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Controversial radio host returning to Salt Lake air

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Apparently, while Clear Channel Communications found Bob Lonsberry to be a racist in New York, it doesn't think he's a racist in Utah.

The radio talk-show host, fired from his job at Rochester's WHAM-AM, has been reinstated to his position as morning host at Salt Lake's KNRS-AM 570. While still based in New York, Lonsberry resumed hosting his Utah show Thursday morning. The show airs weekdays from 5 to 10 a.m.

Lonsberry ran into trouble in New York (and Salt Lake City) when he referred to Rochester's mayor — an African-American — as a "monkey" and an "orangutan." He later issued an apology and began attending diversity training, but his subsequent actions led to his firing.

Stuart Stanek, Clear Channel's vice president and general manager of its Salt Lake radio stations, did not return calls asking for comment. Stanek, who previously told the Deseret Morning News that KNRS and WHAM would each make their own decisions about Lonsberry, offered only a posting on the KNRS Web site as explanation: "Bob Lonsberry will reconnect with fans in the Salt Lake City area on October 16th, when his program returns on the air. Bob is looking forward to connecting with his Salt Lake audience. KNRS wants to thank listeners for their comments, support and patience."

That contrasts with a statement issued by the Clear Channel station in Rochester: "WHAM-AM fired on-air personality Bob Lonsberry for inappropriate behavior. After Mr. Lonsberry made inappropriate comments on the air, he convinced us that he was willing to face his mistakes and learn from his behavior. Although Mr. Lonsberry expressed a willingness to change, it became obvious to us that he is not embracing diversity or the beliefs of the station."

According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, "What apparently irked the station's management is Lonsberry's column (of Sept. 29) on his Web site where he took shots at those who spoke out against his racially charged comments, including the Catholic Church."

Titled "Whose Side Are You On?" Lonsberry's column referred to "a man who turned a blind eye to pedophile priests . . . the leader of a church with dwindling membership and relevance — a shepherd who has scattered the flock — is nothing more than a funny collar and a title, a self-important relic out of touch with the leadership above and the worshippers below."

Lonsberry's troubles began during his attacks on Rochester Mayor William A. Johnson Jr.'s run for Monroe County executive. After an ape escaped from the Seneca Park Zoo, Lonsberry said on WHAM, "Headline: Orangutan escapes at zoo, runs for county executive."

Several days later, he said, "Freakin' monkey's loose up at the zoo again. That's really fine, really fine. Yeah, yeah, and he's running for county executive."

Nationwide, Clear Channel operates about 1,225 radio stations (including seven it owns and four it managers in Utah) and 39 TV stations (including KTVX-Ch. 4).

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com