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Who’s Bubba the Love Sponge? Tucker Carlson’s shock DJ host, defined.

Who or what’s Bubba the Love Sponge?

Briefly, he’s a radio DJ and shock jock primarily based in Tampa, Florida. However maybe the extra urgent query on many individuals’s minds nowadays is what, precisely, his deal is — given his current look in nationwide headlines because of a viral collection of previous interviews he performed with Fox Information persona Tucker Carlson.

The reply to this query includes a wide-ranging, 33-year journey from the hinterlands of the small-town Midwest to seedy Tampa dive bars to the world {of professional} wrestling, alongside a profitable path lined with well-known media personalities, near-constant feuding, and never one however two main media scandals — together with the one which introduced down Gawker.

If that seems like lots, it’s. Bubba the Love Sponge has led a full life, and there’s a lot to, er, take up.

However let’s begin with why you’ve been listening to a lot a couple of dude known as Bubba the Love Sponge — a.okay.a. Bubba Clem — to start with.

Bubba the Love Sponge’s longtime friendship with Tucker Carlson has had sudden new penalties

The turbulence of America’s present political panorama has made it de rigueur to dig right into a public determine’s previous in quest of damning feedback they made a few years and even many years in the past. Journalist Sarah Jeong, movie director James Gunn, and comic Kevin Hart are all current examples of public figures coming underneath fireplace (although not all the time justifiably) for previous tweets and statements.

Now it’s occurred once more as racist and misogynistic feedback made by Fox Information host Tucker Carlson have resurfaced and triggered major public backlash. Advertisers have backed away from Carlson’s present whilst Fox Information stands behind him, and debate has ensued over Carlton’s worthiness to function a nationwide political commentator.

On March 10 and 11, Media Issues published a litany of feedback Carlson made between 2006 and 2011. The cellphone calls have been a part of Carlson’s common weekly call-in appearances on Clem’s common Tampa radio present The Bubba the Love Sponge Present, which got here in the course of the interval of Carlson’s gradual transition from a low-rated MSNBC pundit to a contributor and occasional host at Fox Information. (Carlson turned a marquee title on the community in 2013 when he started co-hosting Fox & Mates; his present present, Tucker Carlson Tonight, debuted in 2016.) The feedback spanned pages of transcripts and drew public outcry on social media.

The topics covered by Clem and Carlson have been wide-ranging discussions of politics and the information of the day. They resulted in a protracted checklist of offensive remarks, similar to Carlson’s description of Iraqi residents as “semiliterate primitive monkeys” who “don’t use toilet paper or forks.” Carlson additionally known as girls “extremely primitive,” expressed fears that his teenage daughter is likely to be pressured into turning into “a fake lesbian,” argued that Barack Obama by no means would have succeeded in nationwide politics if he weren’t black, and recommended that an individual making an accusation of rape has “the protection of anonymity,” whereas the “accused, whether he’s guilty or not, has his life destroyed.”

Carlson additionally downplayed the intense nature of statutory rape whereas trying to argue that the conduct of Warren Jeffs, the previous head of the FLDS Church, was not as worrisome as different sexual abuse. Jeffs promoted systemic youngster sexual abuse throughout his tenure, in addition to conserving as many as 80 wives, a lot of whom have been underage. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2011, partly for marrying a child who was 12 or presumably youthful. On the time of Carlson’s feedback about Jeffs in 2009, Jeffs stood indicted on two counts of facilitating rape. Carlson mentioned on air that if he had his method, “Warren Jeffs would be out on the street,” and that “arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her. That’s bullshit.”

All through the transcripts, Clem and his co-host alternately inspired or argued with Carlson. However Clem was notably enthusiastic in his responses, at one level agreeing with Carlson that Michelle Obama was too hard-edged and that “they need to whiten her up a little bit.” He additionally, whereas imitating ignorant racist callers, dropped a racial slur himself, and commented {that a} 13-year-old boy who had been repeatedly raped by an grownup ought to “get, like, a Nobel Peace Prize” for his sexual prowess.

On condition that Bubba Clem is a shock jock, buying and selling in intentionally provocative and offensive content material, some may argue that his and Carlson’s feedback are greatest disregarded and forgotten. Clem has responded to the controversy over Carlson’s previous feedback by brushing off the outrage and noting, “Keep in mind, this was my present, it wasn’t Crossfire with James Carville.” (Neither Carlson nor Clem instantly responded to a Vox request for remark.)

However Clem’s personal previous statements are tough to dismiss or overlook — particularly since this isn’t the primary time he’s performed an surprising function in a significant media scandal.

Bubba the Love Sponge is a veteran of shock radio with a protracted historical past of courting controversy

Clem is a 52-year-old DJ initially hailing from small-town Indiana. He began working in radio as a school pupil, gaining his “Love Sponge” moniker early on (reportedly due to his attraction to girls), and progressed from his native faculty radio station to a string of jobs at radio stations all through the Midwest. Clem weathered the vicissitudes of a altering media panorama within the ’80s and steadily gained increasingly prominence as a DJ, till he lastly landed on the Tampa radio station WFLZ in 1992, the place he shortly established himself as a raunchy and irreverent native fave.

Throughout this era, Clem — who formally modified his first title from Todd to “Bubba” in 1999 — turned a well known shock jock, with an area morning present and a syndicated nationwide present by way of Clear Channel, and later an uncensored present on Sirius. In the course of the 2010s, he moved between terrestrial and web radio packages. He was additionally an entrepreneur; a 2018 profile within the Tampa Bay Occasions notes a powerful litany of “Bubba” ventures and merchandise that after paid profitable dividends for Clem: “Bubba’s Beach Club, Bubba’s Ale House and Planet Bubba. You could buy a pager from Air Bubba Beepers or ride in a Love Sponge Limo. He sold Bubba Army T-shirts and tickets to Bubbapalooza.”

He additionally shaped a rap group. Right here’s one in all their movies:

Clem’s profession concurrently featured a protracted parade of drama: He’s identified for frequent on-air and off-air feuds with a lot of public figures, friends, associates, foes, and different radio hosts, which have led to a lot of lawsuits, and has often landed in sizzling water for ribald and inflammatory speech. He was kicked off Clear Channel in 2004 after the Federal Communications Fee fined the network for a collection of violations on Clem’s radio present, most of which concerned sexually express jokes. He routinely makes use of homophobic slurs and as soon as threatened to “deep fat fry” the Quran.

This propensity towards offending listeners and advertisers has contributed to Clem frequently shifting packages, exhibits, and stations over time, whereas battling the FCC and counting on followers to comply with him and drive his success.

In 2002, Clem and a producer stood trial for animal cruelty after they castrated and slaughtered a wild boar on Clem’s morning present. The animal was additionally allegedly abused earlier than it was killed. Clem and the producer were acquitted after a jury discovered there wasn’t sufficient proof to convict.

Clem was additionally sued in 2006 by a lady who claimed he held her down whereas encouraging one other girl to rape her with a intercourse toy on reside radio. The swimsuit reportedly said that Clem threatened to take away her from the studio if she didn’t comply, and the girl mentioned she was bodily injured in the course of the incident. The swimsuit was finally “voluntarily dismissed with prejudice” in 2008, a authorized time period that usually indicates {that a} case has been settled out of court docket.

Regardless of all this drama, or maybe due to it, Clem has cultivated a staunch nationwide fan base often called the Bubba Military. He has additionally loved the friendship of celebrities like shock jock royalty Howard Stern, Fox Information host Carlson, and Hulk Hogan, who got here to know Clem by way of Clem’s affiliation with the wrestling group. (Clem is thought for popularizing wrestling lingo in his DJ-speak, and briefly labored as a backstage interviewer for a wrestling promoter starting in 2010.)

Clem and Hogan have been at one time so shut that Hogan was the best man at Clem’s 2007 marriage ceremony to his now-ex-wife, Heather Cole. And in reality, the Clems and Hogan would quickly turn into concerned in one of many largest media scandals of the fashionable period.

Bubba the Love Sponge, Hulk Hogan, and Gawker

It’s possible you’ll recall that in 2012, a grainy intercourse tape that includes Hulk Hogan — and allegedly filmed without his permissionsurfaced and unfold by way of the grownup leisure business. It was ultimately seen by extra mainstream audiences after the movie star and media gossip web site Gawker printed an excerpt. The site published 60 seconds of the 30-minute tape and reported that it featured Heather Clem (now Heather Cole), who on the time was married to Hogan’s then-best good friend Bubba.

The remainder is media historical past.

Hogan went on to sue Gawker, in a swimsuit bankrolled by enterprise capitalist and tech guru Peter Thiel. Thiel, it’s theorized, was pursuing a private vendetta in opposition to Gawker for outing him as homosexual in 2007; he helped Hogan sue the web site for $100 million, finally forcing the location’s controlling media community to declare chapter, unload most of its property, shut down the location, and settle for $31 million.

In the course of the lawsuit, the main points of the intercourse tape’s origins turned extra broadly identified. The tape, the general public realized, had been filmed in 2006, at the Clems’ home. Bubba Clem might be seen originally of the tape, apparently giving his permission for Hogan and Heather Cole to have interaction in sexual exercise. On the tape’s conclusion, Clem can reportedly be heard commenting to Cole, “If we ever need to retire, here is our ticket.”

Regardless of this implication, Clem maintained that he was innocent of leaking the tape. As a substitute, he admitted to having downloaded the tape from his bed room surveillance, transferred it to a DVD, labeled it “Hogan,” and stored it in an unlocked drawer in his research — from which he then mentioned it was later stolen. Although Hogan mentioned he was deeply damage by all the affair, he finally settled his lawsuit in opposition to Clem for just $5,000. Clem said in court docket that the choice to obtain the intercourse tape was “the biggest mistake of my life.”

Bubba the Love Sponge could also be an unlikely barometer for the state of nationwide politics

Between the Gawker episode, his varied controversies, firings, and lawsuits over time, Clem’s monetary scenario appears to have declined quickly. Recent profiles have painted him as having fallen from nationwide prominence, specializing in his dwindling funds and his difficulties staying on the air.

In 2011, Clem reportedly walked away from his Sirius internet hosting gig resulting from salary cuts by the community. Although he moved to a different web streaming web site, he appears to have siloed himself from extra mainstream radio internet hosting alternatives within the years since.

However it’s potential that staying out of the mainstream is paradoxically conserving him related to conservative America. Regardless of the profiles chronicling his decline, what’s outstanding about Clem is simply how high-profile he nonetheless appears to be amongst sure listeners. He nonetheless has a each day radio present in Tampa, which additionally streams reside on Twitch, the place he has a decent 2.2 million complete views. Furthermore, his explicit mix of shock humor, reportedly licentious life-style, and a sure taste of white American tradition nonetheless appears to generate a hanging assortment of moments that intertwine with nationwide American politics.

As an example, in 2007, Clem interviewed porn actress Stormy Daniels and brazenly spoke to her about her alleged sexual liaisons with Donald Trump. The small print of that interview resurfaced last year. Clem’s on-air cellphone calls with Carlson might have ended years in the past, however his friendship with the pundit hasn’t. And final month, he had a unique visitor caller who represents one more aspect of the interaction between conservative politics, white Americana, and the media: highly effective, shadowy political guide Roger Stone, days earlier than particular counsel Robert Mueller indicted Stone and arrested him on fees pertaining to Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference within the 2016 presidential election.

That Clem has managed to maintain his fingers in so many political pies whereas drifting additional afield of mainstream radio suggests that he’s maybe extra in lockstep with a sure kind of nationwide politics than with mainstream tradition itself.

At this level, it’s potential we shouldn’t be asking who Bubba the Love Sponge is, however who and what else Bubba the Love Sponge is aware of.


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