Puerto Rican TV show faces scrutiny amid outcry

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La Comay on

A TV station in Puerto Rico that broadcasts a popular news and gossip show featuring a puppet has announced that the program will now be prerecorded.

Joe Ramos, president of WAPA TV, told reporters that the "SuperXclusivo" show will be taped two hours before it is broadcast so it can be monitored by WAPA censors. The announcement follows a recent outcry over comments that the controversial puppet, known as La Comay, made about a man who was killed.

More than 73,800 people have joined an online Facebook page demanding that the show be taken off the air.

The page was created on Dec. 4, the same day that La Comay commented on the Nov. 30 killing of publicist Jose Enrique Gomez Saladin. Police say the publicist was carjacked, forced to take out money from an ATM and then set on fire and beaten to death.

Police said the carjacking occurred in the northern town of Caguas, on a street known for its drugs and prostitutes. La Comay, played by comedian Antulio “Kobbo” Santarrosa, questioned what Gomez was doing on that street and whether he “was asking for this” by being there.

A swift outcry followed, and several companies withdrew their sponsorship of the program, which has previously drawn the ire of many for its sensationalist style and derogatory comments about women and gays.

Late last week, several community leaders rejected Ramos’ announcement, saying it wasn’t enough and that they didn’t believe it would happen.

“They’ve made similar proposals in the past, and after a couple of weeks, nothing changed,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesman for the U.S.-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “We’ll continue fighting until 'SuperXclusivo' is canceled.”

The following is a letter to the network signed by LGBT civil rights groups and politicians:

A young man is kidnapped, taken to an ATM, robbed, then beaten to death. Adding to this already awful situation, TV host, Antulio “Kobbo” Santarrosa and the life-sized puppet he voices, La Comay, re-victimized publicist José Enrique Gómez Saladín by suggesting that if he allegedly was in an area known for “prostitution and homosexuality,” as his killers claim, he may have brought the violence on himself.

This was the last straw for many Puerto Ricans, who have had to live with escalating violence for years. Blaming victims is wrong, and most people know that. For media personalities like Santarrosa and co-host Héctor Travieso to use their platform and the public airwaves to inflame prejudices is unconscionable.

The death of Saladín, who leaves behind a wife, a heartbroken family and many friends, helped spark a grassroots social media campaign calling for an end to SuperXclusivo’s use of callous and irresponsible comments to attract ratings.

The group Boicot a La Comay (Boycott La Comay) has, to date, 70,000 supporters on Facebook and over 4,000 on Twitter. More than 30 of the show’s advertisers have dropped their support, including Coca-Cola, Ford, Chevrolet, WalMart, AT&T, Goodyear and SC Johnson.

Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez and New York Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito have joined celebrities like singers Ricky MartinRene Pérez of Calle 13 and Chayanne, who stand in solidarity with their fellow Puerto Ricans in saying Todos Somos José Enrique—“We’re all José Enrique.”

A victim’s orientation, straight or gay, or their gender identity should never be used by media to score ratings, much less to blame the victim for the circumstances surrounding the murder.

We ask you to join us as we call on WAPA TV and WAPA America to stop broadcasting programming that fuels intolerance and violence. We also ask you to join us as we call on sponsors to stop supporting hate speech that incites violence. We also call on the community to stop watching this show that promotes intolerance.

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL)
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY)
State Senator Iris Martínez (D-IL)
State Representative Toni Berríos (D-IL)
New York City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito
Iris Martínez, Democratic National Committee Hispanic Chair
Center For Black Equity
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers
Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
Equality Matters
Familia es Familia
Immigration Equality
Latino Commission on AIDS
Latino Equality Alliance
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, Inc. (NACOPRW)
National Council of La Raza
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators
National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC)
National Institute for Latino Policy (NILP)
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Puerto Rican Coalition Inc. (NPRC)
Unid@s, National Latin@ LGBT Human Rights Organization