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The firing of The Beat (100.3 FM) morning show DJs Kaos and Sylli Asz was one of the biggest stories in St. Louis last year.
The two were axed for a July 13 broadcast during which they discussed whether it would be a better strategy to take the gun or the radio of a police officer who had un-handcuffed an arrestee and challenged him to a fight a sensitive topic, as it came only days after Kirkwood police sergeant William McEntee was shot and killed while on duty.
Suspended the next day, Kaos and Sylli Asz were fired by Clear Channel Communications (which owns The Beat) on August 3. (For more about the brouhaha, see "Absence of Malice," published August 24, 2005, and available at riverfronttimes.com.) Recently Kaos decided to break his silence about the ordeal and tell his side of the story.
Why now, eight months later?
"To be real with you, no one would believe me back then," Kaos says. "Look at the way that they wrote me up. They wrote me up to be this criminal guy, cop killer. I was getting death threats during all of that time."
Kaos also cites another high-profile crime in the media as an impetus for his discussion: the police brutality captured on tape in January, when Maplewood police were seen beating suspect Edmon Burns after a chase. "I needed something to happen in order to come forward and say something," Kaos says.
The DJ says his and Sylli Asz's firing had more to do with their ongoing critiques of police departments including the on-air reading of Web site message board postings in the aftermath of the Kirkwood shooting, along with frank discussions about officers who might not be on the straight and narrow.
"The guys that got me fired were the FOP people," Kaos says, referring to the Fraternal Order of Police, the officers' professional association whose local and national chapters sent letters to Clear Channel calling for the DJs' ouster. "[The Post-Dispatch] actually printed the conversation after we were terminated. People went back and said, ‘That's what they said? That's what they got fired for?' It had nothing to do with what we said. It had everything to do with us airing the dirty laundry."
Responds local FOP president Kevin Ahlbrand: "The only comment would be: They got terminated for what they said, and we think it's over; we're past it."
Kaos says his morning show was a positive force, one meant to educate people and bridge the generation and communication gap between parents and kids. St. Louis police chef Joe Mokwa had even been an occasional guest on the show.
Looking back, Kaos says he's gained some perspective on the comments that led to his firing.
"I asked a hypothetical question: ‘If you had a rogue police officer who challenged you to a fight one-on-one, what would you do?' My partner replied: ‘I'd take his radio so he couldn't call for backup.' That was his answer, his view. He wasn't telling people to do that.
"[Then] I should have said: ‘But then again, what police officer would do that? No police officer would do such a thing.' But our conversation went another way that morning. Everybody took it like I was teaching people how to disarm a police officer."
That said, Kaos asserts that Beat general manager Lee Clear "didn't even hear the tape" of the infamous show until after issuing an apology on behalf of the station on July 14, the day Kaos and Sylli Asz were suspended. "He went to the news and put out the big old statement that they kept running for a whole month: ‘I apologize for what the jocks said.'
"Our corporate offices cleared us the very next day the story went national," Kaos goes on. "The FCC cleared us the same day. They said, ‘Oh, this is what they said? This is nothing.' That was it."
Lee Clear was fired from his post earlier this year; he did not respond to e-mails and phone calls requesting comment. As of press time, Clear Channel had not confirmed Kaos' claim.
In the immediate aftermath of his firing last year, Kaos was rumored to be contemplating legal action, but so far none has been taken.
"Litigation is always a possibility," says Scott Sherman, Kaos' attorney. "[But] we haven't formally filed suit, and we don't have an active plan that we're going to do that imminently."
Kaos remains busy. The Janky Show, a half-hour television series with Sylli Asz, begins a weekly run on UPN (WRBU-TV Channel 46) at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 9. The show will cover the local music scene and feature videos, interviews and advice. He recently released STL Blues, a sixteen-track CD that contains "Think We Soft" (featuring Ebony Eyez and Potzee), and he's preparing to unveil Running from the Police, an album he says will "tell the truth of everything that went down in two verses. How political everything is, how racial everything is." Kriss Kringle, the first artist Kaos signed to his Mono Muzik label, also has an album in the works.