Good. Slaten got what he deserved.
Slaten is fired, says KFNS caved in to Cardinals
By Dan Caesar
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Kevin Slaten was fired Friday by KFNS in the wake of a controversial interview last week with Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, and says the Cardinals are behind the move and that his former station is spineless.
In the exchange, which was contentious at times, Duncan was placed on the air but thought he was having a private conversation with Slaten. Duncan said he thought he was being called to clear the air about his decision to turn down an earlier request to appear on the program.
Evan Crocker, general manager of KFNS (590 AM, 100.7 FM), said management made a thorough review of the matter this week and that there was no choice but to fire Slaten and Evan Makovsky, the producer of "The Bottom Line'' show, because of potential ramifications from the Federal Communications Commission.
"This is an unfortunate situation, but we have to make decisions to protect our licenses,'' Crocker said.
Slaten disputed that and said the station was reacting to pressure from the Cardinals. He said the team used the Duncan incident as an excuse to persuade KFNS management to remove from the local airwaves a voice that often is critical of the team.
"This is a vindictive and retaliatory practice by the Cardinals that has gotten me fired,'' Slaten said. "The Cardinals are at the very root of this, and 590 has thrown me under the bus to curry favor with the Cardinals.''
He said KFNS has lost its spine and credibility, and will become little more than a promotional outlet for the team.
"From now on when people listen to 590 they can understand what they are getting,'' Slaten said. "This is a First Amendment under-attack situation. ... In other words, if you say what the Cardinals don't like, this is what's going to happen to you.
"I'm simply stunned that any station in this day and age would cave in to pressure from an athletic team â€” especially one that they don't even broadcast their games.''
Slaten said the station, when it discusses the Cards, might as well say, "This information brought to you by 590, bought and paid for by pressure from the Cardinals."
Slaten added, "This firing didn't have anything to do with the FCC and Dave Duncan, but everything to do with currying favor from the Cardinals.''
Crocker disputed that.
"There was no pressure from the Cardinals,'' he said. "It didn't matter who was on the other end of the call'' when the interview in question occurred. Crocker added that even if the incident had happened with someone from another organization, "the outcome would have been the same,'' termination.
Slaten said he is convinced that if the flap would have been between Duncan and a KFNS host who hasn't been hammering on the Cardinals, that host would not have lost his job.
"These are the Cardinals flexing their muscles and 590 caving in,'' Slaten said. "Unquestionably, without doubt.''
Slaten said he thinks that the pressure came from Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, a frequent target of Slaten's criticism, rather than the front office.
"He's the leader, why would it not come from him?'' Slaten asked.
La Russa said Friday that he did not speak to anyone in KFNS management about Slaten.
"I resent him trying to implicate my involvement with that,'' La Russa said. "I don't know how you live with yourself when you're constantly damaging people for your own financial gain. I suggest he look at himself in a mirror.''
Duncan said he will not file a complaint with the FCC, as he had been considering.
"I told the (KFNS) GM that I would put the complaint in a drawer,'' Duncan said. "They took care of the situation in-house.''
Duncan remained unhappy about the incident.
"He shouldn't be allowed to do what he did,'' Duncan said. "He brought this on himself.''
Slaten was broadcasting from a restaurant when the Duncan interview took place and the producer was in the studio, thus creating a communications gap.
"I'm sitting there and I'm told Duncan's ready,'' Slaten said. "Then I hear the phone ring.''
Duncan answers and immediately is on the air.
"Misunderstandings happen, it happens all the time when you're on remote,'' Slaten said. "That's why I've always campaigned for a producer to be there. I've never done anything like that (put someone on without their knowledge) in my career. No one did anything intentional to Dave Duncan. No one.
"If he claims he didn't know, fine. I'll take him at his word. But no one put him on intentionally without his knowledge. You can check my career, that's never happened.''
Slaten, 54, signed a contract in September that runs through 2009. However, he said the station contends he violated that, and it now owes him no money.
"There will be legal action,'' Slaten said.
Slaten, who had been with KFNS for nearly four years, also said he was unhappy with the way his dismissal was handled. He said he was headed to the station in response to a request to attend a staff meeting â€” about the firing â€” when he got a call from Crocker telling him not to attend, and that he was dismissed.
"On the phone Evan would not tell me why I was fired,'' Slaten said. "He didn't have the spine to do that.''
A replacement for Slaten has not been named. Brian Stull filled in for him Thursday and Friday.
'I'M NOT GOING TO LIE'
Slaten said he was told Wednesday that he was going to be suspended for two days â€” Thursday and Friday â€” and that he was told to lie about the reason for his absence if asked, and to say he merely was taking a couple of days off. He said that's why he has been mum about the controversy until now.
"I'm not going to lie, and I'm not going to lie for them. They told me to lie, and I refused.''
He said he met with Crocker and a human resources person from KFNS parent company Big League Broadcasting, among others. Slaten said he asked, â€”"'Are you saying that I did anything wrong?' They said, 'No, we're doing this to make a statement to the FCC.'""''
But the suspension became a firing on Friday, and Crocker said the decision came after a week of evaluation.
"In a situation like this, you need to do due diligence,'' he said. "With the sensitivity of this situation, this isn't something that you just make a snap decision.''
'E-MAK' STRONG WORDS
Makovsky, who had been the producer of Slaten's show and appeared on the air as "E-Mak,'' said the station's problems run much deeper than the Slaten-Duncan situation.
He said his departure had "nothing to do with the Duncan situation, nor am I culpable for it.'' He added, "I have nothing but the highest regard for Dave Duncan, the Cardinals organization. ... I would do nothing on my own volition to compromise that.''
He pointed to much turmoil at KFNS. Program director Jason Barrett recently was bought out of his contract and nearly 20 people who worked either on the air or behind the scenes have been fired or left on their own accord in the last two years. The sales manager left three weeks ago.
"The fact of the matter is I've had issues with them about finances and air time since January,'' Makovsky said. "I'm no longer working for the station for the same reason that a slew of others in the past year have left or been terminated â€” budget. This is why the hatchet is out there.''
Crocker said that is "Bull. These cuts are not being made for budgetary reasons. We're a healthy radio station.''