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Very Real

First Sikh State Attorney General Responds After Radio Hosts Call Him ‘Turban Man’

“It’s time to end small-minded intolerance,” replied Gurbir Grewal.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Two New Jersey radio hosts have been pulled from the airwaves after repeatedly calling Gurbir Grewal, the attorney general of New Jersey and the nation’s first Sikh state attorney general, a “turban man” on air.

Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco, hosts for WKXW-FM, made the offensive comments on air while discussing Grewal’s views on marijuana prosecution on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. After Malloy said that he couldn’t remember Grewal’s name, he then decided to refer to Grewal as “the guy with the turban,” as heard in a short clip of the segment posted online.

The two then reportedly continued to refer to Grewal as “turban man” throughout the segment.

While both did acknowledge the fact that their decision to refer to Grewal not by his given name but as “turban man” may be offensive, Malloy then remarked, “if that offends you, then don’t wear the turban and maybe I’ll remember your name,” according to AP.

In a tweet directed toward the station, known as New Jersey 101.5, Grewal responded to Malloy and Franco’s statements on Thursday.

“My name, for the record, is Gurbir Grewal. I’m the 61st Attorney General of NJ,” he wrote. “I’m a Sikh American. I have 3 daughters. And yesterday, I told them to turn off the radio.”

New Jersey 101.5 announced in a tweet on Thursday that both Malloy and Franco have been taken off the air pending an investigation.

“We are aware of the offensive comments made by Dennis and Judi during Wednesday’s broadcast,” their statement read. “We have taken immediate action and have taken them off the air until further notice.  We are investigating the matter and will have further comment shortly.”

In a follow up tweet on Thursday, Grewal remarked that the incident was not “the first indignity [he’s] faced and it probably won’t be the last.”

“Sometimes, I endure it alone. Yesterday, all of New Jersey heard it. It’s time to end small-minded intolerance,” he wrote in the caption alongside a video clip of himself addressing racism and discrimination at a conference earlier this year.

Neither Malloy nor Franco have commented publicly on the matter.

Malloy and Franco’s comments were widely criticized, with New Jersey governor Phil Murphy calling their statements “abhorrent” in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Hate speech has no place in NJ, and does not belong on our airwaves,” he continued. “Station management must hold the hosts accountable for these intolerant and racist comments.”

[Photo: Office of the Attorney General, New Jersey]