New Jersey 101.5 radio hosts Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco have been suspended for 10 days over the duo's derogatory comments about state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal.
Malloy and Franco, who have hosted 101.5's Dennis & Judi Show since 1997, repeatedly referred to Grewal, the nation's first Sikh attorney general, as "turban man" during Wednesday's broadcast.
"Dennis and Judi are known for their plainspoken brand of humor, but in this case, the language used was clearly demeaning and inappropriate," NJ 101.5 president Ron deCastro said in a statement. "With Dennis and Judi's help, we will use this incident as a learning moment to further a dialogue of inclusiveness for all residents of our great state."
The hosts apologized for their comments in a post on NJ 101.5's website Thursday afternoon.
"For 21 years, the Dennis and Judi show has been unscripted and free form. We use humor and sarcasm to make a point and add color to the broadcast; in this instance, we were off the mark," Malloy and Franco wrote. "It was a mistake we both deeply regret. We respect all cultures and beliefs and are deeply sorry for the pain caused to the Sikh community, our co-workers and our beloved listeners."
Malloy and Franco made their comments during a discussion about Grewal's order on Tuesday to immediately suspend all municipal prosecutions of marijuana offenses in the state as lawmakers continue to debate its legalization.
Malloy said he couldn't remember Grewal's name, telling Franco that "I'm just going to say the guy with the turban." The duo continued to refer to Grewal as "turban man" throughout the segment, and even acknowledged they knew the term could be considered offensive.
"Listen, and if that offends you, then don't wear the turban and maybe I'll remember your name," Malloy said.
"Is that highly offensive?… Could be. But if you call me 'baseball hat man' in a culture where nobody wears baseball hats, and they call me 'baseball hat man,' should I be offended?" Malloy continued. "I would say no."
The comments drew widespread criticism on social media and from political leaders throughout the state. Gov. Murphy called the comments "abhorrent and xenophobic," and called on management at the station to "hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments."
Hoboken Mayor Ravinder S. Bhalla, who is also Sikh, weighed into the controversy in a series of tweets, where he called for an advertising boycott of the show and said, "this type of racist garbage has no place in Jersey.
Grewal himself weighed in on Twitter early Tuesday, where he wrote that he simply told his three daughters to turn off the radio.
"This is not the first indignity I've faced and it probably won't be the last. Sometimes, I endure it alone," Grewal said. "Yesterday, all of New Jersey heard it. It's time to end small-minded intolerance."
In an interview in March with my colleague Jan Hefler, Grewal said it was hateful comments he received growing up in Essex County with his parents, an engineer and a bookkeeper who became naturalized citizens, that helped motivate him to pursue a career in law enforcement.
"We're all informed by our life experiences in everything we do," Grewal said. "My experience growing up as a Sikh in this country, and having dealt with bias, hate, and bullying, has sensitized me to the effects that this conduct can have on others and motivates me a great deal."