DePetro steps in it


I just spoke with John, and he stands by his remarks.

DePetro prefaced our conversation by noting that he was asked to speak on MSNBC about racial perceptions, and Bill O'Reilly's recounting of a pleasant experience as the only white patron during a visit to Sylvia's, a Harlem restaurant.

DePetro adds, "If you talk to law enforcement, if you talk to Providence police, they say that businessmen in suits riding around in South Providence [at night], the two things they are generally there for [are drugs and prostitution]."

The talk-show host, who formerly worked in New York City, says that when he was there "no one went above 96th Street." He accuses MSNBC host Dan Abrams of trying to create an Imus-level feeding frenzy against O'Reilly "and it just doesn't rise to that level." He calls it disingenuous that some of those broadcasters criticizing him on this issue spend most of their time in mid-town Manhattan.

Pointing to a remark in the movie Traffic, in which a character describes how white people visit poor neighborhoods to buy drugs, DePetro says, "I didn't break any new ground. It is something that has been out there. I'll go to law enforcement [for confirmation]. I haven't heard of a lot of people going antiquing in South Providence."

. . . .

Media Matters for America is circulating an e-mail alert criticizing WPRO AM talk-show John DePetro -- and rightly so -- for a pretty inane remark about the presence of white people in the Harlem section of New York City.

Here's a concise summary from Media Matters:

Summary: On MSNBC Live with Dan Abrams, discussing Bill O'Reilly's recent controversial comments about his visit to Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem, Rhode Island radio host John DePetro stated: "It was a discussion on race and we're talking about Harlem. And by and large -- I lived in New York for years -- white people don't go to Harlem." He continued: "If Dan Abrams and John DePetro, Bill O'Reilly, some white guys are sitting around a table, and Dan Abrams said, 'Yeah, I was up in Harlem last night.' We would think you were either, a) looking for drugs, or, b) looking for a prostitute."

There's video of this September 27 segment on the Media Matters site.


While there has long been overheated hype about the supposed danger of white people traveling to Harlem, this bears little relation to reality. While Harlem is predominantly black, lots of white people live, work, and visit there. In fact, Rao's, one of the most storied Italian restaurants in NYC, is in Harlem.


And let's be real here: while American popular culture tends to fan fears of black Americans, whites have done a lot more to oppress blacks over the length of our history.


I think DePetro's return has made talk-radio more interesting in Rhode Island, but he does himself no favors when he makes this kind of absurd, inaccurate, and hurtful statement. I've asked him for comment on this issue, and will post it if and when he responds.

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