Republican Congressman Tom Reed is running to represent the newly created 23rd district in upstate New York, which covers much of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. He has a strong ally in WYSL, a right-wing talk radio station near Rochester that broadcasts throughout much of the district. On the one hand, it’s great to have friends who run a big radio station:
But Reed’s radio buddies caused trouble for him on Friday when they repeatedly ridiculed the Asian ancestry of Reed’s opponent Nate Shinagawa, a Democratic county legislator and hospital administrator from Ithaca. Shinagawa is a third-generation Japanese America whose grandfather was interned in California during World War II, only to enlist in the Marines upon release.
But that stuff doesn’t matter to WYSL host Bill Nojay and owner Bob Savage. They think Shinagawa has a funny name and must not be from around these parts. Here’s what Nojay, Savage, and a producer had to say about Shinagawa last Friday:
Nojay: Now you should be impressed that I know how to pronounce Shinagawa. Shinagawa ready to face Reed. He’s the guy who won the Democrat primary. He hails from the People’s Republic.
Producer: He’s gonna lose, just because of his name.
Nojay: Now that’s not a particularly nice thing to say.
Savage (in a stereotypical, derogatory Asian voice): Xenophobic. Xenophobic.
As the three go on talking about how “Shinagawa is going to lose” and “hasn’t done anything with his life,” a song begins playing in the background – it’s the 1963 hit song “Sukiyaki” by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto. With the song mocking Shinagawa playing in the background, Nojay and his producer reveal just how tight they are with Reed:
Nojay: If I made a contribution to Reed’s campaign, I wonder if I can get a refund. He doesn’t need the money anymore … Whoop, I shouldn’t have said that. He’s gonna get mad at me.
Producer: You’re gonna be getting a phone call.
Nojay: Alright. Send money now to Tom Reed’s campaign, he’ll make good use of it. Reed’s a great candidate. He does need our help.
You can listen to their segment below. Note that Nojay’s comment about the “People’s Republic” refers to Ithaca and is one of the few things from the segment that isn’t racist. The “People’s Republic” moniker is a popular, if lame, trope of conservatives who like to put down various college towns – especially Berkeley – as being out of touch with real America.
Nojay isn’t just a right-wing talker on WYSL, he’s also a candidate in the GOP primary for a newly drawn seat in the New York Assembly. When he and Savage realized on Monday that not everyone was laughing along with their racist jokes, they decided to play dumb and deny everything. I’ll have more on their cowardly, and implausible, denials shortly, but it’s important not to lose focus on Reed.
Reed hasn’t just appeared multiple times on Nojay’s show. He (or his campaign) is apparently in close contact with Nojay, who used his show to solicit funds for Reed’s campaign. And he had praise heaped upon him at the same time his radio buddies were mocking his opponent’s Asian ancestry.
Reed can’t just excuse himself from this controversy. He has a responsibility to publicly call out his buddies and say that their racism has no place in American politics.
[Right Wing Watch is a project of People For the American Way, whose affiliated PAC has endorsed Shinagawa]