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iHeart Nashville apologizes after hosts call tornado victims uneducated

(Image: iHeart Media/Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

A radio show in Nashville has apologized to listeners after a morning show host called victims of a recent tornado outbreak uneducated and poor.

The comments were made by on-air personality Zac Woodward during a live broadcast of “The Woody and Jim Show,” a morning program aired on Top 40 radio station WRVW (107.5 FM, “The River”).

Twenty-five people were killed and dozens of others injured after a series of tornadoes ripped through downtown Nashville and left a trail of destruction in several surrounding suburbs. Some of the twisters that dropped on the area brought wind speed in excess of 165 miles per hour.

Most of the victims were from Putnam County, Tennessee, a mostly-rural area several miles away from Nashville. The deceased included at least five children all under the age of 13.

Woodward said emergency personnel told him that “they see more deaths in those areas because people don’t have as much education or money or resources to protect themselves.”

“If you think about the structure of the homes in more of those rural communities, a lot of them are pre-manufactured homes, so they don’t really have a safe place. If a tornado comes through, the whole house is going,” Woodward said.

Several listeners took to social media to express their outrage over the comments.

“The comments that were made on your show about Putnam County were absolutely disgusting,” one commenter wrote on the show’s official Facebook page. “The ‘uneducated’ people you are referring to were engineers, pastors, police officers, nurses, doctors, managers (and) many other occupations — but more importantly, some of them were children.”

In a statement issued late last week, the morning show defended Woodward in part, saying the on-air personality never said the word “uneducated.”

Still, the show characterized Woodward’s paraphrase of a conversation with first responders was “thoughtless and completely inaccurate.”

“The morning show has since apologized on-air,” the statement said, adding that it was “never our intention to offend anyone.”

In a separate statement, executives at WRVW didn’t apologize for the remarks, but said the broadcaster takes “our platform as a media outlet very seriously.” The statement pointed out several examples of charitable and public service work involving WRVW staff since the tornadoes.

“We understand that our responsibility is not only to help our neighbors through volunteer efforts and donations, but to be a place where people who need help can be connected to those that are willing and able to provide it,” the station said.

WRVW is owned and operated by iHeart Nashville, a subsidiary of iHeart Media, Inc.

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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).