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Top Rhode Island politicians boycott radio station over vulgarity

A number of top Rhode Island politicians are boycotting a popular talk radio station because one of its hosts used a vulgarity to describe protesters in September.

WPRO-AM host John DePetro called protesters outside a fundraiser for potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo parasites, cockroaches, “union hags” and “whores,” spelling out the word. DePetro apologized, but a union-backed campaign to get him off the station has continued.

Those who signed on includes some frequent guests on the station, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block. Another Republican gubernatorial candidate, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, said he would not appear on DePetro’s show but would appear on other shows on WPRO because he would not interfere in the station’s decision-making process and, “The unions should not be dictating how a business operates.”

Others who signed on to the blanket boycott of all WPRO shows were GOP Chairman Mark Smiley and Democrats that include Gov. Lincoln Chafee, both U.S. senators and U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, as well as Raimondo, the general treasurer.

DePetro addressed the boycott on his Facebook page: “Unions and politicians want to silence me because I am a critic. They want to silence free speech."

His attorney, Tim Dodd, said the boycott is an attempt to “suppress the free speech of a radio talk show.” Dodd also said DePetro has been critical of unions, and of Chafee, and they now want to silence him.    

“It is no surprise that certain union activists, now joined by the governor, simply want a critic with a microphone and an audience to be silenced,” Dodd said in a statement. He said DePetro has been threatened with violence, and questioned why no one has defended his right to speak out without being threatened with physical harm.  

DePetro was fired in 2006 from Boston’s WRKO-AM for calling a gubernatorial candidate a “fat lesbian.” He was hired at WPRO three months later.  Earlier in 2006, he had been suspended and made to apologize for calling the then-head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority a “sissy boy.”

The union-backed campaign to get him fired, For Our Daughters, started last month and targeted Cranston-based jewelry maker Alex and Ani. Its CEO, Giovanni Feroce, told The Associated Press last week that he was happy to see there was an apology. But he added that the campaign targeting the jewelry firm was misplaced and the company has no role to play in the issue.

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