By Albert Lin
Two Long Island radio-station personalities have been suspended indefinitely after perpetrating a hoax involving a fictitious anti-LGBT parent.
Steve Harper and Leanna Karlson, cohosts of The K-98.3 Morning Show on Hempstead, N.Y., radio station WKJY, told listeners on Wednesday about a birthday-party invitation returned to gay parents with an anti-LGBT rant written on it. Except that all details of the story “were completely fabricated independently by Steve and Leeana,” read a statement posted to the station’s Facebook page.
“This was done without the knowledge of K-98.3 management or ownership,” the statement continued. “The story, presented as a real event, was, in fact, fictitious. An internal investigation was quickly launched which has resulted in the immediate suspension of Steve Harper and Leeana Karlson from The K-98.3 Morning Show.”
In an apology posted to the station’s website on Friday evening, Harper and Karlson wrote, “We were attempting to spur a healthy discourse on a highly passionate topic, but we made a mistake by misleading our listeners into thinking that this specific situation actually existed.
“We are very sorry that we perpetuated this falsehood, even after it was clear that it had taken on a ‘life of its own.’ We deeply apologize for violating your trust, and we will work hard to regain that trust.”
The “RSVP” to an invitation to a 7th birthday party was posted on the station’s Facebook page. (It has since been removed.) “Tommy will NOT attend,” wrote the mother, identified as Beth in the post. “I do not believe in what you do and will not subject my innocent son to your ‘lifestyle.’ I’m sorry Sophia has to grow up this way. If you have an issue or need to speak to me: [phone number].”
The Facebook post said: “Beth gave us permission to post her phone number and said anyone who has a problem with what she wrote can call her, too!”
The phone number went to a voicemail that had received “well over 2,000 messages before it was taken down,” a station spokesperson told Newsday.
Reaction to the original post—which had more than 2,500 comments as of Friday morning—was overwhelmingly in support of “Sophia” and her parents. Reaction to the Facebook post announcing the suspension was more mixed, with many applauding the disc jockeys for raising awareness, but others saying it was hurtful and not funny.
David Kilmnick, CEO of the Long Island GLBT Services Network, said, “We applaud the quick and decisive actions from the management team at K-98.3 FM. While we don’t agree with how the information was presented by Steve and Leeana, we do recognize the impact and importance of fostering discussions of this important and sensitive social issue.”
Kilmnick told WNBC-TV that he had met with Harper and Karlson, and in the station’s statement Kilmnick is quoted as saying, “I look forward to continuing this discussion on The K-98.3 Morning Show with Steve and Leeana upon their return.”