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WBUR’s “On Point” apologizes after hoax caller makes racist comments during broadcast

A nationally-distributed public radio show has apologized after an apparent hoaxster made racist comments during a call-in segment on Thursday.

“On Point,” produced by WBUR (90.9 FM), said the caller slipped through during a conversation between host Meghna Chakrabarti and incoming San Francisco Chronicle food critic Soleil Ho.

Ho, who also appears on a podcast called “Racist Sandwich,” was taking questions from the program’s listeners when a caller identifying himself as Dominic from Aspen, Colorado asked if she would be writing about customers who ruin the experiences of other restaurant patrons.

Dominic asserted he was the vice president of a chain of restaurants called Chart House.  He alleged black customers frequently “ruin the meal for everyone” else in his restaurants.

The comment caught Chakrabarti by surprise. Stunned, she followed up by asking if Dominic was alleging that “African-Americans are ruining meals for everybody else in your restaurant?”

“Well, they’re not from Africa, they’re black,” Dominic replied.

Chakrabarti thanked Dominic for the call before hanging up and moving on to another listener.

Later in the day, the station apologized, saying the call was an apparent hoax. The station said it reached out to the corporate owner of Chart House and spoke with a high-level executive who denied knowing of any vice president named Dominic.

“There is no Dominic that’s a vice president of Chart House, and no vice president of Chart House called,” Steve Scheinthal, the executive vice president of parent company Landry’s, Inc., told WBUR. “I don’t even know who this Dominic is. This is a horrible hoax. Our organization has zero tolerance for any kind of racism. We take this seriously. It was a horrible statement that does not reflect the views of our organization.”

While the first Chart House restaurant did open in Aspen in the 1960s, one has not existed there for several years — a Chart House restaurant was constructed in 2004 but has since closed. A search for executives named “Dominic” linked to Chart House or its parent company returned no results.

The segment was still available as a podcast on WBUR’s website when The Desk accessed it Thursday evening. A full transcript of the controversial call as transcribed by The Desk follows below:

Meghna Chakrabarti, host: “Let’s go to Dominic who’s calling from Aspen, Colorado. Dominic, you’re on the air.”

Dominic, caller: “Thanks for taking my call. Soleil, I was going to ask you a question about some of these food reviews of are so concentrated, are so Michelin-star centric that the real value kind of disappears as far as what the consumer or what the reader would want to find out. I mean, because, certain things, I mean, are, of course, critical like the quality of the food. But there’s another thing that can go into a perfect dining situation, like ambiance. Are you going going to be talking about, you know, the ambiance, the whole experience of the food and, uh, the things that go along with it? Particularly, I find that, you know, many people — and I’m vice president of a chain of restaurants called Chart House, and we have a really big issues with some clientele who come in and people are trying to have a great meal and they end up ruining it for everyone. And it’s really, you know, it’s a shame. And usually, it’s —”

Chakrabarti: “Dominic, can I just jump in here for a second? I’m a little confused by you have issues with clientele ruining it for everyone else? I just — I didn’t understand what you meant by that.”

Dominic: “Well, I mean, normally, it’s black people who do that. They ruin the meal for everyone.”

Chakrabarti: “Uh, so, wait, hang on for a second Dominic. You’re saying — you have Afri… — that African-Americans are ruining meals for everybody else in your restaurant?”

Dominic: “Well, they’re not from Africa, they’re black. So, uh…”

Chakrabarti: “Okay. Uh. Uh. Well, Dominic, thanks for your call, I guess. Soleil, I did not see that one coming, I want to be perfectly honest. I don’t know where Dominic is coming from here, so my apologies for that.”

WBUR says it screens callers before they are sent to their host “to create the most-robust hour of live conversation possible.” The station said it apologized for the hoax.

“On Point” is distributed to public radio stations across the country by National Public Radio.

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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).