GLEN ROCK, NJ – Government representatives on many levels, including Glen Rock’s mayor, were outraged about NJ 101.5 radio host comments yesterday calling resident and current NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal “turban man.”
State Attorney General Grewal and former Bergen County Prosecutor is a practicing Sikh and attended a borough council meeting devoted to honoring Glen Rock's Sikh community in April when council members and Sikh community members spoke of the "love, service and charity" that emanates from the fifth largest religion in the world.
According to the radio station’s website, “New Jersey 101.5 has taken its mid-day hosts, Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco, off the air until further notice in light of comments about state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal made during Wednesday's show.”
Malloy and Franco had been discussing Grewal's recent order to suspend marijuana prosecutions, when Malloy said he couldn't remember Grewal's name — and told Franco "I'm just going to say the guy with the turban."
The pair continued to call Grewal "Turban Man" throughout the segment, according to NJ 101.5’s website.
Glen Rock Mayor Bruce Packer was quick to weigh-in.
“I was disgusted when I heard about the remarks that were made about our Attorney General, and Glen Rock resident, Gurbir Grewal. I hope that people will react by first, never listening to a radio station that would hire or retain hosts that exhibit such a high level of cultural ignorance and indifference, and second, take the time to learn the significance of the Sikh dastaar, or turban, and the beauty of the message and beliefs underlying Sikhism. We all have a choice when we see something that is unfamiliar. We can assume or judge, or we can learn. I hope that more and more people will continue to choose the latter.
Prophetically, councilwoman Arati Kreibich said on April 11, "It's clear we need to raise awareness about this religion which promotes love, service and charity.”
The group is subject to one biased incident per week in the United States, Kreibich said at that time.
Grewal spoke at that same meeting about the number of hate crimes in general, 417, that occurred in 2016 and said that number will be higher after the numbers are tallied in 2017.
Grewal said he was the only Sikh in his school growing up, and it was there he learned to "stay strong" and was encouraged through his faith to keep his "internal optimism."
"I am thrilled to raise my family here and to worship here," he said in April.
His Tweet right after the incident is as follows: “This is not the first indignity I’ve 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. It’s an issue I addressed at @APAICS conference this May: 7:53 AM - Jul 26, 2018”
NJ 101.5 responded to its hosts comments on its website: "We are aware of the offensive comments made by Dennis and Judi during today’s broadcast," the station said Wednesday night. "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."
Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco released a statement today: “I am appalled and angry that New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was mocked for his faith and his race on the airwaves of NJ 101.5 yesterday. As Assistant U.S. Attorney, Bergen County Prosecutor, and now as New Jersey’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Grewal has served the people of our state with thoughtful legal judgment and compassion. I am proud that this distinguished public servant calls Bergen County his home and grateful to call him my friend.
“This hate speech insults the Attorney General, thousands throughout New Jersey who share his faith, and all citizens who embrace diversity and know that it is our state’s greatest strength. Good people of every background understand that language like this has no place in our public dialogue.”
Assemblywoman and former Fair Lawn Mayor Lisa Swain and Assemblyman Chris Tully (D-Bergen/Passaic) made the following statement regarding the comments made towards Attorney General Gurbir Grewal:
“Gurbir Grewal is a constituent of ours, a phenomenally accomplished attorney, and a pillar of the community. Throughout his time as Bergen County Prosecutor and now as the 61st Attorney General of the State of New Jersey, he has shown himself to be a man of high character and clear thinking who deserves nothing but our respect. The racism shown by Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco on 101.5 yesterday is utterly repugnant and has no place in our great state.”
State Senator Joseph Lagana released a statement, as well: “The New Jersey Attorney General is an exceptional and accomplished professional, raising his family in the 38th District. He has dedicated his life to law enforcement and protecting the public. He also has a name; it’s Gurbir Grewal. His religion is not a disqualifier for basic respect or dignity. The on-air statements to the contrary repeatedly made by Dennis Malloy and Judi Franco have now brought notoriety to their names for all the wrong reasons. Discriminatory or hate speech, like their comments, are simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”