CBS Radio, Comedian/Magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller Sued by Radio Talk Show Hosts Over Firing at SF Station, According to Law Firm of Nossaman, Guthner,

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 6, 2006-- Controversy Over Catholic Bashing Led To Comments By Talk Show Hosts

A popular trio of San Francisco radio personalities have filed suit against CBS Radio, its San Francisco affiliate 106.9 Free FM (KIFR), and comedian/magician Penn Jillette for wrongful termination. According to their attorney at the law firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott, the three talk radio hosts were fired after they defended Mother Teresa from vicious and derogatory comments made by Penn Jillette.

The suit filed in San Francisco Superior Court by host John London and co-hosts Dennis Cruz and Chris Townsend seeks damages for the three San Francisco Bay Area radio personalities for breach of contract, wrongful termination, interference with a business contract and other actions.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for London, Cruz and Townsend for breach of their employment contract and for the interference by Jillette in their contract with CBS.

The suit stems from a radio broadcast on April 7 of this year when hosts London, Cruz and Townsend were doing their afternoon-drive radio show on 106.9 Free FM. "John London's Inferno" was the station's number one source of advertising revenue.

Their show was preceded by Penn Jillette's nationally syndicated show, during which he did a searing riff against the saintly Catholic Mother Teresa, saying that she "had this weird kink that I think was sexual about seeing people suffer and die."

Jillette went on to say that Paris Hilton was being considered for a role in an upcoming movie about the life of Mother Teresa. Jillette compared the Nobel Peace Prize recipient to Charles Manson, and again said she "got her kicks watching people suffer and die." He concluded by saying, "Paris Hilton: you're so much better than that. Don't take the gig. Keep making good wholesome porno films. Just do that. Do what you're cut out for. Don't lower yourself to playing Mother Teresa."

During his show, the sardonic London, a long-time San Francisco radio personality, launched his own attack on Jillette for his comments regarding Mother Teresa.

London told his radio listeners that "Penn Jillette has said on a number of occasions that words do not hurt people. We should be able to say whatever we want, in the open marketplace of ideas. So here's a little string of sentences for ya: How about if I give somebody $5,000 to kill ya? I'll add $2,000 to that if there's some suffering attached to it." When asked if torture should be considered, London replied, in mock outrage, "That would be in poor taste." London also said that whoever hired Jillette should be fired, "and that includes Joel Hollander." Hollander is the president of CBS Radio.

"Obviously, the comments by London, and later remarks by Cruz and Townsend, were a joke and it's pretty obvious if you listen to the whole segment," said their attorney Stephen Bickford of the law firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott. "That is the whole point of their show: it is intended to be edgy and humorous. That is why they were hired. If the station thought the comment was inappropriate, it could have pushed any one of several 'dump buttons' and kept the comments off the air. But that didn't happen; nor were any complaints received by the station itself."

The lawsuit filed against CBS Radio, Jillette and 106.9 Free FM claims that Jillette spoke with CBS president Hollander about the comments by London, and urged the immediate firing of the trio from the airwaves, despite the fact that they had a "no cut" contract that ran through Oct. 19, 2007.

Bickford said he found it ironic that the head of CBS Radio would "support Jillette's trashing of Mother Teresa over those wishing to defend her through a humorous spoof, especially since Jillette preaches the gospel of free speech. I guess he's in favor of free speech for himself, but not for others."

"The show violated no FCC regulations and the station received no complaints about the comments," said Bickford. "Furthermore, CBS is obligated to fulfill its contract with my clients and can not be pressured by Jillette to fire them -- solely because he does not like what was said about him."

Write a comment

Comments: 0