Shock jock’s ‘rabid’ fans forced Florida man to flee state, says lawsuit

Lawsuit against Nielsen alleges the ratings company exposed Largo man to “rabid” fans’ harassment.
Nielsen executives applaud during opening bell ceremonies for the Nielsen IPO, at the New York Stock Exchange in  2011.
Nielsen executives applaud during opening bell ceremonies for the Nielsen IPO, at the New York Stock Exchange in 2011. [ RICHARD DREW | ASSOCIATED PRESS ]
Published April 5, 2021|Updated April 5, 2021

A former Largo resident said fans of a “notorious shock jock radio personality” forced him to flee the state after they learned of his role in exposing the radio host’s ratings tampering scheme.

Nicholas Tabachuk makes the claim in a lawsuit filed last week in Pinellas County court against Nielsen, saying the audience measurement company promised, but failed, to keep his identity secret when he came forward with damaging information against the radio host. The host is not named in the lawsuit.

Tabachuck served as a panelist for Nielsen locally and wore a “portable people meter,” a device that detects hidden tones in radio broadcasts to measure audience size.

In 2015, Nielsen sued Bubba the Love Sponge Clem for influencing a panelist to manipulate the ratings. That suit, in which Clem was accused of paying a man from $300 to $700 a month to tune in, was settled months later, when Clem agreed to make an undisclosed payment to Nielsen and publicly admitted a ratings scheme.

Tabachuk’s lawsuit claims the shock jock in question agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a ratings lawsuit brought by Nielsen.

Asked where that $1 million settlement figure came from, Tabachuk’s attorney, Joshua Smith, said “we are still looking into that,” but implied it was based partly on reports that Nielsen was seeking $1 million from Clem, before the confidential settlement was reached.

Clem’s lawyer in the Nielsen suit, Todd Foster, said he had no comment.

Clem in 2019 sued his former employer turned rival, Cox Media Group, saying the company’s employees deliberately enlisted a Nielsen panelist to bait him into the ratings scheme. Records show that in January Clem voluntarily dismissed all claims in that suit. Clem did not respond to questions about why he dropped the lawsuit.

According to Tabachuk’s lawsuit, Nielsen promised to keep his identity “confidential,” but instead met with the radio host and revealed it. The lawsuit states Tabachuk would have never come forward if he thought his name would get out. It also claims that text messages show a Nielsen security employee promised confidentiality.

“The mayhem that followed was horrific for Tabachuk and his family,” the lawsuit states, claiming that radio fans harassed Tabachuk with death threats, rape threats and stalking, hacking his social media accounts, showing up to his home and the home of his parents.

Tabachuk and his wife, the lawsuit states, were forced to move to a remote, mountainous region outside of Florida.

Nielsen’s lawsuit against Clem referred to Tabachuk only as “the Cooperating Panelist,” though Tabachuk’s lawsuit also claims that because it “precisely quoted several text messages between Tabachuk and the shock jock, and provided exact dates,” it was effortless for the radio host to learn the man’s identity.

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“The shock jock has a legion of dedicated fans at his disposal. It was well-known that anyone crossing the shock jock would be subject to potential harm by his rabid listeners,” the lawsuit states. “Thus, to induce Tabachuk to report the information, Nielsen promised Tabachuk that Nielsen would never disclose his identity. That was a lie.”

Nielsen did not respond to requests for comment.

Clem’s fans are commonly referred to as the Bubba Army.

Tabachuck is suing Nielsen for the standard “amount in excess of $30,000,” saying he endured “months of crushing fear, psychological damage, economic hardships, lost opportunities and expenses.”

Nielsen, which operates globally and has a large campus in Oldsmar, reported corporate revenues of $1.67 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020.