Josh Innes went viral yesterday. His comment likening Jason Kelce to a “house negro,” a term he learned about while watching Malcolm X in the Memphis airport on Martin Luther King Day (an unfortunate trifecta of loosely related nouns), wound up all over the place– from Bomani Jones’ Twitter, to Deadspin, to The Big Lead, to local news, to Philly.com, to The Source, to Inside Radio— a trade website that wondered whether this would cost Innes.
Radio hosts have certainly been disciplined or even fired for similar comments. This one might fall under colossally dumb and racially insensitive more than straight-up racist – you just can’t say that in 2016 and expect there not to be a backlash – but it’s still a bad look. Unfunny jokes containing slave references about white guys just don’t work. One “Philadelphia radio executive” told Philly.com’s Rob Tornoe that they’d be surprised if Innes survives this. Several local radio insiders echoed similar sentiments to me. Another cited Innes’ “lack of awareness of what is right and wrong” as a prime example of why they didn’t feel Innes should host a drive-time show. Another felt the fact that Innes made the comment while sitting next to co-host Hollis Thomas, who’s black, is just another sign that he can’t work well with others. That same person didn’t think this would cost Innes his job, but was quick to point out that Innes’ only one-year contract – an option picked up by WIP for 2016 – is the most telling sign that CBS and WIP are still wary about investing in him long-term, citing the fact that one-year deals for drive-time hosts in major markets are rare and hardly a sign of confidence.
Last July, CBS Radio announced that David Yadgaroff would be its new VP of the Philly market, which includes WIP, KYW and WPHT, among other stations. At the time, this maestro wondered, through typed letters and words, what that would mean for then-WIP Operations Manager Andy Bloom (he was fired in December), and if Spike Eskin would take over for him, at a cost savings, if he was let go (he did).
Eskin was given his first chance to be the boss yesterday, when he went through the motions of self-preservation by issuing the following statement to NBC 10, almost dismissing what became a national story: “Josh did apologize during the show. I believe the quotes are out there somewhere. I do not have any further comment though.”
My opinion: That could’ve been handled better. Others felt the same way:
— Evan Adkins (@Evan_Adkins08) January 20, 2016
@CrossingBroad "I believe the quotes are out there somewhere " are you kidding me???
— Scott C. (@xst05) January 20, 2016
— 215Passion (@215_passion) January 20, 2016
— jr (@Iggles2978) January 20, 2016
@SpikeEskin If you continue to let Josh Innes work at your station after what he said about Jason Kelce it would be shameful!!
— Robert Delgado (@rdelgado0523) January 20, 2016
Program Director at 94WIP is @SpikeEskin so far has done nothing. Maybe he will run & hide 4 a year or so like Howie did. Bunch of cowards
— Coach Fred (@soilfixer13) January 20, 2016
WIP responds by….doing nothing Who's the real culprit here? https://t.co/lFnWEd7WRI
— Jeff (@Jeffrey_len) January 20, 2016
Weird that @SpikeEskin has almost 200,000 tweets but nothing since yesterday's "incident." Anything short of a firing shows how soft he is.
— joe meyer (@joeqb12) January 20, 2016
Judging by the leash WIP has given Innes to say and do just about whatever he wants, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be disciplined from one-level up on the org chart, by his former co-host (assuming Spike even has the power to do so). But, given the fact that CBS is infinitely more concerned with sensitive issues, and assuming that Yadgaroff fielded calls from his bosses in New York yesterday, it will most likely be up to him to decide how to handle this.