Howard Stern calls staffer 'racist' for linking BTS to coronavirus

"There’s no way those guys don’t have the coronavirus," Stern told listeners his staffer said.
Image: Howard Stern at a SiriusXM event in New York in 2014.
Howard Stern at a SiriusXM event in New York in 2014.Kevin Mazur / Getty Images file

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By Variety

Remarks about BTS made on “The Howard Stern Show” are being called “racist” by both listeners and the show’s host.

During the February 24 episode of the SiriusXM staple, Howard Stern — a notorious germaphobe — brought up growing concern over the deadly coronavirus with his cast of comedic cohorts. The topic turned to BTS when staff member Salvatore “Sal” Governale was called out for claiming the Korean-pop group and their staff were carrying the virus after spotting them during their visit to SiriusXM’s New York headquarters on Friday, Feb. 21.

“BTS is from Korea and Sal was freaking out,” Stern explained to his millions of faithful listeners. “BTS was here at Sirius on Friday and Sal was saying, ‘There’s no way those guys don’t have the coronavirus.’ He was like every a--hole.”

Stern then pointed out that BTS are Korean (not from China where the current outbreak was first identified) and co-host Robin Quivers weighed in with her view: that BTS and their team “are touring all the time” (in fact, the band had been splitting time between the U.S. and Korea this past month) and producer Gary Dell’Abate noted that “every celebrity who walks through the [SiriusXM] door is traveling all over the world — not just Asians.”

But Governale, who has appeared on the show since 1996 when it was syndicated on terrestrial radio, doubled down on his comments. “I walked into the lobby and it was like Chinatown, out of control, there were so many Asian people,” he said on the air. “These people are traveling, they’re not locals, they’re going from country to country to country. It’s a dangerous situation. You got to look at it that way — they’re on airplanes; they’re in hotels.”

BTS on "Today" on Feb. 21, 2020.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

BTS came up again on the February 25 show when Stern was responding to listener comments.

The radio personality told Governale, “I got so many emails about what an idiot you are for avoiding a Korean boy band.” One commenter labeled Governale, as well as fellow “Stern Show” staffer Ronnie Mund who made comments about avoiding Chinese food, as “f–ing old, racist pieces of s–t,” as well as “misinformed.”

Stern even chimed in to say, “I’m super paranoid about diseases and germs, but you came off as racist.”

Throughout the career of BTS, the group and its individual members — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, V, Jimin and Jungkook — have had to weather more than their share of close-minded comments and xenophobic remarks. Their loyal A.R.M.Y. fanbase, in coming to the group’s defense and criticizing the media when warranted, has led to apologies from TV networks in Australia, Mexico, Germany, Greece and beyond.

In 2019, BTS fans also led a movement against MTV for relegating the group to the newly created K-Pop category at the Video Music Awards (VMAs), which they believed was ghettoizing BTS in keeping them from nominations for the major awards. The outcry led to the hashtag #VMAsRacist trending worldwide.

BTS was at SiriusXM’s midtown Manhattan complex to stop in at Hits 1 while promoting new album, “Map of the Soul: 7,” released that same day. The satellite radio giant reaches more than 34.5 million subscribers.

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