Free Speech at Issue at KROD

By Robert Ruiz, El Paso Metro

When is it OK to limit someone’s speech?  Some say never, while others say that speech that is not directly relevant to an issue should be censored.  The issue achieved timely attention when Teresa Caballero guest hosted a morning radio talk show and promoted a tax rollback.  Callers to the program were polarized on both sides of the tax rollback issue while some took exception to Ms. Caballero’s recounting of some of Mayor Caballero’s pecadillos.

KROD management was barraged with phone calls.  Some complained about Ms. Caballero’s appearance, while many others complained about Paul Strelzin’s objection to her comments.  The management of KROD downplayed the incident stressing that radio talk shows do not reflect the views and opinions of KROD owners or management.  As a matter of policy, they resist getting directly involved in controversy and have pretty much allowed anyone to articulate any viewpoint through their forums.  Managing phone calls is at the discretion of the program host.

Most of the callers to the morning shows supported the right of people to express their views while they chastised both Mr. Strelzin and Ms. Caballero for what they perceived were personal attacks on others.  “People should state their opinion but refrain from personal attacks,” commented one disappointed caller. “No one cares about what happened in your family.”

Paul Strelzin took the extraordinary step of writing a letter to KROD management complaining about Theresa Caballero’s appearance.  Barbara Perez, whom Theresa replaced on Thursday December 12th, called appreciably upset during her segment and pointed out that Paul Strelzin often criticizes her and her guests.  “He should pay attention to his own show and leave my show alone,” she stated frankly.  “There is no reason why he should be criticizing me or my guests.”

During the Barbara Perez show, guest hosted by Jaime O. Perez, calls were running 5-to-1 in favor of Theresa Caballero while during Paul Strelzin’s show, calls were running 3-to- 1 in favor of Paul Strelzin’s criticism of KROD for allowing her to speak.  The vast majority of calls stated that they felt Theresa Caballero had a right to express her opinion but were uncomfortable with her personal feelings with respect to the Mayor’s alleged transgressions.

The brouhaha continued on Friday when Theresa Caballero held a press conference to “reject tax deadbeat Paul Strelzin’s attempt to discredit me and intimidate tax rollback supporters.  Citizens should never allow anyone to deprive them of their right to vote,” she said.

KROD has no plans to make any changes for the time being.  “Sometimes things get hot and often controversy makes for exciting talk radio, but things will cool down.  They always do,” said one station producer.