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April 2, 2013

“Bill Nojay Show” Ridiculing Congressional Candidate Nate Shinagawa

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Written by: MANAA

MANAA contacts the radio show hosts and station manager of a New York radio station over racially tinged comments they made against an Asian American Congressional candidate and asks for an apology.  They refuse.

July 6, 2012-On WYSL’s “Bill Nojay Show,” the host and the station’s manager Robert Savage ridicule Nate Shinagawa, the 28 year old who recently won the Democratic primary for Congress in the Ithaca, NY area.

Bill Nojay.

Bill Nojay

July 8-Aoki e-mails a letter to Nojay and Savage (rough draft by Mack Wei, edited by Aoki).

“By now you’ve probably received many letters and calls criticizing you for being racially insensitive and–as you, Mr. Savage, put it sarcastically—‘xenophobic.’

“We understand that when Nojay twice said Shinagawa came ‘from the People’s Republic,’ you may have meant Ithaca, inferring the city’s too liberal for your tastes.  However, that and the combination of making fun of his name and playing ‘Sukiyaki’ by Japanese national Kyu Sakamoto, created the impression that the candidate was more foreign than American

“Historically, the failure to distinguish between Asian Americans and foreigners has had tragic consequences for Asian Americans.

“30 years ago, two white Detroit auto workers, blaming the success of Japanese imports for their unemployment, took their anger out on Chinese American Vincent Chin (who was out celebrating his impending marriage), hitting him repeatedly with a baseball bat.  He died four days later.

“Shinagawa is Japanese American on his father’s side (his mother is of Korean/Chinese descent).  His family, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, were put in U.S. concentration camps during World War II because of the government’s inability to separate loyal Japanese Americans from Japanese nationals who had bombed Pearl Harbor.

“Nate’s great-grandfather was sent to Tanforan Assembly Center in San Francisco where he died in a horse stall from tuberculosis and pneumonia because of the unsanitary and harsh conditions of the concentration camp. Nate’s grandfather, Roy—like most of the family–was interned in Gila River and Tule Lake yet later served in the marines and U.S. Air Force in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, fighting on the front lines and receiving many medals of valor.
“We are asking for you to apologize on-air to Nate Shinagawa and the Asian American community for your handling of Friday’s show and to invite him on so he can speak for himself and demonstrate he’s not the foreign stereotype you insinuated him to be.  We don’t expect you to agree with his political beliefs; we do expect you to respect the man, his family, and the Asian American community.”

Aoki says he’ll be calling Savage tomorrow afternoon to speak about this and get his response.

July 9-Nojay responds through email:  “Could you please let us know where you are located (city, state), how many members you have, and the source(s) of your funding?   I’ve received 3 e-mails on this issue, however we are still trying to understand whether the ‘concerns’ are genuine or fabricated to raise money for various political action groups.

“Mr. Shinagawa is, in fact, from the Peoples Republic.  Of Ithaca.  That is how we refer to Ithaca on the show.  We’ve been doing it for many years, and will continue to do so.  And yes, he is a Far Left Liberal Activist.  We will continue to describe him that way, as we will anyone else from the Peoples Republic who is a Leftie.  If you think being called a radical liberal is offensive, you will share that will [sic] most of our listeners so join the crowd.

“For the record, and if you might actually be concerned about the use of ethnic or racial stereotypes, we do not — ever — engage in racial stereotyping.  We do not make racial slurs.  Never have.  Never will.  We focus on issues and candidates’ stands on them.  We do trace the origins of issues and candidates stands, including the sources of their funding and support.  That has been and will continue to be fair game in politics.  We have nothing to apologize for since our comments regarding Mr. Shinagawa have been accurate.  We have invited him on the show to make his pitch — if he joins us he will be treated with the same respect we accord to all bona fide candidates.”

Aoki answers Nojay’s questions and adds:  “We are a non-partisan group and politics has nothing to do with our concerns over how Asian Americans are portrayed.  We receive funding from people who become members (about 400 at this point) and support our work.  We are not a Democrat vs. Republican group, if you’re concerned about that.  We’ve gone after Bill Handel at KFI and we’ve gone after liberals like Rosie O’Donnell and Sarah Silverman.

“We’re not here to debate liberal vs. conservative values.  They have nothing to do with our concerns over what happened on Friday.

“I really don’t see how you can say you don’t racially stereotype anyone when you played ‘Sukiyaki’–a song sung entirely in Japanese by a Japanese national–while talking about a Japanese American.  I think I explained quite clearly the dangers of doing that, how it’s impacted our community in the past, and the fallout from not recognizing the ‘Americanness’ of someone simply because they’re of Asian descent.”

Robert Savage.

Robert Savage.

Savage responds:  “I’m happy to talk with you later today.  Let’s have a few ground rules before we embark on that.

I might interest you to know that until your e-mail, I was unaware of Nate Shinagawa’s ethnicity.  I suppose most people would assume he was of Japanese descent, but I didn’t know for sure. I never asked the question because I don’t care where his family came from.  It doesn’t matter.  The Nojay Show is about politics.

“ Actually, I have two Japanese-Americans in my family through marriage.  I would never impugn anyone because of race, gender, ethnicity or any other similar reason, and such was the case with the commentary on Friday.

“I note that the tone of your e-mail is belligerent – in fact, the name of your organization connotes an aggressive attitude.  I am going to ask you to drop this apparent attitude and any assumptions you are making about the nature of our commentary so as to have an open mind.  I am further going to ask that we have an adult and mutually respectful conversation.  Otherwise it’s going to be a waste of time for both of us…

“One more thing:  an official response to this ‘controversy’ will be posted today on our website,  Just as a suggestion, you might want to refer to that before your call.”

Aoki leaves a message for Savage then drives down to his meeting with Actor’s Equity about the La Jolla Playhouse’s white-washed production of Nightingale (see “La Jolla Playhouse’s White-Washed Play Nightingale”).  When Savage returns the call, Aoki re-iterates MANAA’s non-partisan status, breaks down the points in his letter, and explains the danger of Asian Americans not being perceived as Americans to those around them, pointing to the World War II internment camps and the riots which targeted Korean Americans.  Savage asks for more recent examples.  Aoki says there doesn’t have to be obvious hate crimes for the stereotypes to be harmful.

As the conversation’s going well, Aoki tells Savage he’s a nice guy and suggests he and Nojay apologize on the air saying they’re not perfect and they’ve learned how what they said detrimentally impacts Asian Americans.  The station will look good, the community will breathe a sigh of relief, and it’ll be a win-win situation.  Savage says he’ll talk it over with Nojay.

July 10-Savage’s email admits:  “I enjoyed our frank and calm discussion yesterday of the Bill Nojay Show matter.  After demonstrating that two of the three points of objection had absolutely nothing to do with Nate Shinagawa, I told you I would get back to you regarding an apology for playing 40 seconds of Kyu Sakimoto’s [sic] hit song ‘Sukiyaki’ to bump out of the segment when Mr. Shinagawa was discussed.

“On August 6, 1965, the 20th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, top-rated WABC New York DJ Bob Dayton noted the occasion by dedicating ‘16 Candles’ by The Crests to the Japanese.  The song begins with the lyric ‘happy birthday…..happy birthday, baby.’  He was fired for this outrageous on-air comment, and I completely agree he should have been.  We also discussed other lamentable incidents of threats, intimidation and violence directed at Asian-Americans, including the World War 2 internment camps.

“The internment camps occurred 70 years in the past, during a time when the US was in a desperate-stakes war with Japan.  The Bob Dayton on-air crack and attacks on Americans of Asian descent are also historical incidents.  None have anything to do with Bill Nojay or WYSL.  I note your warning that disparaging Asian-Americans in the media might desensitize certain persons or foment further attacks, but you will forgive my skepticism that criticism of the political credentials of a liberal Democrat of Japanese descent will provoke attacks on him or other Asians, even if these comments are followed by 40 seconds of a hit record by a Japanese artist.  Indeed, you have failed even to draw a causal link between alleged insensitive comments in the media when past attacks actually HAVE occurred.

“Given your expressed fears about violence it is ironic that in the Nojay case, there actually have been REAL threats of violence and race-based hatred expressed.  And the victims of this hate speech have been the people of WYSL, not Nate Shinagawa.  We have been the recipients of threats, racist taunts based upon our skin color and obscenity-laced e-mails, faxes and voice messages, examples of which have been posted on our website.  We were forced to call local law enforcement for enhanced patrols to protect our property.  I will further state for the record that not a single complaint about the Nojay Show has originated from WYSL’s local coverage area, which includes 1.4 million people and the entire Rochester, New York SMSA.  On the contrary: the threats and hateful e-mails have entirely originated in Ithaca, New York, and national extreme-left blogs.  Ithaca is Nate Shinagawa’s home town and the base for his Congressional run.

“It thus appears that Nate Shinagawa was alerted to the innocuous segment by political operatives and the circumstances strongly suggest he, or his supporters with Mr. Shinagawa’s tacit approval, are behind the threats, taunts and obscenities.  The non-issue of the Nojay Show has also been parlayed into national blog discussions where participants are being egged on to further abuse with outrageous distortions of the facts in this case.  These fora include Media Matters, ActBlue and The Daily Kos.

“If any action is appropriate in this case, it is for Nate Shinagawa to speak out against the apparent actions of his supporters.  If he’s interested in reaching out beyond his radical-left base it would also be wise for him to defend 1st Amendment free speech, even that which he personally finds distasteful.  Such a public position would impress moderates who might potentially be interested in him as a candidate.  But nothing of the sort has occurred.

“Given the foregoing:

“Are we going to apologize for playing 40 seconds of ‘Sukiyaki?’  We are not.

“An apology connotes that we feel we did something wrong – something to atone for.  As I told you, the intent was innocent.  Intent is a necessary element of any crime, and none was committed here.  Even if we were willing to offer one, apologies at this point would only encourage further abuse of WYSL and our people.  We are not going to proffer apologies in the hope it will silence hysterical critics.  As Winston Churchill said, ‘the appeaser is the person who feeds the tiger hoping it will eat him last.’  We don’t feel like being the food of radical leftists, thanks.

“I do sincerely wish you the best in your mission of ferreting out evidence of media bias against Asian-Americans.  If you find actual examples of this you can count on our support.”

November 6-Nate Shinagawa loses to Republican incumbent Tom Reed 52% to 48%.

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