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iHeart disciplines radio hosts who mocked entertainer during food drive fundraiser

The morning show duo teased a local singer who revealed she once ate garbage as a homeless youth.

The morning show duo teased a local singer who revealed she once ate garbage as a homeless youth.

A radio station in Hawaii disciplined two morning hosts this week after they mocked a local entertainer during a fundraiser for a local food bank.

The incident happened last Friday during a fundraiser for Hawaii Foodbank hosted by KDNN (98.5 FM), a Reggae format radio station in Honolulu.

Paula Fuga, a local entertainer, was asked to perform several songs as part of the station’s live broadcast event. During a brief interview with morning show co-hosts Kreyz Oshiro and Vic Harris, Fuga shared a personal story from her time as a homeless child.

“When I was a little kid, I used to be homeless on the beach, so I benefited from things like this, from people giving,” Fuga said. “I’ve eaten from a trash can when I was a little girl — I’ve been hungry before.”

The morning show duo jumped at the opportunity to make fun of Fuga’s past, asking if she ate “right out of the trash can, or do you put it on a plate first?”

“I could cry thinking about it,” Fuga responded before adding that she ate food from the garbage can in the dark.

Fuga later asked the hosts if they had a box of tissues, to which one replied, “No, but we’ve got a trash can right over there by the bar.”

“What, just in case she’s hungry?” the other host remarked.

“I don’t eat from a trash can anymore,” Fuga said.

The exchange sparked outrage on social media, and by Monday, the station’s corporate owner iHeart Media said the duo were no longer part of the morning show.

“The on-air comments made by [Harris and Oshiro] this past Friday were highly insensitive and do not represent the values of Island 98.5 FM or iHeart Radio Honolulu and our commitment to the communities we serve,” a station official said in a statement. “We want to sincerely apologize to Paula Fuga and to any others who were offended. Please know that the situation has been addressed internally.”

In an interview with NBC affiliate KHNL (Channel 13), Fugo said she tried to laugh off the comments during the event but was unable to continue performing at the fundraiser because the remarks hurt her feelings.

“I started crying. I’m an emotional person,” Fuga said. “There’s no way I could recover from that and hold myself together and sing. I’m an emotional person. That’s where my inspiration comes from.”

On Monday, Fuga and iHeart Media said they would channel that inspiration into a new statewide campaign with the goal of ending hunger in Hawaii.

“An awakening and a reckoning of truth is now on the table thanks to Paula’s willingness to move forward in a unified effort to address this crisis,” the statement said.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).