KDWB's Dave Ryan in the Morning Show issues statement about Hmong 'parody' song


Though the joke song was presented flippantly three weeks ago and then mostly forgotten about by the staff, KDWB's Dave Ryan in the Morning Show has come under fire this week after an audio recording of their "parody song" about Hmong culture was uploaded online and sparked backlash from the Twin Cities Hmong community.


The song, which featured charming lyrics like "No room for a couch/'Cause we sleep on the floor/One big group of Vangs/Hmong family of twenty-four" and "Hmongs get pregnant early/First baby at 16/Seven kids by 23/Over the hill by 30," was apparently written on the fly as part of a regular segment on the show, where listeners call in to give KDWB personality Steve-O potential comedy bit material.

As Bob Collins over at MPR's News Cut points out, host Dave Ryan seemed to recognize the potential offensive nature of the song immediately, insisting "I am not laughing at your song" in between bursts of giggles as Steve-O sang.

Once the audio of the segment was uploaded to YouTube, listeners stepped forward to express their dissatisfaction about the racist lyrics, taking to the show's Facebook page to express their frustration.

Yesterday, the station's program director, Rob Morris, posted a statement responding to the incident:

KDWB-FM and the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show are very proud that members of the Hmong community are some of our most loyal listeners and fans.

Our listeners understand that The Dave Ryan in the Morning show is a comedy show meant to entertain, and that much of its content is parody. While we've received positive feedback from many Hmong listeners who let us know that they found the song in question very humorous, we apologize to anyone we may have inadvertently offended, as this was never our intent.

We appreciate the support we continue to receive from all our listeners.

This apology seems like... sort of a non-apology. It implies that because the majority of their regular listeners did not appear to be offended by the song, it therefore wasn't offensive. Frankly, it reminds me an awful lot of Dilbert creator Scott Adams' recent non-apology about posting a sexist rant on his website, in which he proclaimed that he wasn't sexist -- women are just too emotional to comprehend what he is saying. His freakishly intelligent core male readership, Adams insisted, were the only ones who could truly comprehend why his disparaging statements against the opposite sex weren't actually offensive.

And maybe Adams had a point, if a misguided one: If he wants to be an asshole on his website, where a small readership congregates to celebrate his assholishness, who are we to stop him? But a program as widely broadcast as the Dave Ryan in the Morning show, and a station like KDWB, is meant for the mainstream. And in today's internet culture, something you say on a widely broadcasted radio program can be picked up instantly and posted online, where the potential eyeballs are in the millions. There's a responsibility there, to at least recognize the possible impact of the show's actions and acknowledge the existence of people in our community with differing viewpoints. Isn't there?

It sounds like the station isn't finished with the issue quite yet. The Asian American Journliasts Association has stepped forward to offer their take as well, issuing a statement yesterday afternoon, and said that they felt like KDWB understood why the matter should be taken seriously:

While the Minnesota chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association acknowledges the role of parody, we've heard from members of the community who found these remarks offensive and in poor taste. We know KDWB has a large Hmong listenership. We urge the station to take heed when promoting material that stereotypes and marginalizes a large segment of its fan base. It appears that the station recognizes the legitimacy of these concerns.
What do you think?