The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

July 20, 2010
Cyclists wonder: Will Mark Williams' career swerve into a ditch?

2W20WILLIAMS_embedded_prod_affiliate_4.jpgIf Mark Williams' latest foot-in-mouth episode ends up costing him jobs and income - and that remains to be seen - the NAACP will declare victory.

And so will another group - bicyclists.

Long before Williams became the disgraced mouthpiece of the national tea party movement, and long before he mocked the NAACP and suggested that African Americans would rather be enslaved than work for their own betterment, the former Sacramento radio shock-mock got in trouble by suggesting that motorists should swerve at bicyclists.

Williams, a host for KFBK, made the comment on Feb. 24, 2005 during a guest appearance on KSTE in Sacramento with co-host Jamie Coffee. The comment stirred up cycling groups nationwide, partly because Clear Channel radio personalities had previously made comments that suggested that motorists should endanger cyclists. Those comments prompted a settlement with the League of American Bicyclists and an apology from Clear Channel's CEO.

After Williams and Coffee gave Clear Channel another black eye, prompting complaints from the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, KSTE suspended Williams and Coffee, issued another apology and started airing public service announcements on bicycle safety.

"Both station management and the talent understand the importance of automobile and bicycle safety. In fact, Regional Vice President/Market Manager Jeff Holden is an avid cyclist," wrote Omar Thompson, Clear Channel's VP of Marketing & Communications, in a letter to SABA.

Quoted today in a story in The Bee, Tea Party fundraiser Sal Russo came to Williams' defense, saying "he doesn't have a racist bone in his body."

"Mark is the quintessential talk-show host of the 20th century who thrives on controversy and contentiousness," Russo said. "That's what drives his ratings."

Sorry Sal, but Williams isn't just about controversy. He has a pattern of repeatedly making reckless and offensive comments, which prompts him to self-destruct, apologize or lash out. Because of apologists like Russo, he can easily rebrand himself and find another forum for his bile.

I'm surprised Russo would even attempt to defend him. But then again, perhaps Russo hasn't ever been run off the road by a motorist with malice.

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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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