By GUY DIXON
Tuesday, November 29, 2005 Posted at 3:29 AM EST
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Last Monday evening, talk-radio host Michael Coren on Toronto's CFRB apparently crossed one too many lines, even by the standards of evening AM-radio call-in shows, and it cost him his job.
During a segment that station general manager Pat Holiday said lasted about five minutes or so, Coren -- a veteran talk-radio host, TV personality and newspaper columnist known to court controversy -- interviewed a man from New Jersey who was said to have lost 100 pounds after previously weighing more than 500.
Coren mocked him on the air for not losing more and even joked about whether he could find his wife in bed, Holiday said. He later pretended to quote the Bible by saying that the gates of heaven weren't wide enough for obese people.
Holiday wasn't listening at the time, but received a slew of angry e-mails from listeners that night. Reviewing a recorded portion of the interview the next morning, he was astonished by Coren's offensive remarks.
Yet as it turns out, the interview was staged. The caller was fictitious, although there was no mention on air before or after the segment that it was made up, Holiday said.
Despite the questionable practice of staging the interview, Coren's remarks were still unusually heated and offensive. "What was so strange was this never had to happen because the whole thing was staged [by Coren]," Holiday said.
Talk-show hosts commonly have to be cautioned not to get too personal during the heat of talk-radio arguments, Holiday said. Coren had been previously warned about being too offensive and about staging at least one interview.
There is a grey area in radio, Holiday said, about staging interviews. "It's not uncommon to have morning shows doing it a lot. They'll have fake callers, and it would be a [comedy] bit or something. But CFRB is a talk station. It's a different animal. We don't want people doing that here."
Coren, responding by e-mail when asked to comment, said only that, "It has been gratifying to receive more than a thousand e-mails of support since last Wednesday." A week ago Monday evening was his last show, CFRB said, but a memo circulated at the station last Wednesday about his departure.
Holiday noted that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council simply draws the line at overly offensive remarks, even if it's a case "where someone says it's just a joke, we were just fooling around -- which Michael thought he was doing, or at least he said he thought he was doing."