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WLEX Channel 18 decides to part ways with Anchor Lee Cruse after he admits to on-air jokes about ‘clearly racist’ trope

Photo aired during an apology by host Lee Cruse after he called the DJ “my new favorite”

By Patrice K. Muhammad

Treena Wright-Burnette was the first response to Lee Cruse’s statement that most people saw online.

          Updated: Via Twitter around 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, WLEX18 General Manager and VP Pat Dalbey said, “Our anchor Lee Cruse exhibited a lack of judgement on air this week, and both WLEX and Lee regret this mistake. The statements expressed were inappropriate and do not reflect who we are as a company. After evaluation of the situation, WLEX has decided to keep Lee of the air next week. “

Originally posted online: May 17, 2019

Treena Wright- Burnette spent her Mother’s Day reading the comments under a video she posted on Facebook.

                Concerned and angry, friends and relatives sent the same video over and over to her inbox and she shared it with her Urban Conversations radio listeners online.

                WLEX-18 talk show host, Lee Cruse, laughed throughout the video clip of his show “Live with Lee and Hayley” as he described the actions of a British radio personality who was fired for posting a picture of two parents holding each hand of a chimpanzee and captioned it, “The Royal baby leaves hospital.”

The bi-racial Duchess of Sussex Meghan, whose mother is Black, gave birth to the most recent royal baby that has captured the attention of many in the States, including Lee’s co-host Hayley who was

                “When I first saw it, I was appalled and I thought I must share this with my Urban Conversations radio listeners who follow us on our Facebook page,” explained Treena. “I was born and raised here so I know how the community has supported Lee Cruse. I know the Black community supports him and he just boldly, totally disrespected them on TV.”

                Not only did Treena share a clip from the May 10 TV show, she added her personal commentary at the end and said there is “zero tolerance for disrespect’’ and said he should apologize.

              Lee’s self-proclaimed egregious error and an apology aired on television May 9th and 10th.
                  The apology was posted on the Urban Conversations Facebook page by a listener and the comments began pouring in.

Tina Durbin, who is Caucasian said: Not really an apology … all I heard was “I’m white, but I’m not a racist.” We know the actuality is … “I’m white, and our systems are inherently racist and therefore I did not think twice about what I have learned as a white person of privilege, because I never really had to and I just see where I stuck my foot in my mouth and was ignorantly racist and I’m now here to unlearn my white supremacist upbringing.”

An unnamed Caucasian male commenter said: What’s really a shame is he had to apologize to the local race hustlers #WannabeSharptons

                Lee’s apology left Treena unsatisfied. “The thing was, he lied throughout the apology. He said he had no idea what the disc jockey really did. But when you go back and look at the segment, Lee tells you what the man did before he said, ‘this is my new favorite disc jockey’.

                “And then he went on to say, ‘I know people are saying what’s the big deal Lee’. Who’s saying that? His friends, his cohorts, people he sits around and makes these comments with? That’s not what we’re saying at all. We’re saying we’re offended and appalled.”

                Though Lee called the image a “trope, used to dehumanize humans’’ he never specifically apologized to Black people, who historically have been terrorized by people using monkey, chimp and ape references as an intimidation tactic.

                “He’s well aware the joke, itself, is specific to Black people. I couldn’t believe anyone would think that he was talking about anything else so I don’t understand why he wouldn’t acknowledge it,” said Treena.

                “At first, I was never out to take anyone’s livelihood. I thought an apology would be needed and maybe he could get some training. But the way they’ve just circled around him and WLEX not addressing it…the co-host called it, stating that if he had tweeted it they would have to fire him. I feel like what Lee did was worse because he mocked the firing. I think [firing him] is the only recourse.”

 Via Twitter around 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, WLEX18 General Manager and VP Pat Dalbey said, “Our anchor Lee Cruse exhibited a lack of judgment on air this week, and both WLEX and Lee regret this mistake. The statements expressed were inappropriate and do not reflect who we are as a company. After evaluation of the situation, WLEX has decided to keep Lee of the air next week. “

Then, within days, LEX18 decided to part ways with the long time employee.

An official statement posted to thier website reads, ” After careful consideration, WLEX has decided to part ways with Lee Cruse. WLEX is committed to reflecting our diverse audiences through our coverage and to upholding equitable, diverse and inclusive practices in our workplaces. We wish Lee the best in his future endeavors.”

                Rev. L. Clark Williams said this in an opinion piece submitted to The Key Newsjournal before Lee’s termination, “Cruse’s endorsement of the tweet was made with on-air acknowledgment that Baker was terminated because of it. So, since he proceeded with his comments, it appears that Cruse believed that what had already been deemed to be unacceptable racism in Great Britain would be viewed as comical and acceptable in Lexington, Ky.”

                Cruse’s face and voice have been part of Central Kentucky mass media for more than 15 years. He is recognized as a regional comedian, for a time hosted a local conservative talk radio show on 630AM WLAP sometime around 2005 and had a morning radio show on 590 WVLK for years after several years doing on site features for WLEX’s Sunrise and early morning programs. 

                In a May 15 Facebook post Treena said her video had nearly 11,000 views, 205 shares and 5,000 comments. Some of those people commented that they contacted WLEX and got direct messages back from Lee Cruse.

Several people have contacted Treena on behalf of Lee Cruse, they say, asking her to call him for a conversation.

                “I don’t think he’s really tried that hard professionally to reach me because I’m a volunteer at Lexington Community radio and I’ve yet to receive any information, email, text or phone call saying that Lee Cruse of WLEX is trying to contact me,” said Treena. “I think he’s trying to interject his personal connections and trying to reach me on a personal level thinking maybe I’d tell the people he was sincere. I don’t feel his sincerity and I’m just a voice of the people, not the voice for the people. You hurt a whole race of people. It shows in the comments; it shows in the shares. The people drew a picture of Lee that I didn’t know, but many confirmed that based on the Lee Cruse they’d met in person or how they felt about his on-air persona, what he said the first time—he meant.”

Transcript of partial video included in this article:

Lee Cruse on set of WLEX 18 show, Live with Lee and Heyley in May 2019.

Lee: A British disc jockey has been fired over a picture of a chimpanzee used in a tweet about the new royal baby LOL

Hayley: Oh my gosh! What the…

Lee: This is my new favorite disc jockey. The BBC’s Danny Baker used a picture of a chimpanzee in the Tweet about the baby born to Meagan and her husband Prince Harry. The tweet showed a couple holding hands with the chimpanzee and then the caption (laughs) ” Royal baby leaves hospital” (laughs) was seen as -oh!- they saw it as a racist reference to baby Archie’s heritage.

Hayley: What else could it be?

Lee: It didn’t have to be.

(inaudible)

Lee: I could’ve done that to anybody.

Hayley: And you would’ve lost your job. That is racist!

Lee: Oh gosh.

Hayley: What other excuse does he have for using a chimp?

Marker: 1:57

Lee: Before we tell you who’s on the show today. I need to apologize to you for uh some crazy, weird statements that I made yesterday. Let me explain just for a moment, if, if you may because it was an egregious error that I made, probably the biggest of my broadcast career, and I’ve made plenty.

Uh, we were talking about the uh, Royal news that we do periodically. Haley and I get into these fake arguments of pro and con and I got into combat mode with Haley and we’re going back and forth and arguing.

Umm, the reason I made a huge mistake is the fundamental rule of broadcasting is you know your material. You read your scripts. I, I didn’t, and I’ve done that in the past and she yells at me for that all the time. So, we have our our argument and then it begins the story that I’m reading for the first time, I’m seeing it as I’m reading it.

And uh, the first line I remember was uh, BBC DeeJay gets fired for making fun of the Royals which is kind of what I was doing.

Hayley: Yeah, yeah, always, yeah.

Lee: I don’t know what the story is I don’t know what this guy has done but I say, ”Here’s my new hero”

Hayley: Yeah

Lee: The second line is, um, he used a chimpanzee. Now I, uh, uh, we had a 4 or 5 days ago we had a discussion about chimpanzee smoking, and I laughed.

Hayley: Yeah

Lee: I’m thinking of that stuff in my head and I laughed. And the third part is it’s a depiction of the Royal baby, now I know then and there this isn’t your garden variety making fun of something. This is more sinister than that but I had aligned myself with this guy.

Hayley: Mm, hmm, unintentionally.

Lee: Unintentionally, but I want you to hear what I said, I called him a hero and then I laughed. Not knowing what I’m doing, but I did it none the less. Um…and, and, now I, I have this realization, Oh, oh, oh, good Lord what, what is going on and the next line as I continue to read is, he’s been accused of racism.

Now ego takes over, and I say, well we don’t know if it’s racism. Well, we, we, we finish up the piece and uh, that bothers me all day because I wasn’t sure what was going on. We never showed the photo; hadn’t seen the photo and I go home and I see the photo and here’s the photo.

Editors note: For 22 seconds, the photo that got BBC radio personality Danny Baker fired was shown by WLEX-18 during Lee’s apology for laughing at the same photo that he only described the day before. The following transcript is from the original video, but now included in this article.

 Lee continues speaking as the photo is pasted on screen: And that’s racism, that is pure, it’s evil, it’s, it is uh, that is a trope that was used to oppress humans and I and it’s to belittle them and dehumanize them and, and now I got, I got to live with this thing where I’ve put myself in this position.

Lee on screen: Even though that’s not me. That isn’t me at all. What all is so infuriating is that I, I wanted this place, when we built the show, to be a sanctuary for everybody so you could come here and you could forget about death, and destruction. You could forget about racism, you could forget about poverty, you just sit here and watch two idiots, or I should say one idiot and a beautiful girl, go have fun and you live vicariously through us. We take you on adventures. The problem though, that I’ve created now is you can’t really enjoy that if you think one of them is a sociopath.

Hayley: And I’m not, oh (laughs)

Lee: I sincerely apologize for not doing my due diligence with the story and uh it bothered — I didn’t get any sleep last night. I’ve been thinking about it because when I make a mistake, usually I’m the one who gets hurt.

Hayley: Right.

Lee: Not anybody else.

Hayley: Yeah.

Lee: I’m just, I’m an, I’m a full-blown moron idiot. And I, and I, I can’t apologize any more than, I…it killed me.

Hayley: I know, I know, I know it did. Even when we had that discussion I was shocked by your reaction. But then when you, Lee explained to me later, he was like, “what did I just do”? Because when we were having the conversation I was like, that’s clearly racist. You had no idea what I was saying, ‘cause you had not read the story ahead of time, I had.

-end of transcript-

Disclosure: Clark Williams is the host of The Wake UP with Clark Williams which airs in Central KY each Sunday at 6:30 a.m. on WBTF 107.9FM and is produced by LexTown Media Group, publishers of The Key Newsjournal. Treena Wright-Burnette is the host of The Long Ride Podcast, also produced by LexTown Media Group. Both shows are available on Apple, Google and Spotify podcast platforms.

Related content: Op – Ed by L. Clark Williams “Cruse’s comments speak louder than words”

13 Responses to WLEX Channel 18 decides to part ways with Anchor Lee Cruse after he admits to on-air jokes about ‘clearly racist’ trope

  1. Tish

    May 23, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    This is the season for the devils to be exposed. Everything is working in Devine order and I’m here for it while sipping my tea… lol. Continue to vibrate at a higher frequency and stay woke!

  2. Beverly Tackett

    May 23, 2019 at 6:42 am

    Well hell. Other anchors have done worse. They still have their jobs. Come on can’t anybody take a joke. Lee is and always will be the best.

  3. Anonymous

    May 22, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    If it been the other way around u wouldn’t fired him or her,i think it awful that u let him go I’ll not be watching your chapel anymore. Looser

  4. Anonymous

    May 22, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    Glad he is gone, I always thought he said a lot of bad remarks…

  5. Scott Jennings

    May 22, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard – why is it racist? I really dont get it – I saw the picture… calling the royal baby a chimpanzee is not a nice thing to do – calling a baby a chimp? But WTF does that have to do with race? This sounds dumb

  6. Anonymous

    May 22, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    channel 18, been watching you for 20 years. you fired Lee for that now I am firing you. I am now watching WKYT

  7. F Gorston

    May 22, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Once again, Scripps bows to the PC crowd out of inherent cowardism. Lee Cruse made a mistake and he apologized. Also as usual, those complaining didn’t bother to listen to his explanation and apology. There are two other possibilities as well. Either they are mentally incapable of understanding or they’re afraid of the childish disapproval of their ignorant (and highly racist) peers or both. Lee’s statement(s) COULD have been taken as racist by ignorant, uneducated, overly-tender and frightened viewers who stepped out of their safe space into the real world, but no normal person would have thought that. They would have quickly realized (even BEFORE his apology and explanation) that he simply bumbled himself into the situation and it was nothing more than that. Now even the whiners are saying his apology wasn’t enough or his explanation wasn’t adequate. No matter what he says, they’ll never forgive him. They don’t WANT to forgive him. Only rank fools would act the way his detractors are acting. This is the exact attitude that causes division. Forgiveness and (paying attention) are what leads to unity. Where is the “tolerance” that’s preached by the morons who have none themselves? I’m still waiting to see it.

    As far as Lee’s detractors, I only wish I could be as perfect as they are, sailing through life, never making mistakes, never uttering offensive comments (other than their posts here), blissfully reveling in their ignorance of the world amid the clapping, chirping and giggling of their approving, unthinking, lemming-like peers.

  8. Donna Peurifoy

    May 22, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    No one is perfect. Yes it was a mistake but why can’t people learn to forgive others. That is a major problem with people today…always quick to judge and not forgive anyone.If it were on the other hand how would they like that treatment…I am not happy with the whole situation….I had been a regular supporter of Channel 18 for many years with a family member who was employed by channel 18 years ago…this will change my watching anything on channel 18. No one is perfect….learn to forgive and let it go. My Thoughts.

  9. Anonymous

    May 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    I don’t think this is anything to fire someone over. He was merely repeating another story. He may have laughed but people know how Lee & Haley are. If you are going to remove Lee, you need to take Haley off. There isn’t anything funny about her with out Lee. I don’t even care for her.

  10. Christie

    May 22, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    I don’t think this is anything to fire someone over. He was merely repeating another story. He may have laughed but people know how Lee & Haley are. If you are going to remove Lee, you need to take Haley off. There isn’t anything funny about her with out Lee. I don’t even care for her.

  11. Pam

    May 22, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    I just read Wlex 18 let Lee Cruse go

  12. Martha Taylor Qualls

    May 22, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    As a person of color I am disappointed by Lee Cruse and his remarks. From day one I’ve been a fan. We as people of a great Country are better than this.

  13. Kay King

    May 22, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    I think Lee needs basic training in Journalism. He is full of himself. He interrupts Haley, likes he knows so much more than she does or because he is a man, he knows more. He needs to admit on Live TV that he is a Privileged White Male.