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Rogers fires CITI FM's Wheeler after online call for boycott, ads pulled off air

Dave Wheeler was dismissed by Rogers Media Wednesday. (Joe Bryksa / Free Press files)</p>

Dave Wheeler was dismissed by Rogers Media Wednesday. (Joe Bryksa / Free Press files)

Radio host Dave Wheeler's Twitter biography reads, "Rogers could fire me for my tweets," as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, but it wasn't his tweets that got him axed.

Wheeler was dismissed by Rogers Media Wednesday morning following controversial remarks he made about transgender people on-air Monday and further remarks made in a series of private Facebook messages circulated widely on social media.

Wheeler was the longtime host of 92 CITI FM's flagship morning show Wheeler in the Morning. In previous years, he served as the in-game host at Winnipeg Jets hockey games and before that as an in-game host at Winnipeg Blue Bombers football games.

"This week, radio host Dave Wheeler chose to use his platform at 92.1 CITI in Winnipeg to articulate views that are both deeply hurtful and damaging, and we sincerely apologize," Andrea Goldstein, Rogers Media's senior communications director, said in a written statement. "There have been multiple disciplinary incidents, and in spite of numerous conversations, he has continued to offend our audiences.

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Radio host Dave Wheeler's Twitter biography reads, "Rogers could fire me for my tweets," as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, but it wasn't his tweets that got him axed.

Wheeler was dismissed by Rogers Media Wednesday morning following controversial remarks he made about transgender people on-air Monday and further remarks made in a series of private Facebook messages circulated widely on social media.

Wheeler was the longtime host of 92 CITI FM's flagship morning show Wheeler in the Morning. In previous years, he served as the in-game host at Winnipeg Jets hockey games and before that as an in-game host at Winnipeg Blue Bombers football games.

"This week, radio host Dave Wheeler chose to use his platform at 92.1 CITI in Winnipeg to articulate views that are both deeply hurtful and damaging, and we sincerely apologize," Andrea Goldstein, Rogers Media's senior communications director, said in a written statement. "There have been multiple disciplinary incidents, and in spite of numerous conversations, he has continued to offend our audiences.

"As a result, we have ended our relationship with him and he is no longer with the company, effective immediately," she continued. "This type of behaviour contradicts our standards and our core values, where diversity and inclusion are paramount."

Wheeler was suspended after a controversy over comments he made during a conversation about actress Scarlett Johansson being pulled from an upcoming film in which she was slated to play a trans man.

On air, he compared transgender people to actors pretending to be "different things."

He reiterated his views in a series of private Facebook messages circulated on social media Monday and Tuesday.

In the first paragraph of the private messages, Wheeler emphasizes that he doesn't hate transgender people or anyone in a marginalized group. However, he wrote, he has an issue with what he called hypocrisy in how the actress Johansson was bullied by trans people into leaving the job.

But further, after the person who initially sent the message responded, he wrote in part, "If someone is born a human and they pretend to be a dog, it is not right to agree with them for the sake of their feelings."

Social media campaigns called for a boycott of the station's advertisers Monday and Tuesday. At least three advertisers put out statements indicating the companies were pulling ads following the comments and subsequent boycott.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights made a statement on Twitter Tuesday evening, accompanied by an image of the words "All human beings are born and equal in dignity and rights."

The statement read: "We’ve now talked to (92 CITI FM) to ask that they pull our ads from the station, effective immediately. We hope that the station will work to create a space for respectful dialogue."

Protesters called for the ousting of Dave Wheeler in 2016 after the DJ produced and promoted offensive videos on YouTube. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

Protesters called for the ousting of Dave Wheeler in 2016 after the DJ produced and promoted offensive videos on YouTube. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Files)

"We are all absolutely disgusted," wrote Gates on Roblin co-owner Ray Louie in a statement on the restaurant's Facebook page on Tuesday. "We have requested to be removed from all advertising with them at this time pending the outcome of how this situation is handled by management and the parent company."

Santa Lucia Pizza also pulled advertising, thanking people for messaging the company with their concerns in a statement on its Facebook page Tuesday evening. "We are an inclusive restaurant and in no way agree with the comments made by Mr. Wheeler," the statement read.

Cynthia Fortlage, president of the Rainbow Resource Centre and a trans woman who spoke on 92 CITI's morning show Tuesday, said her reaction to Wheeler's dismissal was mixed.

"I was sad for Mr. Wheeler, although he’s a victim of his own words and behaviour," she said.

She's still committed to working with Wheeler if he's willing to learn about the transgender community, echoing comments she made yesterday.

"I hope, moving forward, we can work together."

However, she does worry that people angry about Wheeler's dismissal will blame and attack the transgender and LGBTQ community at large.

This is not the first time the radio host has caused controversy. In 2016, Wheeler was suspended for a week for producing a pair of videos on YouTube considered by many to be racist and sexist. Protests ensued calling for his dismissal, but he was reinstated.

Xavier Raddysh, a trans man, emphasized those older controversies in a Facebook message to the Free Press.

"I am deeply relieved, but also highly aware of the fact that it took multiple white people protesting him, when Indigenous people have been protesting since 2016," he wrote.

Meanwhile, reaction on social media was mixed — while many on Twitter and Facebook celebrated the move, the majority of comments on 92 CITI FM's statement, the same one provided to media by Rogers, condemned the host's firing.

"Yeah Dave Wheeler was pretty much the reason why most people listened to the station. People need to chill out if they don't like what people say, then don't listen. I will be another person no longer listening," wrote one commenter.

"Another victory for the cry babies of the world. Goodbye forever 92 CITI FM. Hope your ratings crash and burn," wrote another.

Wheeler, his co-hosts and CITI FM officials could not be reached for comment.

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 2:05 PM CDT: updates

2:45 PM: adds photo

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