Winnipeg radio personality fired after comments about transgender people
A Winnipeg radio host has been fired over comments he made about transgender people.
“This week, radio host Dave Wheeler chose to use his platform at 92.1 CITI in Winnipeg to articulate views that are both deeply hurtful and damaging, and we sincerely apologize,” said Andrea Goldstein, senior director of communications at Rogers Media, on Wednesday.
“There have been multiple disciplinary incidents, and in spite of numerous conversations, he has continued to offend our audiences. As a result, we have ended our relationship with him and he is no longer with the company, effective immediately. This type of behavior contradicts our standards and our core values, where diversity and inclusion are paramount.”
Wheeler from 92.1 CITI’s Wheeler in the Morning made a comparison between transgender people and actors who “pretend” while he was on the air Monday.
The comments were in reference to a recent decision made by actress Scarlett Johansson to withdraw from a movie where she was originally cast to play a transgender character, which came after hearing criticism that transgender actors should be chosen for transgender roles.
A video of Wheeler making the comments has been shared widely on social media, as have screen grabs of a subsequent direct message conversation Wheeler had with a concerned listener, Kara Fraser.
Fraser said she first heard about the comments through a Facebook post, and was disturbed by them.
“I consider myself an ally to the transgender community,” she said, adding that she contacted Wheeler in an effort to help him understand why his comments were “inappropriate.”
“I was sort of hopeful that, him being a public figure, that he would step back for a moment, kind of reflect on what he said.”
“I was pretty disappointed he didn’t,” Fraser said.
Radio station’s parent company responds
On Tuesday Goldstein said, “The comments do not represent our standards and core values, and we apologize for the insensitive and hurtful remarks made by Dave Wheeler. We do not condone this type of behaviour, and we are taking steps to address this.”
A representative from the transgender community, Cynthia Fortlage, was invited to participate on the show.
Fortlage is president of the board for the Rainbow Resource Centre. She told CTV News she was taken aback by the comments.
“That someone in the media would use their platform to expel this absolutely awful, hateful language,” Fortlage said, adding that perhaps Wheeler wasn’t aware of how his comments would be received.
“Unfortunately it came across as very hurtful to the community at large.”
“I’m sure Wheeler feels that he’s been completely vilified, and that he’s completely innocent, but that’s not how the community feels,” Fortlage said.
As for her participation on the show, Fortlage said she was satisfied with what she was able to say, although more could have been said.
She said her main message is to accept, even without understanding.
“Accept us as human beings,” she said.
“Once we accept that we’re human beings, now we can have dialogue to help understand each other.
Tuesday evening, Pride Winnipeg released a statement, calling on Rogers Media “to detail what it will do to prevent the continued oppressive behaviour” from the radio host, denouncing his statements as “repugnant, oppressive, and ignorant.”
Meantime, a Facebook user has called on businesses and organizations to pull advertising from the station, and the campaign is seeing a response.
With files from CTV's Kayla Rosen and Keila DePape.