Radio station 'regrets' Magic Johnson AIDS remarks, promises PSA

Updated: October 10, 2008, 7:06 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Magic Johnson criticized a pair of talk show hosts Friday for accusing him of faking AIDS but said he didn't want them to be fired.

Chris Baker and Langdon Perry of KTLK in Minneapolis made the remarks during Baker's conservative radio show on Wednesday. After Johnson condemned the statements, the station said it regretted "some offhand remarks" by the pair.

"We can't have people out here making false statements and putting out bad information, because this battle is too big when it comes to HIV and AIDS," Johnson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

[+] EnlargeMagic Johnson
AP Photo/Al Goldis"The fact that they would make jokes about my status is unbelievable," Magic Johnson said in a statement about a Minneapolis talk radio show's comments.
"I poured my life into it and a lot of other people have poured their life into it, into getting out the right information so people can protect themselves and know what HIV and AIDS is all about."

Johnson called the remarks "so stupid," and said he hadn't heard from the station. He also wants the hosts to keep their jobs.

"I would rather they educate their audience," he said.

According to a partial transcript and audio clip posted on a media watchdog site, mediamatters.org, the remarks came after a caller asserted that health care isn't a basic right. Perry responded by asking about treatable diseases that a person can live with for a long time "if you just get some basic drugs."

Baker responded, "Like Magic Johnson?"

Perry replied, "Like Magic with his faked AIDS. Magic faked AIDS."

Baker said, "You think Magic faked AIDS for sympathy?"

Perry replied, "I'm convinced that Magic faked AIDS."

"Me too," Baker said.

Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991 and then retired from the NBA at 32.

KTLK's statement said it recognized the seriousness of AIDS and the "great work" Johnson has done to call attention to the disease.

"We regret that some offhand remarks by commentators on KTLK did not reflect that," the statement said. "To better inform our listeners and employees, KTLK will be airing HIV/AIDS awareness public service announcements, and will be reaching out to Mr. Johnson to get his thoughts on education efforts."

Program director Steve Versnick said the station wouldn't comment beyond the statement.

Johnson, 49, said his health is "wonderful." He also noted that he has HIV, not AIDS.

"You have incredible drugs now," he said. "I'm working out every day."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press