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Carlton: Is ratings scandal the last lap for Bubba the Love Sponge's ride?

Shock jock Bubba Clem has admitted to ratings tampering and now Nielsen is suing him.
Shock jock Bubba Clem has admitted to ratings tampering and now Nielsen is suing him.
Published Oct. 17, 2015

If anyone in this world should understand the perils of an ill-advised text message, it would be one Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.

After all, texts and phone calls were the undoing of his hot-dog lawyers when they set up an enemy attorney for a DUI arrest while representing him — texting back and forth as their scheme played out that night, with a final call to the Sponge himself.

Sadly, that's not even the sleaziest headline in recent memory involving Tampa Bay's infamous shock jock.

A federal lawsuit this week accuses Clem of "purposeful efforts to manipulate the radio audience estimates and station rankings" by paying members of the Nielsen Audio survey panel to distort the numbers in his favor.

The suit says Clem was introduced by a supporter of his show to a listener who had been picked as a Nielsen survey participant to wear a "Portable People Meter" to identify what he listens to. The suit says Clem offered the guy $300 a month to tilt the ratings his way. Plus, a $400-plus bonus if they got 'er done. But hey, absolutely no listening to arch enemy station 102.5.

"Please buddy. Please. I'm paying u!!!" the suit says Clem texted when ratings dropped. And another message indicated he had done this before with a different Nielsen participant.

Seriously, did he learn nothing from his attorney Stephen Diaco, whose own cellphone fever now has him facing lifetime disbarment?

And is anyone surprised?

Clem, whose given name is Todd, has long been a local embarrassment. A live pig is castrated and slaughtered during his morning show. He's later fired after the FCC proposes fining Clear Channel $755,000 for his show's smutty content. There's legal action over a sex tape starring Clem's once-BFF Hulk Hogan and Clem's then-wife, recorded by Clem.

Here's a wonderful thing about America, or at least about radio: your practically constitutional right to change the dial. You can listen to lefty liberals on WMNF or brace yourself for a dose of Rush. Paying attention to the shenanigans of shock jocks is like watering a particularly poisonous weed. It's best to ignore it, until you can't anymore.

When I have written about him in the past, the ugliest responses come from those who sign themselves "Bubba Army," or sometimes, "Bubba Army, b- - - -!" Such is the level of discourse.

The other day I tuned in to hear if Clem might be talking about the Nielsen scandal, and instead was (briefly) treated to scatological details of his recent trip to the restroom.

Now here is something you would not expect to hear from a man you would assume has zero capacity for embarrassment. Last week, after the news of ratings tampering broke but before this lawsuit was filed, Clem held a brief news conference. He answered no questions, but admitted what happened and said he was "humbled" and "embarrassed." He promised he would never do it again. Ever. Seriously, not ever.

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And since we're talking about a guy for whom being chin-deep in hot water is a natural state, this could speak volumes about the depth of the hole in which he currently finds himself.

Will relentless scandal chip the Teflon off Bubba?

According to the suit, Clem texted the Nielsen guy to warn him to keep it on the down low: "U have to PROMISE NOT TO SAY A WORD …This could ruin me. B."

Time will tell how Clem's ratings turn out on this one.