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WFAN host takes caller to task over mental health

Gregg Giannotti of "Boomer & Gio" lashed out at a listener who criticized his response to a panic attack.

Gregg Giannotti of "Boomer & Gio" lashed out at a listener who criticized his response to a panic attack.

A New York sportscaster blasted a listener on-air who downplayed mental health issues during a segment on Tuesday.

The caller, “Bill in Connecticut,” triggered host Gregg Giannotti of WFAN’s “Boomer & Gio” when he criticized the way the sportscaster dealt with offensive comments made by a listener who called earlier in the broadcast.

The first caller criticized Giannotti for displaying effeminate behavior during the broadcast, prompting the sportscaster to launch into a profanity-laced tirade, which WFAN (660 AM, 101.9 FM) ultimately censored with a music interlude.

Later in the show, Bill from Connecticut charged Giannotti with being “soft” in the face of criticism, and said his on-air content resembled the type of drama that might be seen on a “Real Housewives” episode.

A confused Giannotti asked Bill to explain himself, to which the listener pivoted to criticism of Giannotti’s high school sports career. Later, Bill condemned the way Giannotti handled an on-air panic attack in an earlier broadcast, telling the broadcaster that he needed to deal with his mental health problems by shrugging them off.

“You’ve just got to suck it up,” Bill said before Giannotti hung up the phone.

“Are you serious, Bill? You’ve got to suck it up? Do you know how many people have killed themselves because they were told to suck up their mental illness?” Giannotti said at the start of his impassioned rant, which lasted over three minutes and was censored by WFAN multiple times for profanity.

“That’s the most insulting thing I’ve heard all the time,” Giannotti continued. “I’ve gone to therapy, I’m on two different medications, I’m trying my best to get through the things I have wrong with me. And you’re telling me to suck it up?”

Toward the end of his comments, co-host Boomer Esiason got up from his chair and walked out of the studio, a move that prompted further criticism from Giannotti.

“Well he can’t handle it either,” Giannotti said. “Quite frankly, he doesn’t understand mental illness to save his life. That’s a big problem. A big problem.”

The show went to a commercial break, and Esiason returned to the set to continue the program with Giannotti.

The full transcript of the exchange with “Bill in Connecticut” is below:

Boomer Esiason: By the way, Bill in Connecticut. What’s happening?

Bill in Connecticut: Gio?

Esiason: Yeah, we’re here.

Gregg Giannotti: I just left. Actually, I’m not here anymore, I’m on my way home.

Bill: I definitely agree with you about the woman comment. I’m the father of a daughter as well. But, you know, I have to be honest with you, and that sometimes you bring the show to the level of these Housewives shows with your scuttlebutt, and this, that and the other thing, and some of the soft things you do.

Giannotti: Like what? Give me an example.

Bill: Well —

Giannotti: So the most entertaining reality TV franchise, you’re comparing our show to, when we’re in the one entertainment business?

Bill: No, no, I agree. You have a great show. I’m just saying, well, like — like — the whole shoes and the socks —

Giannotti: What are you talking about?

Bill: You basically stopped the show, because you couldn’t —

Giannotti: Yeah, I had an anxiety attack. I had a legit anxiety attack that day, and that’s what was going on. So you’re taking on that thing? That’s the thing you’re gonna point out? You’re going to go to the mental illness bucket and bring that one in? No, that was a legit anxiety attack. So give me another — give me another example.

Bill: In general, think you’re soft. You haven’t — you can’t — you can’t keep yourself on — since, since high school, you couldn’t keep yourself on a playing field.

Giannotti: What are you talking about? What do you mean, I wasn’t good at playing sports?

Bill: You were always injured, and they show that clip of you running down the first base line —

Giannotti: Yeah, I got it, because I was fat and out of shape and had a bad hamstring. What are you, do you run marathons or something? I’m not an athlete. I’m a talk show host. What does that have to do with anything?

Bill: No, I don’t run marathons —

Giannotti: So what does me not being an athlete have anything to do with how I do my job, which is to entertain?

Bill: Let me ask you a question. Or, let me ask Boomer a question —

Giannotti: No, no, ask me a question. Keep him out of it. You’ve had terrible points so far. You’ve brought up a panic attack and cold that soft, which is complete BS. You’re lucky I didn’t hang up on you at that point. And you’ve said that you’re soft because you’re not an athlete, and you’re supposed to be an athlete, when you’re a talk show host. So, so far, you’ve had complete and utter crap for your point. So keep talking to me. What else you got?

Bill: No, that’s fine. But you know what, you can say from my point of view, an anxiety attack like that? You know what? I’m of the mindset — and I’m older than you — you’ve just got to suck it up.

Giannotti: Oh my God. Are you serious, Bill? You know how many people have killed themselves because they were told to suck up their mental illness? Seriously? You know how many people? That’s the most insulting thing I’ve heard all the time.

I’ve gone to therapy. I’m on two different medications. I’m trying my best to get through the things that I have wrong with me. And you’re telling me to suck it up? I mean, this is why you get a lot of people who go through real trauma that are out in like wars, and then come back here and kill themselves because they were told to suck it up. Because of guys like you, Bill in Connecticut, because I’m soft because I had a panic attack. That’s a real thing, man. It’s a real thing. If you don’t want to believe it, then quite frankly, you’re not smart enough or intelligent enough to understand it.

I mean, you’re soft because you had a panic attack. That’s what I’ve heard. I mean, we have got the most idiotic neanderthal callers out there. This is not 1945 anymore, man! Women are equal and people have meantal illness. Anybody else want to bring on something else? You want to go anybody want to call up and knock some Black people, while we’re at it? Let’s do that. Hispanics. So we’ve already taken on women and people with mental illness. What about little people? Want to take them on to today? What are we doing?

You’re soft because you had a panic attack. It’s 2023 man, and that’s not going to hurt me anymore. It’s not. Tell that to guys like Kevin Love. Kevin Love, who, by the way, in the NBA, suffers from anxiety. He doesn’t get hurt. He’s not soft. He plays professional sports; that live up to your standards, Bill in Connecticut? He’s got anxiety that okay, is that okay? There’s people who have fought in wars who have come back way tougher than I’ll ever be and have anxiety. Are they soft? Or are you — [WFAN censored this part of the broadcast].

Those of us who admit that we’ve got issues, whether it be depression or anxiety and deal with it in our lives, to get to be in a better place, are not soft. You, my friend, you are the soft one. [WFAN censored this part of the broadcast]

The last thing that people are who confront their mental issues, to have a better life for them and their families, is soft. That’s the last effing thing. I’m of the old school. No, you’re not, you’re an idiot. You’re an idiot who hasn’t developed.

Don’t give me that crap. Don’t ever bring that crap in here again, ‘you’re soft if you’re mentally ill or have anxiety.’ I swear to God if you’re in front of me right now ,I’d show you what soft is.

Jerry Recco: I do, well said.

Producer (off camera): Well, Boomer’s leaving.

Giannotti: I was gonna curse again, so I shut my mic off.

Recco: Smart.

Producer (off camera): Jerry, did you do Moment of the Day?

Recco: Yeah.

Giannotti: [gestures at Esiason’s empty chair] Quite frankly, he doesn’t understand mental illness to safe his life. That’s a big problem. It’s a big problem. So — you want to read the Dunkin’ Donuts read?

Recco: Well said, yes.

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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).