Welcome to another Bubba the Love Sponge news cycle.
Like it or not, Tampa Bay’s most famous – and perhaps infamous – talk radio host has been towed again into the national news conversation, this time after comments Fox News host Tucker Carlson made on Bubba’s show years ago went viral Sunday.
Media Matters for America released a nearly four-minute audio reel in which Carlson refers to women as “extremely primitive” and uses other sexist language. In another clip, Carlson discusses Warren Jeffs, then on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list for arranging marriages with underage girls, in a way Media Matters described as “diminishing” Jeffs’ crimes.
By Monday morning, Carlson was trending on Twitter, along with story after story mentioning the oddly-named shock jock who had Carlson on as a regular guest from 2006 to 2011, when Bubba (who legally changed his name from Todd Clem more than a decade ago) hosted a show on uncensored Sirius satellite radio.
There were also plenty of tweets from people asking some version of “Who is this Sponge guy?” Vox editor Matthew Yglesias tweeted: “I let this go after the Gawker thing fell out of the news but there is a popular talk radio personality who goes by Bubba The Love Sponge?”
It’s not the first time Bubba has made national news like this. A 2007 recording from Bubba’s Tierra Verde bedroom was at the center of a sex tape lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan that took down Gawker.com. And when the Stormy Daniels story broke in 2018, excerpts surfaced from a 2007 interview with the porn star on Bubba’s show in which she discusses an affair with an unnamed man who Bubba says is Donald Trump.
For as much as Bubba’s name was trending online Monday morning, he was missing from the one place you’d expect him: his AM 1040 radio show.
Reached by phone, Bubba said he’d skipped his Monday morning broadcast because he wasn’t feeling well, but also in part because he’d been up late following the Carlson story on Twitter. Also over the weekend, Bubba moved out of the Tierra Verde mansion where the Hogan sex tape was filmed. He said he sold the home, and is temporarily staying with his mother and stepfather in Pasco County.
“I had a pretty important dinner last night with some lawyers and it ran late, so I got home about 11 and the first thing my mom Janey Cakes said was, ‘Have you heard what’s going on now?’ I thought, ‘Do I want to know?’ ”
Bubba said he wasn’t surprised that the Carlson audio had been “dredged up” from years ago.
“It’s part of the snowflake ... America,” he said. “That’s the society we’ve become. If someone is on top, or doing well, and you’re on the opposing side, they drag up anything they can.”
Carlson,who hosts Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, has not been a regular guest on Bubba’s show for years, but does occasionally call in. His last appearance on Bubba’s show was in November 2018 while promoting his book Ship of Fools. Bubba called that discussion “a lot more PG” because it took place on terrestrial radio.
Bubba said that he has communicated with Carlson since the audio clips went viral.
“He assured me he’s not mad at me, and said we’re still friends,” Bubba said. “I don’t think this will affect Tucker one bit. He’s way too big of a star and a commodity for something said on a comedic forum to take him down. Remember, this was my show, it wasn’t Crossfire with James Carville.”
Messages left with Fox News and Carlson’s publisher Simon and Schuster seeking comment were not returned.
Tucker released a statement on Twitter Sunday night:
“Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago ... Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”
Bubba said that his defense of, and appreciation for, Carlson goes beyond his political views.
“I want to make it clear, I didn’t vote for Trump — I think he’s done some good things — but I voted for myself. I’m not MAGA, I’m not Johnny Redpill, so that doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “But this is a takedown. They’re going, ‘Let’s get the biggest star at Fox News and tear him limb from limb.’ ”
Contact Christopher Spata at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @SpataTimes on Twitter.