I'm not sure why it was shocking, it being shock radio and all.
Maybe because news of the earthquake in Haiti was still so raw when he said it, like the front page photo that at first looked like piled-up garbage but turned out to be a sea of bodies outside a Port Au Prince morgue. Maybe because of all that news of babies and orphans and amputations and rescues and the number of dead rising by the day.
"I say f--- Haiti," opined our infamous disc jockey Bubba the Love Sponge Clem in a Twitter message last week. He followed up on his morning show on 102.5 (the Bone) with:
Had your grandpa built that little mud hut a little bit stronger, it probably wouldn't have caved in on you, now would it?
… Maybe this is actually a good thing … It's just a horrible country, it's dirt, it's poverty-stricken, they need a cleansing. Maybe a half a million Haitians that will end up not being around tomorrow … It's a cleanse.
There was more, like a suggestion the country "tap into the hooker market to get things back on track," but you get the flavor.
There's no particular reason to be surprised, given Clem's history, like the on-air slaughter of a pig and the burping, belching, controversial and raunchy content that ultimately got him canned at Clear Channel and hit with a record six-figure indecency fine from the Federal Communications Commission.
Yes, I know. Shock is what these guys do, trying to out-outrageous the last guy. And paying attention to them is like blowing air into a balloon — it just makes them bigger. Turn it off if you're offended, right? Or dial someplace else, like, say, community radio station WMNF-88.5, about as far from Bubba as you can get, where they interrupted programming to raise more than $100,000 in relief.
But sometimes you have to say something.
For the record, he has his audience, his Bubba Nation. No question he has made a comeback at Cox Radio. He got debate going over Mark Lunsford suing the sheriff's office in his daughter's murder and scored an interview with the Marine reservist accused of beating up the priest in a story that went national. It was notable that both candidates in the hard-fought battle for St. Petersburg mayor went on his show despite his reputation. In fact, Clem was talking to Kathleen Ford about a black deputy mayor when she uttered her infamous HNIC comment, words that got some attention before she ultimately lost the race.
Speaking of attention: Clem's Haiti rant got its share. He later posted an apology that said in part: "So I'm man enough now to say I'm sorry for those I offended."
He was still mea culpa-ing on Thursday morning's show, telling a Haitian-American caller from Miami that his words had been "rude," "unfounded," "insensitive" and "knee-jerk."
There's plenty of room for debate on America's role in the world. But our first reaction to tragedy this huge — the help, the outpouring, down to Red Cross donations on our cell phones and celebrities out-millioning each other — is a little like walking next to a stranger who takes a terrible fall. Your first thought is to give a hand up.
Even boors, bullies and Bubbas have a right to their opinions, not to mention to free speech. And so do those who objected, who said this is not okay and got an apology.