Remember how conservative radio host Scott Voorhees recently said “atheists chicks are easy“? Here’s the context from an interview he did last week with former president of the University of Nebraska – Omaha Secular Student Alliance Luke Hoffman:
Hoffman: … That was why we were such a big deal on campus, because we hosted this event that was–
Voorhees: So you didn’t go out and help build any homes, you didn’t clean oil off of birds, you didn’t help any poor people…
Hoffman: … We participated in democracy…
Voorhees: … you didn’t do any food drives, you didn’t help the homeless. You had a debate. You know why the Christian kids helped you out in your debate? Because atheist chicks are easy. And a lot of them are goth and hot.
Hoffman: Wow… now that’s disgusting, dude. Seriously.
Voorhees: Thanks a lot for your call. [Hangs up on Luke.]
Well, Voorhees hasn’t issued any apology and the radio station hasn’t done so much as slap him on the wrist. More importantly, as UNO has a connection to the radio station, the university hasn’t said anything, either.
Now, Hoffman is calling on the school to “pressure KFAB for an apology and a retraction.”
First, there’s a letter he sent to KFAB Radio 1110′s Program Director Gary Sadlemyer (the media was CC’ed on it):
Dear Mr. Sadlemyer,
My name is Luke Hoffman. I am the immediate past president of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Secular Student Alliance. During a radio interview July 10 with your talk show host Scott Voorhees, Voorhees made a comment that I challenged on the spot and wish to follow up on now. In reaction to the fact that a Christian club on campus had networked with the UNO Secular Student Alliance to put on a civil debate, Voorhees went so far as to say, “You know why the Christian kids helped you out in your debate? Because atheist chicks are easy. And a lot of them are Goth and hot.” (You can listen to this remark at http://bit.ly/NmcGaG starting at the 14:16 mark.)
In addition to this being another example of what has been termed the “war on women,” it also impugns the motives of the Christian group, suggesting that their cooperation was insincere. I called this sexist remark disgusting at the time (after which I was immediately disconnected) and, in response to numerous calls for further response, wish to readdress the matter now.
The reason that Voorhees was discussing this matter in the first place was because of the forthcoming Midwest Freethought Conference and the Omaha Coalition of Reason billboard on 72nd and Pacific here in the city. This is the fourth Midwest Freethought Conference and, as such, it contributes to Omaha’s economic development.
But instead of discussing this unique community event, Voorhees chose to be dismissive while dehumanizing atheist women. Moreover, when listeners called in to express their legitimate outrage at his comments, he ridiculed them for lacking a sense of humor. But isn’t that the usual cover for bigoted remarks against minority groups? How many times have people tried to excuse racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism under the cover of humor? Radio announcer Don Imus tried this in 2007 with his “joke” about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team and was fired as a result.
In the popular atheist blog “The Friendly Atheist,” Hemant Mehta describes the interaction as “frustrating all around, and that was even before he made his most inflammatory comment.” Voorhees’ misplaced hostility toward people with differing views was, I think, demonstrated by his offensive remarks as well as his apparent unwillingness to really listen to his guests on that occasion.
The membership of the UNO SSA and I, therefore, request that KFAB repudiate Voorhees’ remarks against atheist women and that he personally apologize.
Immediate Past President
UNO Secular Student Alliance
He also wrote to University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken (again, CC’ed the media):
Dear President Milliken,
As has already been brought to your attention by others, during a radio interview of me on July 10 on KFAB Radio 1110 by talk-show host Scott Voorhees, Voorhees made a comment that I challenged on the spot. It was in reaction to the fact that the University of Nebraska at Omaha CRU Christian group had networked with my group, the UNO Secular Student Alliance, last semester to put on a highly-regarded debate. Voorhees declared, “You know why the Christian kids helped you out in your debate? Because atheist chicks are easy. And a lot of them are Goth and hot.” (You can listen to this remark at http://bit.ly/NmcGaG starting at the 14:16 mark.)
In addition to this being another example of the right-wing war on women, it also impugns the motives of the campus Christian group, suggesting that their cooperation was insincere. I called this sexist remark disgusting at the time (after which I was immediately disconnected). Now, in response to numerous requests for further action, I wish to readdress the matter.
Reasonable people might have expected the UNO administration to act swiftly and decisively in criticizing this remark against legitimate UNO campus groups—especially after I brought it to the administration’s attention last week. And not merely because the remark attacked UNO students, both Atheist and Christian, but because that broadcast also challenged UNO’s institutional reputation. After all, Director of University Relations Tim Kaldahl appeared on the same show and had to put up with attacks against UNO for hosting the fourth annual Midwest Freethought Conference. Voorhees openly questioned whether the university was still worthy of public support. And KFAB pays UNO for rights to use the “N” logo and to broadcast Nebraska football. The station calls itself “the Home of the Huskers,” which is the UNO team. (For reference, KFAB is listed on the University website as the Omaha affiliate for Nebraska football at: http://www.huskers.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=100&ATCLID=52 and, on the KFAB website, the “N” logo is displayed on the homepage and at: http://www.kfab.com/pages/Huskers.html.)
In an effort to resolve this internally, I talked with Tim Kaldahl, spoke with Charlene Russel in the campus Equal Access and Diversity office, communicated with Nancy in the Chancellors office, and sent an email directly to the chancellor. I have also discussed the matter with other student leaders on campus.
Adam Maley, immediate past president of the UNO Veterans Student Organization, said: “This radio personality challenges a socially unpopular category of people and, rather than discuss the issues, uses prejudicial and disgusting stereotypes to distract.”
UNO Council for Humanist Thought President John Powers said: “Scott Voorhees… clearly does not understand the issues of the growing local secular community and the struggles of living an atheist or agnostic life.”
Haili Copas-Starke, immediate past director for the Women’s Resource Center, another student-run organization at UNO, showed her support for the UNO SSA by saying, “Religion is a good background to formulate your morals but it’s not the only method, and society allows for you to do that without the guidance of religion.”
The UNO SSA provides valuable support for nontheistic UNO students, as Nicole Miller, the current UNO SSA president, noted when she said:
“The Secular Student Alliance has helped me grow on a personal level, where I’ve made lifelong friends, have become more open to talk about the issues. Especially family problems with coming out as atheist. I feel like I’m making a difference in my community.”
In the wake of this reaction, I must ask why the UNO administration has so far declined comment on an affiliated radio station’s slur that is prejudicial to UNO students and the university itself—and this in the face of a reaction across the Internet. (Just Google the phrase “atheist chicks are easy” and see the online response, which is now in the thousands of hits when, at the time of the broadcast last week, it only garnered two.)
As an atheist, my moral compass compels me to stand up to Voorhees’ dehumanizing remark. Is it too much to ask UNO’s administration to reconsider this opportunity to do the same? Radio KFAB and Scott Voorhees need to hear, in no uncertain terms, that UNO finds the remark in question unacceptable. And UNO needs to demand a retraction and an apology.
Immediate Past President
UNO Secular Student Alliance
If Sadlemyer and Milliken have a sense of decency, they will apologize for what took place and take actions to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I would’ve included Voorhees in that list, too, but we all know he’s never going to apologize.