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Who is Bill Cunningham? Controversial host interviewed Bob Huggins

When West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins uttered a homophobic slur on Monday’s WLW-AM (700) talk show with host Bill Cunningham, it put both the coach and the radio host in the national spotlight.

During a segment called the ‘Stooge Report,’ Huggins recalled an incident in which ‘rubber penises’ were thrown on the court during a Crosstown Shootout game between the University of Cincinnati and Xavier. Cunningham joked about the game being ‘transgender night.’ Huggins then said: ‘It was all those f–s and those Catholic f–s I think threw them.’

The coach has since apologized, saying in a statement he ‘used a completely insensitive and abhorrent phrase that there is simply no excuse for.’ West Virginia University Athletics said in a statement that Huggins’ comments were ‘insensitive, offensive and do not represent our University values,’ and the situation is under review.

But who is Cunningham, the longtime radio and television host with a history of controversy?

Who is Bill Cunningham?

The 75-year-old talk radio host and conservative commentator was born in Covington, Kentucky. Prior to becoming a radio and television host, he had a career in law, first as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati-Public Defender Division.

From 1978-1986, he was Assistant Attorney General in the office of the Ohio Attorney General under Attorneys General William J. Brown and Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr.

He currently works for the law firm of Steven R. Adams, which specializes in criminal defense in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Cunningham is married to Judge Penelope R. Cunningham, who served on the Ohio District Courts of Appeals.

He started at WLW in 1983 and currently hosts two radio shows: ‘The Big Show with Bill Cunningham,’ which airs weekdays on WLW, and ‘Sunday Nights with Bill Cunningham,’ which is syndicated nationally by Premiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of iHeartMedia.

He also hosted ‘The Bill Cunningham Show,’ a television show which aired on The CW from 2011-2016.

Did Bill Cunningham retire?

2022 marked Cunningham’s 40th year at WLW, and his contract was set to expire that year. At the time, he told The Enquirer’s ‘That’s So Cincinnati’ podcast he hadn’t decided whether to call it a career, but has since continued broadcasting.

Why is Bill Cunningham controversial?

Cunningham has had a history of making controversial remarks, both on his radio show and at in-person events. Media Matters for America, which describes itself as a progressive media watchdog, has labeled him a ‘fringe radio host’ and a purveyor of ‘hate speech.’ 

In February 2008, then-Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain was holding a rally at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine ahead of Ohio’s presidential primary. He was introduced by Cunningham, who insulted President Barack Obama, the Clintons and the media. Cunningham twice referred to Obama as ‘Barack Hussein Obama,’ using his middle name, The Enquirer reported. After, McCain made a point of speaking out.

‘I take responsibility, and I repudiate what he said,’ McCain told reporters after the rally. ‘A person came out here before I arrived and made some disparaging remarks about Senators Obama and Clinton, and I regret that.’

Cunningham also called out Obama during another occasion, saying his father left him when he was two years old because he ‘acted the way a Black father normally acts, which is quickly have a baby and leave.’

And during a 2013 appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, Cunningham yelled at a female news contributor to ‘know your role and shut your mouth.’

The Cincinnati radio announcer acted as sort of an unofficial adviser to President Donald Trump. He later slammed Trump for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. 

In 2020, Cunningham told The Enquirer’s ‘That’s So Cincinnati’ podcast of the biggest regret of his radio career. It was in November 1993, after Cincinnati voters passed a charter amendment restricting certain legal rights for LGBTQ+ citizens. Roxanne Qualls became mayor after that same election, and there were a lot of questions around town about her sexual orientation.

Cunningham invited reporters to WLW’s studios to talk about Qualls and the charter amendment. 

‘With the media present, I asked if she is gay,’ Cunningham said on the podcast. ‘I shouldn’t have done it. It was the biggest mistake and blunder that I made. It was a big news story at the time. But man, I thought about it. On a human level, I was unnecessarily cruel.’ 

Cunningham said he had seen Qualls one time since, sometime in the late 1990s. If he had the opportunity, Cunningham said, ‘I would apologize to her.’

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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