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Don Geronimo apologizes for calling female sports reporter ‘Barbie’

A veteran radio broadcaster has issued a statement of apology nearly a week after he was fired for calling a television sports reporter “Barbie.”

On Tuesday, a public relations firm hired by former WBIG (100.3 FM) host Don Geronimo emailed a five-paragraph statement on his behalf, in which the broadcaster said he was merely trying to be “humorous and topical” when he disparaged WUSA (Channel 9) sports reporter Sharla McBride during a live broadcast from the training facility of the Washington Commanders football team.

“I insensitively used the terms Barbie, Barbie girl, and ‘chick’ when talking about Ms. McBride, a fellow broadcaster who I did not know or recognize, when she walked by our broadcast position,” Geronimo, whose legal name is Michael Sorce, said in the statement. “My attempts to be humorous and topical backfired, and I needlessly deprecated a professional colleague.”

The broadcast triggered a wave of criticism from the football team, who just last year signed an extensive agreement with iHeartMedia for WBIG to serve as the local radio broadcast partner for regular season games.

“After an internal review, Don Geronimo is no longer an employee of WBIG,” Aaron Hyland, the regional president for iHeartMedia in the Washington, D.C. area, said in a statement on Sunday. “We take matters of this nature very seriously, and this behavior does not align with our core values.”

Geronimo was set to air an interview last Friday with Josh Harris, the new majority owner of the Commanders. The interview, which was taped earlier in the week, never broadcast on the station. iHeartMedia later pulled all references to the show from its websites, and removed an on-demand feed of Geronimo’s show that was distributed as a podcast.

“When I heard the comments made about me on their radio show, I felt incredibly insulted and embarrassed,” McBride said in a statement last week. “In my 17 years as a professional journalist, I have never been disrespected in such a blatant manner while trying to do my job. Their words were sexist and misogynistic. No woman should experience this in the workplace, and I appreciate the Commanders’ swift response in handling this matter.”

Immediately after his firing, Geronimo refused to offer a public comment, saying instead he was “consulting with my advisors as to my options moving forward, including an accurate reflection of the situation.”

Now, after nearly a week, Geronimo affirms he was in the wrong.

“I deeply and sincerely apologize for the pain I caused WUSA sports reporter Sharla McBride,” Geronimo said on Tuesday. “I have reached out to Ms. McBride to apologize. When she feels ready, I hope that we can have a conversation and that I will have the opportunity to reiterate my apology to her in person.”

Geronimo took issue with an unnamed media report, which claimed there was a conversation during the broadcast in which he and his producer referred to McBride as “tight.” The reference was noted in an article published by the New York Post on Geronimo’s dismissal.

“Neither I nor my producer used the word ‘tight’ to describe Ms. McBride,” Geronimo affirmed. “Rather, my producer used the word ‘tight’ – a common term in the broadcast world that refers to seamless production – to describe a technical aspect of our show that day. The timing of it was unfortunately misconstrued in some reports as part of my reference to Ms. McBride.”

Geronimo, 64, started his broadcast career at a radio station in Maryland before ultimately moving to WLS-FM (94.7 FM) in Chicago. He was hired by Washington, D.C. station WAVA (105.1 FM) in the mid-1980s.

He moved around from station to station until 2010, when CBS Radio named Geronimo their permanent afternoon host on sports-oriented KHTK (1140 AM). His broadcasts rarely featured sports commentary, and it struck a nerve with Tom Couzens, the Sacramento Bee’s sports columnist, who regularly criticized Geronimo in the newspaper.

The situation between Geronimo and Couzens made headlines in other newspapers when the newspaper columnist left threatening and harassing voicemails on Geronimo’s phone. Geronimo played the messages on-air, which Couzens denied having any involvement in.

Couzens ultimately confessed to the calls after Geronimo provided another reporter with proof that the messages originated from Couzens’ phone.

That situation aside, Geronimo’s time in Sacramento was relatively successful, with his show among the top-rated news and talk programs in the region. His popularity led to regular on-air appearances on KMAX-TV (Channel 31) and its flagship morning program, “Good Day Sacramento.”

In 2011, Geronimo was named program director for KHTK and his show moved from afternoons to the morning drive time slot. His contract was extended to 2014, upon which his show would move back to afternoons.

In 2013, Geronimo announced his program would end in Sacramento, and that he would be doing another project with CBS Radio in the future. The project saw him return to the D.C. area, where he broadcast for one year on WJFK (106.7 FM) before announcing his retirement from that station.

For several years, Geronimo self-produced a show that was distributed through the podcast network PodGod. In 2021, iHeartMedia offered Geronimo a contract two years ago to return permanently to the airwaves in D.C., with his show relaunching on WBIG.

Last year, iHeartMedia and the Commanders announced a multi-year deal to move the Commanders radio broadcasts from WTEM (980 AM) to WBIG, which was touted as a move intended to give Commanders games more exposure on an FM radio station. The deal was extensively detailed on Geronimo’s WBIG show.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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