Nationally syndicated conservative radio host Michael Berry announced that he will discontinue his weekly segment mocking victims of Chicago gun violence, and he apologized for the feature, saying he has “to make better decisions” about the words he uses.
Until now, The Michael Berry Show, which is syndicated by iHeartRadio, has featured a “racially charged” “Butcher Bill” weekly segment that ridiculed the city’s gun violence victims and criticized the Black Lives Matter movement. Berry repeatedly claimed that “black people don’t believe black lives matter.”
Berry’s decision to discontinue the segment follows controversy over iHeartRadio’s recent announcement that it would give Berry a “talk personality of the year” award. After the announcement of the award, Media Matters published a piece on March 1 highlighting some of the worst examples from Berry’s “Butcher Bill.”
Amid the ensuing controversy, iHeartRadio refused to comment to Media Matters and news outlets covering the story to explain why he was being honored. The award was to be given during the March 5 iHeartRadio Music awards, but no indication has been made that Berry was actually honored at the ceremony, and iHeartRadio did not return multiple requests for comment asking whether Berry received the award. iHeartRadio has also not responded to requests for comment on Berry’s apology and discontinuation of the segment.
During the March 10 evening edition of his show, Berry announced he would “discontinue” the segment. He initially defended the segment, with a self-serving explanation that claimed the purpose was to “highlight” the “precious lives” being lost in Chicago with a feature “that was tinged in humor.” Calling himself a “comedian wanna-be,” Berry said that “comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think.”
While this explanation purported to show sympathy for victims of gun violence in Chicago, the actual segments he ran were full of heartless mockery. For example, in September 2015, Berry ridiculed 14-year-old Tyjuan Poindexter just days after he was murdered as the innocent bystander of a drive-by shooting. Mocking the youth’s name, Berry said, “Tyjuan Poindexter. Ha ha. Tyjuan Poindexter was standing outside with some friends when some people drove by and opened fire. Young Mister Poindexter was shot in the head and died at the scene. He won't have to live with that name anymore.”
In 2017, Berry often played “bingo” with Chicago residents’ gun violence injuries and encouraged listeners to play along by guessing where victims were shot on their bodies. He also sarcastically suggested that the way to avoid “hear[ing] shots and fe[eling] pain” in Chicago is to wear “earmuffs.”
Despite attempting to sanitize the content of his segment, Berry conceded on March 10 that he had received “valid criticism” and that those who had complained about the segment “deserve an apology”:
MICHAEL BERRY (HOST): Well, it came to our attention, most of you listening right now would never know what I’m talking about. We do a -- on our morning show, on Monday mornings, we do a segment called the Chicago Weekend Crime Update. And the genesis of that, several years ago, was to say, “Every week there are people, a dozen or more people being murdered and usually multiple dozens being wounded on the streets of Chicago and we’re arguing over guns when precious lives are being lost. Children, walking to school, being gunned down or in their own home. A mom walking her baby in a pram, and gets shot and killed in front of their own home.” So, in an effort to highlight that, we started a segment that was tinged in humor -- and that might seem weird. But comedians, and I’m a comedian wannabe, comedians make people laugh as a way to make people think. It’s why they’re very effective at stoking discussions. And through the course of that, some people said to me, and I read some comments that people had posted, that I was mocking crime victims. And my immediate reaction is, you’re stupid, you’re dumb, you’re criticizing me, I’m not going to listen to you. But I sat down with my wife, and we read through them, and I realized I could see where somebody would say that. I would come off -- you’re right. That is a valid criticism, and I have thought over that a lot in the last week. And that bothered me. It bothered me a lot. And we decided that we would discontinue that segment, as much as we think it's important to highlight the problems of crime. And I also wanted to apologize, because some people took the time to post to me that that bothered them and why. In very thoughtful comments, and they deserve an apology. And I have to make better decisions with the words I use.
Berry has previously apologized for making disparaging comments about American Indians and for his suggestion that someone blow up a mosque, but these apologies did not temper his proclivity for using dehumanizing rhetoric.