NEW YORK: America's first Sikh-American Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has been racially targeted by two radio hosts who repeatedly called him the "turban man" on air, drawing severe criticism from politicians and netizens over their "xenophobic and racist" comments.
Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco, who host the "Dennis and Judi Show" on the radio show NJ 101.5FM, were talking about Grewal's decision to suspend marijuana prosecutions in New Jersey when they began calling him the "turban man".
"You know the attorney general guy? I'm never going to know his name, I'm just gonna say the guy with the turban," Malloy said.
"Turban man!" Franco repeated in a sing-song tone.
"If it offends you, then don't wear the turban, man, and I'll remember your name," Malloy said, as both the hosts laughed.
"But Turban Man -- is that highly offensive?" "To me? No. To people who wear turbans, could be," said Franco.
"Could be. But if you called me Baseball Hat Man and I was in a culture where no one wears baseball hats, should I be offended?" Malloy said.
"Uh, no. I would say no," Franco replied.
"So, anyway. The attorney general -- Turban Man -- says he's not going to prosecute pot things until September," Malloy said, laughing during the conversation.
Grewal, 44, however, retorted sharply and said he is the 61st Attorney General of New Jersey.
"I'm a Sikh American. I have 3 daughters. And yesterday, I told them to turn off the radio," he tweeted.
"This is not the first indignity I've faced and it probably won't be the last. Sometimes, I endure it alone. Yesterday, all of New Jersey heard it. It's time to end small-minded intolerance," Grewal tweeted from his personal twitter account.
.@nj1015: My name, for the record, is Gurbir Grewal. I’m the 61st Attorney General of NJ. I’m a Sikh American. I have 3 daughters. And yesterday, I told them to turn off the radio.
— Gurbir S. Grewal (@GurbirGrewalNJ) July 26, 2018
This is not the first indignity I’ve faced and it probably won’t be the last. Sometimes, I endure it alone. Yesterday, all of New Jersey heard it. It’s time to end small-minded intolerance. It’s an issue I addressed at @APAICS conference this May: pic.twitter.com/XnxJp53cxv— Gurbir S. Grewal (@GurbirGrewalNJ) July 26, 2018
He also posted a link to an address he gave in May at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies conference, where he talked about issues of hate and intolerance.
— NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (@NewJerseyOAG) July 26, 2018
In his speech, he had said that comments targeting him on social media have been "stomach-turning" as he shared with the audience that he has been called racist words like "towel-head" and "terrorist".
He recalled the day he was nominated to become the 61st Attorney General of New Jersey, a commentator had asked where will Grewal "park" his "elephant.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who had appointed Grewal to his post, strongly condemned the language of the radio hosts, demanding action by the station.
Outraged by the abhorrent and xenophobic comments mocking @NewJerseyOAG on The @DennisandJudi Show on @nj1015.
Hate speech has no place in NJ, and does not belong on our airwaves.
Station management must hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) July 26, 2018
I'm truly appalled by the derogatory & hateful comments made today on the “Dennis and Judi Show” about NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. Our residents shouldn't have to hear these types of crude remarks made over the airwaves regarding a person’s religious beliefs and practices.— Steve Sweeney (@NJSenatePres) July 26, 2018
The radio station later tweeted that it is aware of the "offensive comments" made by Malloy and Franco during the broadcast.
We are aware of the offensive comments made by Dennis and Judi during Wednesday's broadcast. We have taken immediate action and have taken them off the air until further notice. We are investigating the matter and will have further comment shortly.https://t.co/kudnFRAAVt
— New Jersey 101.5 (@nj1015) July 26, 2018
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, also a Sikh-American who wears the turban, tweeted:
Hey "Racist Man" @DennisandJudi : I'm a Jersey guy, born & raised, and so is NewJerseyOAG Grewal - this type of racist garbage has no place in Jersey. Get with the program! #RacistManDennis #jerseypride #educateyourself https://t.co/2X2pXFUt9H
— Ravinder S. Bhalla (@RaviBhalla) July 26, 2018
Bhalla also thanked Murphy for "standing up and speaking out" in support of Grewal.
Grewal, who was previously Bergen County Prosecutor, became the nation's first Sikh state attorney general after the state Senate approved his nomination this year.
Grewal is born to Indian immigrant parents in Jersey City and was raised in the state's Hudson and Bergen counties.
The clip quickly garnered attention on Twitter and civil rights advocacy group ACLU of New Jersey tweeted a link with an audio pronunciation of Grewal's name, saying:
Say it with us: Ger-beer Gray-wall. If you google "Gurbir Grewal pronunciation" this is the 1st result: https://t.co/OdU4qFzInK "Phil Murphy" is probably less phonetic.— ACLU of New Jersey (@ACLUNJ) July 26, 2018
"Turban man? Is that offensive?" Yep. (If you have to ask...)
Racism isn't cute. It's just racist. https://t.co/KYycUuvVgc
Twitter users too slammed the racist remarks saying there is no place for such language.
Amardeep Singh, ACLU NJ Board Member and co-founder of rights group Sikh Coalition tweeted :
Let’s go after the advertisers of the show as well. https://t.co/UDx77SMHdF— Amardeep Singh (@amarHoboken) July 26, 2018
City of Hoboken's Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Freeman tweeted:
In the NJ that we live in, racism has no place. No person should ever be judged by their Turban, Kippah, Cross, Hijab, or anything else that represents their faith. @DennisandJudi needs a lesson in the kind of NJ that we all want to live in. @RaviBhalla @NewJerseyOAG @GovMurphy https://t.co/XboGZfwasH— Jason Freeman (@JFreemanNJ) July 26, 2018