Thursday, July 19, 2012

Republican Racism Example #60: An Arizona Talk Show Host Calls Obama The "First Monkey President"

According to right-wing radio hater Barbara Espinosa, it’s not possible for her to be a racist because she has a Latino last name.

She insists that she is no bigot even though she referred to President Barack Obama as a “monkey” during a radio broadcast. Incidentally, when she compared the first African American president to a lower primate during a June 17 broadcast of her Hair On Fire radio talk show on KFNX, Arizona Republican chair Tom Morrissey was the guest and he never uttered a word of protest.

According to this right-wing talk show host, you can't be a racist if your last name is "Espinosa," even if you call a black man a "monkey. (Photo from

Fielding a call from a listener who described Obama as “the guy with the rabbit ears,” and who asked why anyone would possibly back the “idiot” in the White House, Espinosa responded, “I call him a monkey.  I don’t believe in calling him the first black president.  I call him the first monkey president.”   She then clarified that, “I voted for the white guy myself.”  (See

After receiving a flurry of national attention, Espinosa said that her choice of words was inspired by a cartoon image of Obama as a monkey.  “The comment was prompted by the Google image cartoon that was sent to me,” she posted on her website, American Freedom by Barbara.  “With a last name of Espinosa, I’m anything but racist.”   She also defended her on-air remarks at her blog site:

“To set the record straight I did use the word monkey and Obama in the same sentence. Yes I did say I voted for the white guy. Unless there has been a takeover of America and free speech is no longer allowed and I can be put to death for making a remark, I refuse to take the fifth.” (See

An ad back when Phoenix AM radio station KFNX was proud to broadcast Barbara Espinosa,  They later replaced her with higher-rated racists. (Photo from

As noted, GOP chair Morrissey chose to say nothing during Espinosa’s racist rant, but instead only offered praise for the patriotism of Obama’s opposition.  “Those of us — and I believe this and it’s bias — those of us that do not support Barack Obama and act upon our love of country are motivated by that,” Morrissey said. “That’s why I say we’re patriots. I believe he is as wrong as wrong can be, and I hope that there’s enough people that think like we do — this group — so that we can defeat what I call, it’s like a national sickness.” (See

Arizona GOP chair Tom Morrissey was a guest on the "Hair On Fire" radio show when host Barbara Espinosa called President Obama a "monkey."  Morrissey said nothing about the racist outburst.  (Photo from  

If not a tacit endorsement of Espinosa’s racism, Morrissey’s silence doesn’t exactly represent a profile in courage.  Apparently the public outrage didn’t move Arizona Republicans to denounce her, but it did lead to KFNX to cancel her show.  The station tried to disingenuously suggest that the broadcast in question did not originate in their studios, but evidence suggests otherwise.  Here’s the KFNX statement:

“Barbara Espinosa does not host a show anymore on KFNX 1100, so the information is dated. She has not aired a show at KFNX for nearly a month. She currently hosts an internet show on Blogtalk radio to the best of our knowledge.

KFNX management, staff and sponsors do not endorse or agree with her viewpoints. Ms. Espinoza (like all KFNX Hosts) does have the First Amendment Right to say what she believes, but KFNX Host Contracts includes a clause which prohibits on-air slander of people.

KFNX no longer has a relationship with Ms. Espinosa, and again certainly does not support her comments. If those comments were made on KFNX, we would have terminated our relationship with her. We certainly apologize for our former relationship with Ms. Espinosa and are deeply sorry she said offensives things.

We do not know when the comments were made, but it is possible they were made in the past while airing on KFNX, or maybe could have been said on her current internet show on Blogtalk. We also do not know who posted the YouTube video. It is an edited video (and not dated), so it is unclear what context the improper comments were made.” (See 

Lest you be moved by KFNX’s act of contrition, the Phoenix station continues to carry other right-wing racist and anti-Semitic hosts such as Neil Boortz, who in 2006 called the mostly black victims of Hurricane Katrina  “just debris” (see  and in 2007 commented that, “Muslims don't eat during the day during Ramadan. They fast during the day and eat at night. Sort of like cockroaches." (See

Right-wing host Neal Boortz, whose show is still carried on KFNX, tries to prove he's not racist by sitting next to Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain before the New Hampshire primary.  Boortz once compared Muslims to "cockroaches."  (Photo from 

They also carry Michael Savage’s show.  Samplings of Savage’s thoughtful commentary on world events include calling the so-called “Developing” or “Third World” the “Turd World,” describing fellow talk show host Jerry Springer (who is Jewish), a “hooknose,” demeaning inner city residents as “ghetto slime” and charging that Latinos “breed like rabbits.”  Considering the other hosts still carried by the station, one wonders what line Espinosa crossed exactly. (See 

Another KFNX host, Michael Savage, calls Jews like Jerry Springer "hooknoses," and says that Latinos "breed like rabbits."   (Photo from

Comparing African Americans to apes and monkeys has been a recurring theme with white racists in the Western world since Europeans first encountered these primates in Africa starting in the 1500s and especially since the publication of Darwin’s evolutionary theories in the mid-19th century.  The comparison is meant to suggest that Africans and their descendents represent a lower stage of evolution that whites.  (For more on this theme in racism, see  

Comparing Obama to an ape or monkey has become a favorite theme of the Republican right.  Above is just a small sampling o f images circulating on the internet.  Espinosa, sadly, is not exceptional in today's GOP.  (Above images of Obama from and and

Espinosa is despicable and deserves her unemployment.  She is, however, only par for the course on talk radio. And the mainstream Republican Party is happy to accommodate these white supremacists by keeping quiet when these bigots rave.

(For more, see and 

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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