Immigrant rights groups want radio hosts John and Ken off the air
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a longtime immigrant rights activist, is used to being called to task for his views. But when radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou recently gave out his cellphone number on the air in a campaign against the California Dream Act, he found himself unprepared for the barrage of hate-filled phone calls that followed.
“Hi, this message is for Mr. Cabrera,” one caller said in a voicemail transcribed by Cabrera. “Listen, you pile of garbage…You need to pack your [expletive] up and go back to wherever it is you came from. Nobody wants you here. You are invading the legal people that are in this country and ruining this country. I hope you choke in your own vomit.”
In the days after the KFI-AM radio hosts read Cabrera’s cellphone and office numbers on the air and urged listeners opposed to state tuition assistance for illegal immigrants to call him, Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said he got more than 400 calls, many of them filled with hateful language and calls for violence.
“It’s never been as cutting, as humiliating as these calls were,” Cabrera said. “These calls were intent to diminish me as a person.”
The incident struck a chord among leaders of civil and immigrant rights groups across the state, many of whom saw it as the latest example in a long history of the popular radio show inciting anger and vitriol.
“It was the last straw,” said Alex Nogales, president and chief executive of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “These guys have been at it day in and day out. It’s the same ugly rhetoric.”
The National Hispanic Media Coalition led what some believe was a successful campaign to get television host Lou Dobbs off of the air at CNN for similar reasons. Dobbs resigned days after the coalition’s president met with the head of CNN, but the network has denied that meeting led to Dobbs' resignation.
Now the coalition has joined with several major Latino and immigrant rights groups, including the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and the National Immigration Law Center, in calling on the radio station to remove the show’s hosts or face a boycott of its sponsors.
KFI programming director Robin Bertolucci declined to discuss the incident but said she planned to meet soon with the group’s representatives.
“We’re looking forward to talking to them,” she said. “I think that’s the best place for us to discuss it.”
-- Paloma Esquivel
Photo: John Kobylt (left) and Ken Chiampou host an afternoon talk show on KFI-AM. Credit: Los Angeles Times