Congresswoman Karen Bass and activist and professor Dr. Maulana Karenga are among those calling for radio host Bill Handel’s resignation (file photos)

The call for radio host Bill Handel’s resignation for calling Congresswoman Frederica Wilson a whore has gained momentum across the nation, and local black leaders and activists have joined the campaign. The latest group to put out a statement, the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance, includes activist and Cal State Long Beach professor Dr. Maulana Karenga. Congresswoman Karen Bass has also weighed in on the matter.  

“The BCCLA condemns in the strongest terms the recent racist and sexist verbal assault on Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Florida) by KFI radio host Bill Handel,” said organization members via a recently released statement. 

“Using the racist and sexist slur ‘whore’ with various other degrading descriptives [sic] multiple times to attack Rep. Wilson, he would not correct himself or be corrected even after being challenged by a fellow host. His vulgar and vicious slur and accompanying rant, represent a pattern of practice he and others have engaged in over the years on KFI AM 640 which is in urgent need of being addressed and ended…” 

Handel used the slur during  an on air rant about Wilson’s verbal back and forth with the Trump administration. The congresswoman had been critical of a comment Trump made to a fallen soldier’s widow. The soldier had been among four service members killed during an attack in Niger.  

During a condolence call to Myeisha Johnson, widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, Trump said, “Well I guess you know he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts…” 

Uproar at the statement had already been traveling across the United States when Wilson expressed her opinion about it. She had been present during Trump’s phone call and told reporters that Johnson “broke down” after the call. However, Trump has continued to deny the accusations.  

“I didn’t say what that congresswoman said. Didn’t say it at all,” Trump told reporters during a meeting on tax reform in the Cabinet Room. “She knows it. And she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said.” 

Meanwhile, Handel who hosts a right leaning radio show on KFI weighed in on the situation calling the Florida congresswoman a “cheap, sleazy Democrat whore”, suggesting that her activism on the widow’s behalf was for political reasons.  

“He didn’t apologize,” local activist Jasmyne Cannick told reporters. “He stood by his comments… In what part of today’s politically correct America is it okay for a radio host to refer to anyone as a whore on the radio–let alone a member of the House of Representatives?” 

“Using such racist and sexist language of degradation helps to create and support an environment of racial and sexual hatred, hostility and harassment, reinforces hurtful and harmful stereotypes and crosses lines necessary for fruitful and civil discourse, debate and dissent in a democratic society,” BCCLA members agreed. 

“Indeed, such crude and malicious street level language and personal attacks do not serve the larger interest of the station, its listeners or its advertisers…” 

They are asking KFI parent company iHeartMedia to:  

1) remove Bill Handel from the air waves;  

(2) issue an apology to Rep. Wilson and offended listeners;  

(3) establish clear guidelines, policies and procedures that prohibit such racist, sexist and other group offensive language; and  

(4) create a diversity respecting environment at KFI AM 640 and iHeartMedia through diversity services and diversity hiring. 

Said Bass, “Bill Handel’s racially-motivated remarks about my colleague Congresswoman Frederica Wilson were degrading and repulsive. Handel deserves to lose his job as well as any planned accolades for his reporting. I’m proud of the grassroots efforts that continue to publicize this derogatory display of on-air racism and call upon Mr. Handel to step down before he is forced to.”