HealthPartners, AT&T Boycott KDWB over Hmong Parody

Following the airing of a parody song about the Hmong community, HealthPartners and AT&T pulled their ads from the radio station-which contends that the song was aired on a comedy show and was not intended to offend listeners.

HealthPartners on Friday pulled its advertising from radio station KDWB after the station aired a musical parody called “Thirty Hmongs in a House.” AT&T withdrew its advertising as well, describing the song as “very demeaning.”

Jeff Shelman, spokesman for the Bloomington-based health care organization, on Tuesday morning confirmed that the company has discontinued its advertising relationship with the popular Twin Cities station.

“We simply didn't feel like it was consistent with what we stand for,” Shelman said, adding that the company's “leadership thought it was offensive.”

The company was contacted by a group called the Coalition Against Racism for Everyone, which encouraged the company to pull its ads, Shelman said, although he was unable to provide specific details about the communication between the organization and his company.

According to Minnesota Public Radio-which published the lyrics of the controversial parody-the song mimicked the melody of Eric Clapton's “Tears in Heaven.”

Among other things, the song's lyrics include references to 30 Hmong people packed in a house like sardines and sleeping on floors. It also describes Hmong girls getting pregnant at age 16 and having seven kids by the time they're 23.

The song aired on the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show-which regularly includes parodies of popular songs that poke fun at a variety of issues. Following some backlash after the song aired, the station issued the following statement on its Facebook page:

“KDWB-FM and the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show are very proud that members of the Hmong community are some of our most loyal listeners and fans. Our listeners understand that the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show is a comedy show meant to entertain and that much of its content is parody. While we've received positive feedback from many Hmong listeners who let us know that they found the song in question very humorous, we apologize to anyone we may have inadvertently offended, as this was never our intent.”

The Facebook page was flooded with comments from listeners-many of whom argue that the situation is being blown out of proportion.

Dallas-based AT&T, which maintains a significant presence in Minnesota, also pulled its advertising from KDWB. An e-mailed statement on behalf of Bob Bass, president of AT&T Minnesota, described the song as “very demeaning to the Hmong.”

“Therefore, we cannot financially support KDWB when it allows discrimination to be included in its broadcasts,” Bass said in the statement. “As such, we have withdrawn all advertising from KDWB.”

HealthPartners' Shelman declined to comment on the size of the company's advertising account with KDWB. The company is Minnesota's third-largest health insurer based on revenue, which totaled $3.4 billion in 2009. The company reported $3.6 billion in 2010 revenue.