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Bubba the Love Sponge is off the Tampa Bay airwaves

Bubba the Love Sponge Clem is seen on Twitch TV during his broadcast on May 17, 2019. [Photo from video]
Published May 17

TAMPA — For the third time this decade, the voice of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, one of Tampa Bay's most notorious radio bad boys, has been cleared from the local morning airwaves.

Clem on Thursday announced he was unable to negotiate a contract with WHBO-AM 1040, which has aired his 6 to 10 a.m. morning show since February.

‪"Myself and am1040 couldn't come up with a deal today," he wrote on Facebook, "starting tomorrow (Friday) Tampa area listeners please listen via www.BubbaArmy.com or www.twitch.tv/TheBubbaArmy."

On Friday's broadcast, Bubba said he would now focus on growing a digital audience on Twitch, YouTube and TuneIn, until a "sexy" station in the Tampa market came along. He said the program is "almost self-sufficient digitally alone."

"I'm fine with their decision," he said of WHBO's management. "It's just going to make me work harder in Tampa, and that's a good thing. ... The old Bubba would have said I was coming back to bury them and all that. But this is the new Bubba. I wish them all the best."

Then he tuned over to AM 1040 live to listen to his replacement, which he labeled "angry white guy New Jersey sports radio."

The announcement comes a month after foreclosure suits were filed against Clem for his Tampa broadcast studio and his Ocala racetrack. In the suits, Valley National Bank claims Clem owes $94,373 on the property and the studio foreclosure comes following a $77,510 judgment filed against Clem last year over a credit default.

Despite the legal trouble, Clem responded to the story on the Tampa Bay Times Facebook page vowing he would not give up.

"Yes, I've made plenty of mistakes, most of which I'm paying for dearly," he wrote." I will not give up. I will not quit. I will walk into whatever I have left for a studio and do a show that is better than anything that's currently available in most places.''

Records also show Clem owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $140,000 in taxes. He also sold his waterfront Pinellas County home for $1.285 million in March.

ALSO READ: What happened to Bubba the Love Sponge?

Abrupt departures have become somewhat of a norm for Clem. In 2014, he was suddenly let go from 102.5 the Bone and replaced by his former intern-turned shock jock in his own right, Mike Calta. Earlier this year, Clem filed suit against Cox Media, which owns the Bone, and Calta, his chief radio rival, claiming they conspired to personally defame him and ruin his career.

After the Bone, Clem went to WBRN-FM 98.7 in January 2015, but was let go in December 2016 after Nielsen sued him over a ratings-tampering scandal dating back to his Bone days. He then joined the am1040 family in February 2017, bringing his morning show to WWBA-AM 820.

Clem first came to the bay area in 1992 and, after switching to an all-talk shock jock style, and eventually became the biggest name in Tampa radio. In 2004 he was fired from Tampa's 98 Rock, where he had the market's top-rated morning show, after accruing a record-setting $755,000 fine. But by 2005 he was a darling of Howard Stern and had a nationally syndicated terrestrial radio show and an uncensored one on Sirius XM satellite radio.

His star status hasn't come without controversy.

In 2002, he was arrested on a charge of animal cruelty after allowing a wild hog to be castrated and slaughtered in the 98 Rock parking lot, but he was found not guilty. Then there was the controversial Gawker leak of a sex tape featuring Clem's then wife Heather having sex with famed wrestler Hulk Hogan. Hogan is also suing Cox and Calta over the leak, claiming they were responsible for it in a vendetta against Clem.

There was also his feud with Todd Schnitt, another local radio personality, in which Clem's lawyers were accused of setting up Schnitt's lawyer, C. Phillip Campbell, to be arrested for drunk driving. As a result, a police officer was fired and Clem attorney Stephen Diaco, along with two other lawyers, were permanently disbarred.

Recently, Clem was back in the spotlight over decade-old comments Tucker Carlson made on his show that were said to be misogynistic and homophobic.

Fans, dubbed the Bubba Army, appear to remain supportive of Clem.

"In my opinion, this is great news," a Facebook user commented on Clem's announcement. "Public radio sucks and has been holding Bubba Clem back for years. I'll gladly pay to listen. I listen via Twitch every day here in Orlando. I've been listening since '96. I'm not going anywhere."

Staff writers Susan Taylor Martin and Christopher Spata contributed to this report.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at dfigueroa@tampabay.com. Follow @danuscripts.

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