Update: This story has been updated to include comment from Mike Stafford and an email sent by a Global News manager to staff.
Radio host Mike Stafford has left Global News after he used the word “P*ki” last week in Microsoft Teams, a workspace chat platform.
Stafford, former host of The Morning Show in 640 Toronto, has worked with AM640 since 2001. It was later rebranded as Global News Radio 640 Toronto and is now owned by Global News’ parent company Corus Entertainment, one of the largest media companies in Canada.
In a statement, a Corus Entertainment spokesperson said, “I can confirm that Mike Stafford is no longer with 640 Toronto. Unfortunately, we can’t provide any further details.”
A source told VICE World News Stafford was fired.
In a screenshot obtained by VICE World News, Stafford appeared to be commenting on an Ontario Premier Doug Ford press conference about schools on June 2 when he made the comment, “I had $5 at home that he’d slip and call it the P*ki variant.” A source said there were more than 100 people in the chat group and that Stafford’s comment no longer appears in the channel. The source said they have not heard anything from managers about Stafford’s departure.
A Corus spokesperson told VICE World News Stafford’s departure was discussed in a meeting and an internal staff email sent to 640 Toronto staff, as well as a note from last week saying the company was investigating the matter.
The email to 640 Toronto staff did not mention the slur. It said, “Effective immediately Mike Stafford is no longer with 640 Toronto. We wish him well in his future endeavors (sic).”
Stafford told VICE World News he used the slur because he had heard Ford repeatedly use the term “Indian variant” when discussing COVID-19.
“Dog-whistle stuff,” he said in a text exchange. “So I wrote that. Pissed because I knew he was pressing on borders again.”
Asked if he was aware the term he used is a slur, he said, “Yes. Ford and I grew up in the same era, I only meant to exchange what he was thinking. Which is why it was in quotes.”
Asked if he thought about how the term might impact racialized employees in the channel, Stafford said, “No. I honestly thought I was treating the premier with disgust. His pathetic border argument.”
In 2019, Stafford was criticized for tweeting derogatory comments about South Asians, including, “May I say to 2019 Mississauga, can you keep your entire fucking family home from hospital emergency when Uncle Apu sprains an ankle?”
He also tweeted, “Great, another head scarf at Mississauga Queensway triage. I feel like I’m in a Quebec middle school.”
At the time, Canadaland reported Stafford was being investigated by Global News.
Stafford said the tweets were “meant to make my co-host laugh. Obviously it was devastating to so many.”
Asked if he was disciplined by Corus, he said, “I had meetings.” He also said he attended a “great meeting with a woman representing the Islamic faith. Everybody was there.”
Last year, VICE World News reported that Stafford’s former co-host Supriya Dwivedi resigned from Corus Entertainment, alleging the racist threats she regularly received from listeners were ramped up by misinformation spread by her talk radio colleagues, including “false narratives about refugees, Muslims, Sikhs, and other targeted groups.”
Dwivedi told VICE World News that despite being a South Asian woman and Stafford’s co-host, no one from the company addressed his tweets with her until she found out about them from someone outside the company.
She said her managers did not offer her the opportunity to discuss the incident on air with Stafford.
Last summer, VICE World News spoke to 12 current and former Corus Entertainment employees who alleged they experienced racism, microaggressions, and retaliation for speaking out while working there. Some of the company’s most vocal critics about its race issues were laid off in July.
Corus Entertainment’s chief executive officer Doug Murphy promised “meaningful and lasting change” after the company underwent a review on systemic racism conducted by the firm DiversiPro last year.
Dwivedi quit amid the DiversiPro review, alleging the company had not done enough to protect her from racist harassment.
In response, Corus’ lawyer Howard Levitt told Dwivedi’s lawyer, “If your client wishes to leave her role because she finds views dramatically different than her own to be antithetical to her continued employment, or cannot tolerate the trolls of social media, then she does not belong in talk radio as practiced in North America.”
Global News’ previous online biography for Stafford described him as “an info junkie with a huge frame-of-reference and experience to draw from. And just try to stump him on Simpsons trivia. Irreverent, relevant… Mike Stafford.”
Former Global News radio host Danielle Smith, who has also been accused of normalizing Islamophobia, left the company in January, alleging a “mob of political correctness” had infringed on her ability to do her job.
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