WEEI hosts settled their differences off the air by resorting to what they do on the air: yell at one another.
During company-wide sensitivity training on Friday, which forced them to suspend daytime programming from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., multiple station employees raised their voices at one another, according to WEEI’s Mike Mutnansky. Some of those central figures in the yelling match included morning show host Kirk Minihane and afternoon show hosts Michael Holley, Dale Arnold and Rich Keefe.
Mutnansky addressed the sensitivity training when he opened his Friday night show “Mut at Night” at 6 p.m. He detailed some of the events during the training, which came after a tumultuous couple of weeks for the radio station.
“It definitely got emotional. It definitely got heated. The volume was 10 in some of these back-and-forths. And I thought it was good. But we’ll see how it presents itself. I walked out of there feeling like there is a good direction going forward.”
Settling old scores between the stations hosts was not the pressing goal of this meeting. At least, the station’s press release said the company intended to enter the meetings with a very different goal.
“WEEI is in the process of closely reevaluating our policies and procedures in an effort to ensure that our programming is never intolerant or harmful to our listeners and our city,” the statement read. “As a part of this effort, WEEI will be hosting an all-day mandatory sensitivity training.”
The meeting came after the station had a pair of mishaps in the span of a few weeks. Those two issues resulted in the suspension of hosts Christian Fauria and Alex Reimer.
Fauria’s misstep seemed to be the final incident which led the station to call the sensitivity training. He did a racist impersonation of Tom Brady’s agent Don Yee, an Asian-American who does not have an accent. But nonetheless, Fauria put on a stereotypical asian accent, which earned him a five-day suspension.
Reimer irked Brady when the host called Brady’s 6-year-old daughter Vivian an “annoying little pissant” during one radio broadcast. The comment drew criticism from Brady during his weekly appearance on the network. Brady said he was mulling ending the weekly appointment after hearing the remarks. The network responded by indefinitely suspending Reimer. He is still serving that suspension.
Mutnansky did not relay much information on how the network addressed those issues. Instead, he opened his show by focussing on the dissent between hosts. Minihane and Glenn Ordway, a WEEI afternoon show host, do not get along either. They make that clear on the airwaves. Mutnansky did not mention Ordway’s role in the meeting. Instead, Minihane’s frayed relationship with the afternoon hosts took front-and-center stage.
“In the heat of [the yelling], I was like, ‘Holy bleep, is this happening right now?’ Because it got that intense. Because the people in this building care a lot about these radio shows and care a lot about this station and really care a lot about you guys [the listeners]. … Topics and shows that you guys are proud to listen to — that’s the goal here for me, and I got the feeling here today, that’s the goal for guys who were in the huge conference room yelling back and forth for a large portion of this meeting today. But I think by the end of it, it was a needed back-and-forth. And by the end of it, I think there are people who have at least a better line of communication on certain things here at the radio station. I think all of it was important because of what’s happened here recently.”
Mutnansky noted twice that “the shows that you love will stay the shows that you love,” which was the concern of many of WEEI’s audience members who consume the station’s often dramatic and edgy content. The station has also not shied away from politics. During the election cycle, Minihane and his partner Gerry Callahan constantly discussed the race between President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
But amid the political and sports discussions, the station has been accused of hate-speak. The Boston Globe’s Shirley Leung wrote Wednesday the station was responsible for perpetuating a “culture of vitriol” in the city. For those looking for manifestations of vitriol, they can look to Adam Jones’ experience at Fenway Park when a fan yelled racial slurs at him. One fan shouldn’t define a fanbase. But the unfortunate moment is now tied to the city.
And while there seemed to be plenty of vitriol in the meeting, the hosts who were fighting began to settle their differences and “move forward,” according to Mutnansky.
“As for things I did not expect to see — and you guys are not going to believe it and maybe he’ll talk more about it on ‘Kirk and Callahan’ on Monday morning — but Kirk, Dale, Holley and Keefe, after they were a part of this pretty loud back-and-forth during the meeting, the three of those guys sat down and broke bread. I watched those four guys sit there and have lunch together. And I never, ever would have believed that going into the meeting. Sitting there having lunch together. Kirk Minihane is pulling his salad and his sandwich up to lunch with those guys. That sort of sums up the meeting here to me.”
If those arguments and reconciliation summed up the meeting, which was supposed to prevent further insensitivity, then the station seems to have missed the mark.
The biggest takeaway should not have been that these talking heads can get along with one another. That’s a nice story. But it wasn’t why they called the meeting. The takeaway should have been how to properly interact with their audience without injecting racist, sexist or generally offensive remarks into the commentary.
And the fact that the station allowed Mutnansky to literally broadcast the settling of old scores to the city — done by yelling — seems like a counterproductive step for the network, which appears obsessed with building their hosts into reality radio characters with borderline WWE plot lines.
Whether intentional or not, Mutnansky seems to have converted the network’s sensitivity trainings into a ratings ploy while sidestepping the station’s real issues.
Disclosure: Henry McKenna works part-time for NBC Sports Boston in addition to working at the Big Lead. Michael Holley, mentioned in the piece as one of the WEEI hosts, also works as a night show personality for NBC Sports Boston.