An on-air discussion about race relations exploded into a heated personal exchange Tuesday between WLS AM 890 morning host Bruce Wolf and traffic reporter Kelli Walker.
Wolf, who is white, and Walker, who is black, went far beyond typical radio discourse — even by the standards of the Cumulus Media news/talk station.
“Your ignorance and lack of knowledge is absolutely unbelievable,” Walker told Wolf at one point, accusing him of “racist connotations” in his comments. Wolf denied Walker’s claim, shooting back: “You are slandering me right now. I am not a racist.”
The incident began shortly before 7 a.m. when Wolf was setting up a conversation with co-host Dan Proft on the pending grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri. Quoting a National Review article, Wolf referred to “the liberal mindset” and “the legacy of slavery” impeding the progress of blacks in America since the civil rights movement. When Wolf went on to cite “the culture of victimhood that doesn’t help the black community,” Walker erupted and broke in.
Here is a transcript of their exchange:
Wolf: We’ve gotten to a point now where because — and this is part of a whole cultural trend — you’ve got single parenthood, you don’t have two-parent families like you used to have in the black community even when they were poor, you’ve got the murder rate, which doubled between 1960 and 1980, and the whole victimhood culture . . .
Walker: It’s not a victimhood culture.
Wolf: Yes, it is.
Walker: No, it’s not.
Wolf: It absolutely is.
Walker: No, it really isn’t.
Wolf: I’m sorry, but that’s what the liberals have done and . . .
Walker: No, that’s what you think. But that’s not what it is.
Wolf: Well what do you mean it isn’t? Tell me. What do you mean it isn’t? Explain.
Walker: First of all, especially a person who is Jewish should understand what the struggle against blacks and what black people have had to go through, I would think that you of all people would understand that.
Wolf: I certainly do understand that. I certainly do. But I can only . . .
Walker: OK, then, so then how can you sit here and write off that slavery had nothing to do with how blacks have been treated in this country?
Wolf: Nowadays it’s been the liberal policies of the last generation — the so-called War on Poverty — which has exacerbated the problems that black people face . . .
Wolf: . . . whereas the trend was in the other direction.
Proft: I would also say, I mean look, has the promise of Brown v. Board of Education been fulfilled? I mean you had de jure segregation under Jim Crow and before Brown. You know, segregation by law, by force of government. Now you have de facto segregation. I mean look at the Chicago Public Schools.
Walker: Well you guys want to write off — what is it? — affirmative action. So how else are blacks or others who’ve been mistreated . . .
Wolf: I want people who are qualified to get into school or get into jobs on the basis of their . . .
Walker: Well how do we get qualified if we don’t get educated?
Wolf: You don’t get the job if you’re not qualified in the first place.
Walker: OK, well how do I get qualified if I don’t get the education? Where can I get my education when you don’t want to sit there and educate any black people at all?
Wolf: Who says I don’t want to educate back people?
Walker: OK, where do we get the education if you’re not going to let us in over affirmative action?
Wolf: Have you been listening to this show about school choice all the time?
Walker: Have you been listening to this show? You, you. Whatever. [Turns off microphone.]
Wolf: OK. Thank you, thank you. Thank you for running away. I was trying to engage you in a conversation.
Walker: No, you don’t try to engage in conversations, Bruce. You try to engage in controversy. Your ignorance and lack of knowledge is absolutely unbelievable.
Wolf: OK, I guess we’ve got an ongoing problem here.
[After a break]
Wolf: We had a little contretemps here with Kelli Walker a moment ago. A discussion about race relations . . .
Walker: First of all, you can speak of me. I’m sitting right here.
Wolf: I am. I am.
Wolf: Kelli, welcome to the show. You’ve always been welcomed to talk about things. We’re getting a lot of texts about it. It was about race relations and such. You said that I engage in controversy, not conversation. I’m suggesting our motto change to “Controversy Spoken Here.” But anyway, I’ve always been in favor of education of black people. That’s why I favor school choice and having it be more democratic . . . and not be hostage to the Chicago Teachers Union. So I am in favor of education of black people.
Proft: Who’s opposed to that?
Wolf: Kelli said that I wasn’t.
Walker: No, that really isn’t. You were . . .
Proft: The issue is what works, to me.
Walker: Right, but without all of the racist connotations. We can do without that, Bruce.
Wolf: What were the racist connotations that I made? Because you are slandering me right now. I am not a racist.
Walker: First of all, I am not slandering you. If I was slandering you, you would totally know it. So if you want to take this conversation . . .
Wolf: I do know it. You just called me a racist. Now tell me how I’m a racist.
Walker: You know what? First of all, Bruce, if you’ve got something to say to me, you say it to me off the air because this conversation that you’re trying to engage me in on air is not getting ready to happen. OK? Forget it.
Wolf: You started talking to me on the air.
Walker: Forget it, Bruce.
Wolf: You interjected on the air.
Walker: No. Forget it. Because all you want to do again is create controversy instead of having an intelligent conversation. You don’t want to do that. So you know what? Forget it. [Turns off microphone.]
Wolf: OK. I do recall that Kelli interjected in our conversation here, and that I tried to engage her in conversation. But I understand the rules are: when she wants to start talking, she can start talking, and when she wants to stop talking, she can stop talking. I understand the double standard here and I’m willing to live with it.