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Letters: Radio Host Bill Cunningham

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

It's time now for some of your comments on yesterday's program. And a great many of you had something to say about our interview with Cincinnati talk show host Bill Cunningham, who also had a lot to say. On Tuesday, he was warming up the crowd before John McCain arrived at the campaign event. Cunningham referred three times to Barack Obama using his middle name, he called him Barack Hussein Obama.

SIEGEL: Well in the interview, I said many people thought that by emphasizing Obama's middle name, Cunningham was also evoking foreignness and Islam.

(Soundbite of radio show "The Big Show with Bill Cunningham")

Mr. BILL CUNNINGHAM (host, "The Big Show with Bill Cunningham"): Because if you assume the mere expression of a man's legal name is bigoted, then you must have difficulty with the name Hussein. And I do not, and actually Barack and Obama or somewhat ethnic in themselves, which I think would be a great thing if an African-American, or was able to be like the president, I think it would break down certain walls in this nation and that would be a good thing.

BLOCK: John McCain subsequently distanced himself from Bill Cunningham and Cunningham in turn withdrew his support from McCain.

SIEGEL: Angie Dean(ph) of Chicago wrote, the whole time Cunningham spoke I thought like I was listening to a WWE wrestling program. I commend and appreciated NPR's commitment to bring many different voices to the table; however, his intolerant and self-serving bark is one I couldn't have done without.

BLOCK: And Mary Gener(ph) sent this from Chicago: Driving home from school today, my 11 and nine-year-old daughters and I, heard on your program Bill Cunningham defend his reasons for using Senator Obama's middle name. I can't believe that anyone would believe him, said the 11-year-old. Even children can see through Mr. Cunnigham's self-serving revisionist statement.

SIEGEL: But, Larry Ganderman(ph) wrote this in Bill Cunningham's defense. Obviously, your guy - I think he means me, Melissa…

BLOCK: Uh-huh.

SIEGEL: …had an ax to grind with someone using Obama's whole name. Cunningham also called Obama a hack which he is - a socialist one, who is naive about international relations and foreign policy.

BLOCK: Okay, a sampling of today's e-mail. You can write to us, go to npr.org and select Contact Us from the top of the page. Please tell us where you're from and how you pronounce your name. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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