Radio host kept off the air for remarks about Kennedy

July 22, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Morning show co-host Shawna Renee was back behind the mike at 92-Q yesterday, after being kept off the air Tuesday due to remarks she had made concerning the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. in last Friday's plane crash.

During Monday's show, Renee, who has been at WERQ-FM (92.3) since October, said she wondered at all the media attention being afforded Kennedy. While acknowledging the tragedy of his death, along with that of his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, she said she found it hard to understand why it was dominating the radio, TV and print media.

"I think my exact words were, `I care, but I don't care,'" Renee said yesterday. "I was looking at it from the point of view of a gen-Xer who is aware of the Kennedys' contributions but was not aware of the contributions of John Kennedy Jr.

"It was along the lines of, I didn't understand why America focuses so much attention on celebrity deaths, as though one life was more important than another," Renee said. "It is a tragedy, but I was wondering, outside of the Kennedy name, what makes it a tragedy more than anything else?"

Pam Somers, general manager of WERQ, said the station received "a substantial number of calls" concerning Renee's comments. Rather than have her go back on the air Tuesday and continue to answer questions and field phone calls about the matter, Somers said, station management decided to keep her off the air for one day and discuss Renee's comments with her.

"This was not in any way a punishment," Somers said. "We wanted to meet and discuss the sensitivity of the John Kennedy situation and how maybe there were some better ways to handle that."

Renee said the meeting, which included morning show host Brian Carter and WERQ program director Tom Calococci, "was not confrontational at all. ... They just said that perhaps I needed to show more compassion.

"I can't apologize for stating my opinion or for asking a question," Renee said. "Maybe my tone caused people to think I was being insensitive to the issue."

While caught off-guard by her listeners' reactions, Renee said she can understand them. "There are still some people who have JFK's picture next to Jesus. No matter what you say, they're going to be offended. ... We need to [grieve], but we need to do it based on the contributions people have made to society."

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