NEW YORK, April 17 -- Controversial radio talk show host Bob Grant, who was often criticized as a racist, was fired Wednesday from his top-rated show on WABC in New York. Grant was dismissed just one day before a scheduled protest organized by Jesse Jackson over comments Grant made saying he was such a pessimist he suspected late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown probably survived a deadly plane crash in Croatia. 'My hunch is that he (Ron Brown) is the one survivor,' said Grant soon after the news of the crash. 'I just have that hunch, maybe it's because at heart I'm such a pessimist.' Neither Grant nor station executives would comment on the firing, beyond saying the decision was mutual, and that the station wished Grant well. Grant, one of ABC's most popular radio personalities, was repeatedly attacked for statements he made on-air during his 10-year tenure, including frequent derogatory references to blacks and other minorities, whom he described as 'maggots on a hot day.' Grant once called a black church congregation 'screaming savages' when they cheered a guilty verdict for two California police officers convicted in the Rodney King beating case. He also often disparaged former New York City Mayor David Dinkins as a 'men's room attendant,' and called Martin Luther King 'that scumbag Marty.' WABC, which was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in the acquisition of Capital Cities, had stood behind Grant. Most recently, the station stopped carrying the syndicated talk show of lawyer Alan Dershowitz after the attorney called Grant a bigot and a racist a month ago.
One of Grant's staunchest critics, press watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said the firing was far preferable to the station's earlier policy of cutting off critics such as Dershowitz. 'It's not that we're sorry he's gone,' said Jim Naureckas, editor of FAIR's magazine. 'What we're calling for was someone on the air at WABC who would challenge and criticize Grant's racism.' FAIR had mounted a phone and letter-writing campaign to persuade Disney to have Grant countered on the station. Dershowitz told reporters the station's dropping of his show paved the way for Grant's dismissal. 'Once they fired me, they could no longer use free speech to defend keeping Bob Grant,' he said. Guardian Angels founder and fellow WABC talk show host Curtis Sliwa said Grant's fans flooded the switchboard when Sliwa read the station's announcement on the termination of Grant's show Wednesday evening. Sliwa compared Grant to 'shock jocks' Howard Stern and Don Imus, who have also been fired in their careers for controversial remarks. Sliwa predicted another station would hire Grant.