JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Democratic Missouri state lawmaker on Monday said he won’t step down despite facing backlash for repeatedly calling into a radio program whose host has been criticized for comments denounced as racist and offensive.
Missouri Democratic leaders, including U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, have said St. Louis-area Rep. Bob Burns should resign over calls to Bob Romanik’s show on KQQZ-AM Radio.
Romanik — who last month lost a Republican primary for a state Senate seat in Illinois — has used racist, homophobic and sexist slurs on his show. A website for the show promotes it as “radio like you’ve never heard it before and will probably never want to hear again.”
In one excerpt from the show posted on YouTube, Romanik talks about “a movement for the white people.” Burns, in the clip, said he listened to the show, thanked Romanik for “standing up for what you do” and said he would do well if elected in Illinois.
“And you’re saying the correct things, people are supporting you,” Burns said. “You know Bob, you support the military. I support the military. God bless our people who have served our country, who are serving today (and) who have died for our country.”
In another recording, Romanik slammed a woman who he said criticized him for using racial slurs. Burns said that “knocked my dander up.”
“Last time I checked, according to our Constitution we have freedom of speech,” Burns said.
Burns said the recordings posted online were edited to misleadingly connect his comments to Romanik’s remarks. Burns told reporters he called into the show to talk about veterans.
“None of my words were offensive or demeaning,” Burns said. “I feel that they were purposefully edited to appear so.”
Burns apologized to colleagues, friends and constituents and said he doesn’t “condone the rants or negative comments of the radio commentator.”
Romanik agreed, telling The Associated Press that the two disagree on issues.
“They’re trying to premise it like he agrees with everything I say every day, and that’s totally, totally wrong,” Romanik said.
House Democrats learned of the recordings last week and investigated Thursday. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty has said she asked Burns to resign Friday, but he declined. She publicly called on him to step down Saturday.
“While we acknowledge some of the recordings have been edited, the fact that Rep. Burns repeatedly called into this show is reprehensible given the host’s well-known racist views,” she said, later adding that House Democrats won’t tolerate that kind of conduct.
McCaskill in a Saturday statement said Burns’ “failure to challenge such hateful rhetoric is a disservice to the Missourians he represents.”