KFI apologizes but promises little in letter about John and Ken furor
Executives at KFI-AM (640) have responded apologetically to a coalition of black leaders angered over derogatory comments made by controversial afternoon hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou about the late singer Whitney Houston but fell short of agreeing to the groups' pleas for more diversity on-air and in the station's newsroom.
In a two-page "memoradum to the Los Angeles community," program director Robin Bertolucci and fellow executives said, "We've heard your voice" and appreciate the comments and criticisms regarding the outspoken views of the afternoon team and other hosts. "We have already improved our policies" and are making additional changes "that will be long lasting and fruitful for the entire community," the memo said.
The memo pointed out that John and Ken have previously apologized for their "insensitive comments" on Feb. 16 about Houston, including referring to the singer as a "crack 'ho." The station suspended the team for seven days. They returned to the air Monday and apologized again.
The memo said that John and Ken would participate in "cultural sensitivity training furthering their awareness of the cultural melting pot of Los Angeles."
Although representatives of the Los Angeles Urban League and other activists had asked KFI in a meeting at the station on Monday to increase diversity, executives made no specific commitments. Measures offered in the memo included expanding KFI's internship program to target minority students and finding "a platform for auditioning a diverse group of local hosts and guests."
L.C. "Chris" Strudwick-Turner of the Los Angeles Urban League, who attended the meeting, said KFI's memo marked "an initial step" but ultimately had "no teeth and no accountability." Strudwick-Turner, who is the organization's vice president of marketing and communications, said the Urban League would be establishing a "watchdog group to find out how to make this have some teeth."
Photo: KFI's Ken Chiampou, left, and John Kobylt during a live show in Fullerton in October. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.