HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The radio station Island 98.5 has pulled two of its morning drive DJs off the air following backlash over insensitive comments made about a local musician’s struggle with homelessness and hunger as a child on Friday.
In a statement early Monday afternoon, the head of iHeart Radio Honolulu ― which owns Island 98.5 ― apologized for the remarks and said the situation was being addressed internally.
“The on air comments made by DJs “Slick Vic” Harris and “KreyZ” Oshiro this past Friday were highly insensitive and do not represent the values of Island 98.5 (or iHeartRadio Honolulu) and our commitment to the communities we serve,” said Chuck Cotton, iHeartRadio Honolulu’s president. “Slick Vic and KreyZ Oshiro are no longer part of the Island 98.5 Wake Up Crew.”
Cotton declined to comment further on the status of Harris and Oshiro, citing privacy reasons surrounding personnel matters.
During a segment of a fundraising telethon benefitting the Hawaii Foodbank on Friday, musician Paula Fuga shared a powerful story about how she struggled with homelessness and hunger as a child.
“I was homeless on the beach several times in my life, and it’s something I don’t really talk about, but I’ve eaten from a trash can when I was a little girl,” Fuga said, after her performance in the telethon. “I’ve been hungry before.”
Harris and Oshiro, two of the Island 98.5 radio station personalities who were hosting the telethon at the time, made light of the situation, triggering widespread widespread criticism.
“Now, is it straight from a trash can, or do you put it on a plate first?” joked Harris.
Fuga appeared at first to try and brush off the comment. Oshiro, as well as the third member of the Island 98.5 Wake Up Crew, Rory Wild, then further tried to lighten the mood.
Moments later, an emotional Fuga responded.
“You’re going to make me cry. What a jerk," as she tried to laugh it off. “Kids, even as an adult, don’t be jerks that make fun of you and your pain. You know what I mean? What the hell is your problem?”
Harris then apologized as Fuga walked off the stage without singing another song.
In an interview with Hawaii News Now on Monday morning, Fuga acknowledged she had been in a joking mood beforehand ― but that it didn’t excuse the hurtful comments, and that people need to have more compassion.
“I don’t wish anybody any ill will," Fuga said, electing to try and return the focus to the Hawaii Foodbank. "I think the main thing is that there are hungry children in Hawaii and we still have to consider them and we have to do what we can to pull together and make sure that no other kid has to eat from a trash can. That is a very serious and deep thing and it’s not something to be laughing about.”
After receiving an outpouring of support, Fuga urged viewers to donate to the Hawaii Foodbank on her behalf.
“What we need more of is compassion and kindness and forgiveness," she said.
Harris, who was not present for Monday’s radio show, issued a public apology that was aired during his usual time slot.
“I knew right after that it was rude, inappropriate and definitely not funny,” said Harris. “And I apologized right after, but the damage was already done. So right now, I wanted to take this time to make a formal apology for the thoughtless comments I made on the radio this past Friday.
“I definitely didn’t mean any harm,” he continued. “I understand it would hurt people, and it was very insensitive and rude. I apologize to Paula Fuga, the Hawaii Foodbank, and any listeners that were offended.”
Reached Monday morning at a food distribution event at the Aloha Stadium, Hawaii Foodbank CEO Ron Mizutani said he was angered by the situation.
“A lesson to be learned, that we still have to deal with that stigma of shame. Which is sad, because that’s not our Hawaii,” Mizutani told Hawaii News Now.
“It upsets me, actually. But today, we do good,” he added, referring to the distribution event at the stadium, intended to help families in economic hardship brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Cotton, the president of iHeartRadio Honolulu, said he had been in close contract with Fuga since Friday and that he has asked to meet with her to apologize in person.
Hawaii News Now was a co-sponsor of the event, and will continue to support the Hawaii Foodbank, but does not in any way support the insensitive comments made by the radio personalities.
HNN reached out to iHeartRadio, which owns island 98.5, but has not heard back as of Sunday evening.
To support the Hawaii Foodbank’s mission, click here.