derogatory way, directed at a black man? No. I don't see how I can be labeled a racist for something that was highly edited."

William Brown, a longtime area broadcast engineer and former chair of the Society of Broadcast Engineers' Tampa chapter, said the YouTube clip didn't sound heavily edited when he listened to it. (Messages through YouTube to the account which posted the audio, credited to a Thomas Curry, were not returned).

"It sounds like he's cutting up in the booth just to amuse someone else who was there," said Brown, who listened to the audio at the request of the Tampa Bay Times. "His voice range never changes, breath to breath. In listening to it, I didn't hear anything indicating an edit"

Clem's co-host and most visible African American employee, Broderick Epps — known on air as 25 Cent — also called the Tampa Bay Times separately to speak up for his boss. "That (clip) is the farthest thing from what Bubba really is," said Epps, who had quit the show about eight months earlier after working there 10 years; he returned a few weeks ago. "I think it's unfair."

Still, this isn't the first time Clem has been at the heart of a race-based controversy. He confronted wrestler Kia "Awesome Kong" Stevens on WHPT colleague Mike "Cowhead" Calta's afternoon show back in 2010, calling her a "big fake black b----". His program has featured a parody song on illegal immigration called Those F------ Mexicans, They Gotta Go. And the show features an annual Super Mexican Olympics featuring Hispanic contestants performing stunts to win a Golden Taco prize.

Officials at Cox Radio did not return repeated phone calls for comment. But even though controversies over use of the n-word have damaged the careers of celebrity chef Paula Deen and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, Clem denied much concern about fallout. "I haven't done anything wrong," he said. "I think everybody knows I'm not a racist."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

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