After several weeks off the air and in the face of a boycott on the part of many prominent civic leaders following controversial comments, John DePetro returned as host of his show on radio station WPRO on Monday.
Via Twitter, DePetro reached out to supporters and painted his return to the airwaves as a victory for free speech.
“Ready to roll,” reads one message.
“Freedom of speech still wins in America…The people deserve a voice…Thank you for all your prayers,” reads another to supporters.
On the air, DePetro said the boycott – through which officials have pledged not to appear on WPRO as long as DePetro remains affiliated with the station – is “nothing more than politicians and unions trying to interfere and silence public opinion.”
Attempts to reach For Our Daughters RI, the grassroots group behind the boycott and an earlier call for Rhode Island-based company Alex + Ani to pull its advertising from WPRO following the controversy surrounding DePetro’s remarks, were not immediately successful.
DePetro has frequently been the focus of controversy during his career. Most recent, he caused an outcry with comments made regarding union members who protested outside a fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate and state treasurer Gina Raimondo. The protestors had targeted Raimondo over her role in pension reform.
On his show, DePetro referred to the protestors as “parasites,” “cockroaches,” “union hags” and “whores,” among other names.
He specifically referenced Liz Larken, president of the Cranston teachers’ union and a member of the steering committee of For Our Daughters.
DePetro did apologized for his remarks about the protesters while calling into his own show last month
“The tone expressed was not consistent with the strong support I have shown women in our state and in my own life,” he said.
Following the radio host’s remarks regarding the protestors, For Our Daughters – found online at www.forourdaughtersri.org – asked elected officials not to appear on WPRO until DePetro is fired.
Statewide leaders listed as having signed the pledge in support of the boycott include Gov. Lincoln Chafee, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Reps. James Langevin and David Cicilline, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, House Speaker Gordon Fox, Raimondo, gubernatorial candidate and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, state Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio and state Sens. Hanna Gallo and Josh Miller. GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Block and the Rhode Island Republican Party also back the boycott.
Several local officials have also signed, including Cranston City Council members Richard Santamaria, Sarah Lee, Steve Stycos and Michael Farina, and Cranston School Committee members Andrea Iannazzi, Jeff Gale, Stephanie Culhane and Michael Traficante and former Cranston council president Anthony Lupino. Cranston Democratic City Committee Chairman Michael Sepe has also given his support.
Warwick representatives Frank Ferri, K. Joseph Shekarchi and Patricia Serpa have signed the pledge.
Republican gubernatorial candidate and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said he would not appear on DePetro’s show but did not join the full boycott, saying it would be “unfair to allow the statement of one person to impact a major employer to the detriment of others.” Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian previously said he could not recall when he had last appeared on DePetro’s show, and that he did not feel it would be “genuine” on his part to sign the For Our Daughters pledge.