Eric Ferguson, once the most popular voice on Chicago radio and one of the most ubiquitous faces on billboards all over town, hasn’t been seen or heard from since late September when allegations of misconduct began piling up against him from former co-workers.
By the time his bosses announced that Ferguson would be off the air “through October,” three women had come forward in court filings to accuse him of abusive behavior. Since then a fourth woman filed a complaint calling Ferguson rude and dismissive to women.
Through it all, cohorts Brian “Whip” Paruch, Nikki Chuminatto and Violeta Podrumedic continue to show up even as their leader is absent from the show he's been hosting on WTMX 101.9-FM for 25 years. It's still called "Eric in the Morning" on the air and on the website.
Now that October is almost up, will Ferguson return to the Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary station — or will he be cut out of The Mix? No one who knows is saying. Ferguson, through his representative, and Hubbard Radio management declined to comment Thursday.
Monday will reveal whether his October suspension extends into November. It also will bring the latest monthly ratings report from Nielsen Audio. The upcoming survey will include the weeks since Cynthia DeNicolo, a former assistant producer of his show, filed a lawsuit accusing Ferguson of coercing an “unwelcome sexual relationship” in 2004 and engineering her dismissal in 2020.
Long the top-rated morning show in Chicago among women in key revenue-generating demographics, “Eric in the Morning" had been declining before the misconduct allegations surfaced.
According to Nielsen figures for the summer quarter, The Mix ranked eighth in mornings among all listeners and seventh among listeners between 25 and 54. That's way down from Ferguson's high-flying days with Kathy Hart, his co-host for 21 years (and fellow Radio Hall of Famer), and her successor, Melissa McGurren.
McGurren, who resigned in 2020, initially made claims against Ferguson in a discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December 2020 and in a demand for arbitration filed last June.
“For many years, Ferguson has grossly abused his power, and his conduct was the major reason the station became a hostile working environment,” she said, labeling him "a serial abuser of women."
McGurren, who now co-hosts mornings on Audacy country WUSN 99.5-FM, also filed a $10 million defamation suit against Hubbard Radio, claiming the company conducted "a sham investigation" into her allegations.
Ferguson, 54, believed to be the highest-paid radio personality in Chicago, has two years left on his contract with The Mix, sources said. His attorneys have denied allegations against him.
Thursday's comment of the day: Janet Davies: Virginia Matos is a talented, hard-working exceptional woman who earns her way up in this business. I saw her bright light when she was my intern. Congrats, Virginia. Go forth and keep shining. Broadcast journalism needs you.