Two Long Island radio disc jockeys were suspended after carrying out an on-air hoax focusing on the subject of same-sex parents.
DJs Steve Harper and Leanna Karlson, who were taken off the air at K98.3 FM in Farmingdale after station officials learned of last week's hoax, met with a local gay rights advocate on Monday as the radio station decided whether to fire the duo.
The morning team told listeners that a local mom refused to let her son attend the birthday party of a 7-year-old girl named Sophia because Sophia’s parents were gay.
The story, station officials later confirmed, was fictitious.
K98.3 FM’s public apology prompted angry responses on the station’s Facebook page and across social media.
Commenters called the stunt “childishly stupid” and “unprofessional."
“Just a real, real dumb decision,” added David Kilmnick, CEO of the Long Island GLBT Services Network.
Kilmnick, a leading gay rights advocate on Long Island, met with the suspended DJs and said that for now, he is reserving decision on whether they should be fired.
“There was no need to make it up. We could have shared with them, unfortunately, dozens of stories of little Sophias out there,” Kilmnick said.
In a statement posted on the station’s website, the DJs apologized and said “we were attempting to spur healthy discourse on a highly passionate topic but we made a mistake.”
K98.3’s general manager also offered an apology for “the breach of trust these actions have caused.”
“What kind of meaningful discussion could come of it? Because it’s not true," Cindy Salemi said outside the radio station’s offices.
“Suspension, yes. But should they be fired? No. It is something that needs to be talked about,” added Aida Jackson.
Kilmnick expressed hope that the discussion of same-sex parents and the challenges their children face will continue, but in a more honest way.
Same-sex families in need of support can contact the LI-GLBT hotline at 631-665-2300.