Charlie Sykes Defends Sampling of Atrocious Video, A Fave of Neo-Nazis

Charlie SykesJournal Communication's right-wing talker Charlie Sykes (WTMJ Radio 620), delights in stirring controversy. But last week he went too far. In a segment discussing whether food stamp recipients should be allowed to buy unhealthy food, Sykes played a clip of an incredibly offensive video that is a favorite of neo-Nazi websites.

Dwelling on a popular Sykes topic the "growing gigantic culture of dependent people" or "moocher culture," Sykes slips in a long clip (at 29.20) where the voice of an African American woman can be heard listing all the fast food joints -- even liquor stores -- where one can allegedly use an electronic benefits (EBT) card. Sykes did not explain the clip or where it originated. The full song portrays women as having kids in order to receive food stamps to fund a party lifestyle. (For the record, you can't buy booze with food stamps.)

The clip is part of a video "It's Free, Swipe Yo EBT" made by a young woman named LaToya "Chapter" Hicks, but the production credits go to Christopher Jackson. He is reportedly the same Christopher Jackson who wrote an incredibly offensive piece about teaching black children, another fave of the "we heart Hitler" crowd. The Jackson essay is featured on the white nationalist site and Chapter's video on the Nazi site

The Wisconsin Democratic Party promptly put out a release denouncing the clip as racist and offensive. The party contacted reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and also wrote to the broadcast side of the Journal Communications firm (which owns the paper and the radio station) asking VP Steve Wexler to look into it. While the newspaper recently put the inopportune Tweets by the Democratic Party spokesman on the front page of its paper prompting disciplinary action, it could not be bothered to write a word about the controversy over the weekend. Sykes defended the use of the video in a blog post Sunday night on "Right Wisconsin."

"Pshaw," says Sykes -- she's black, it's art, just because neo-Nazis love it doesn't mean it's a problem. In fact, Sykes so loves the video "about welfare programs run amok" that he says he uses it all the time and has previously posted it as an "anthem" for his nation of moochers theme. The Journal Sentinel covered the issue briefly online Monday, but only because Sykes wrote about it.

Sykes might think that he and Stormfront have a uniquely discerning eye for art, but by any measure the video is highly offensive. It shouldn't be used by any news source and Journal Communications should make it clear to Mr. Moocher that he shouldn't be using it either.

Journal Communications has given Sykes a lot of rope lately. He is the center of their new experiment called "Right Wisconsin" a subscriber-based, paid content news site for right-wingers which Sykes touted in January as a means of helping to get more Republicans elected. One of the sponsors and "partners" is the phony issue-ad group Wisconsin Club for Growth, which has spent millions in the state defending Governor Scott Walker and GOP candidates. The site features long-time GOP operatives like Brian Fraley, now at the MacIver Institute, and "reporting" by Media Trackers, a Breitbart-style attack dog operation. Both the MacIver Institute and Media Trackers are funded by the Bradley Foundation.

This type of news site is not unusual; what is unusual is that it is sponsored by a mainstream media outfit like Journal Communications which is supposed to be keeping an eye on its staff and is not supposed to be helping one political party advantage another.


See Dan Bice's comment below for more of the backstory.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


In 2011, a young black female rapper named Chapter Jackson produced a parody video called; "It’s Free, Swipe Yo EBT." The video went viral and has had more than 1.2 million hits on Youtube. I played it on the air at the time, and blogged about it, writing: "Moocher Nation has its anthem. (And yes, I know it's a satire... which is encouraging in a way. (CAUTION: Very explicit language. Definitely NOT work safe.) I also devoted a segment of the show to talking about how edgy it was. Over the last year and a half we’ve played excerpts several times, including a short excerpt last Thursday. Cue the unhinged left. Here’s the letter that the chairman of the state Democrat Party, Mike Tate, wrote to my boss Steve Wexler on Friday: "I’m writing to see what measures you are taking to respond to the airing this past Thursday by Charlie Sykes of a virulently racist parody of food stamp recipients. "The material is racist on its face, so I ask how it was aired? "The source material was produced by a white segregationist whose work is celebrated by neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups. I also am curious just how Sykes or his producers stumbled upon this little sugar plum. How did Sykes and his crew come upon this? Tate goes on to demand (again) that I be fired. "This type of race baiting is not worthy of the state’s largest radio station and is PLENTY worthy to justify removing Sykes, whose entire show seems based on a foundation of white resentment and who has a long history of racial insensitivity." Neo-nazis? White supremacists? Segregationists? For students of this sort of thing, this frothing-at-the-mouth race baiting was the stock in trade of now defrocked Democrat spokesman Graeme Zielinski. Although stripped of his role as party spokesman, Zielinski remains on the payroll and is back to his conservatives-are-neonazis rants. He is obviously now Tate's ghost-writer. But even by Zielinski’s standards this is bizarre stuff, deep in the fever swamps of his paranoia. Actually, Tate/Zielinski are way behind the curve. The video is hardly obscure or breaking news . On Youtube, it has had more than 1.27 million hits. When it first appeared, I not only played it, I also posted it again in November 2011, under the title "Scenes From Moocher Nation" along with four other videos. (Speaking of Moochers, A Nation of Moochers" will be coming out in paperback on April 13. I’m sure Tate/Zielinski won’t like that either.) So my listeners are quite familiar with it, even if Tate/Zielinski never heard of it. (I’m guessing that at the time it came out, they were too busy unsuccessfully trying to recall Scott Walker so maybe they just missed it.) So what’s the video about? It's a powerful satire/parody by a bright young black woman named Chapter Jackson. It's not about race: it's about behavior... and welfare programs run amok. On her Facebook page Chapter says: "I write, arrange and produce my own songs. I love to write about subjects people don't like to talk about. …" This is what the artist wrote on her Youtube page: "Chapter plays roles in her music videos using "Satire" which is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon." She is tough young woman. In the interview below, Chapter explains that she was abused as a child and felt her mother was just having kids to get benefits. She went on to get a college degree so she wouldn't be dependent. This is the artist who Tate/Zileinski describe as "virulently racist." But listen to what she has to say for herself: in this video she talks about her work and in the segment from 2:10 to 3:45 she describes her reaction to the EBT and welfare issue. In what way is this "racist on its face?" I would love to hear Tate/Zielinski debate the question with Chapter herself. Something tells me that's not going to happen. And I doubt that any of the media who repeat their charges will bother to talk with the singer herself, because that would blow the narrative all to hell. The language in the EBT is admittedly sometimes crude, (thus the language warning back in September 2011) but it is hardly unusual for rap. Consider these lyics from Barack Obama’s new BFF, Jay Z. So that can’t be the problem for state Democrats (who obviously don’t have a problem with rappers using the n-word, the f-word, he b-word, or even the c-word.) The real problem , of course, was that the video was highly politically incorrect, which is why the speech police are unhappy. And why they want to use it to shut me up. Their tactic here is to imply that we shouldn’t pay any attention to Chapter or to her message. Instead, Tate/Zielinski focus is on allegations that (1) a guy named Christopher Jackson is the real force behind the video and that (2) his work has been posted on some racist websites. BTW: Isn’t it awfully condescending and racist to suggest that the video is the work of a middle aged white guy, rather than the young black woman who made it? As near as I can tell, Christopher Jackson wrote an essay on teaching black kids that first appeared on the website of Marty Nemko, who is a well-known writer and quite mainstream. The essay is provocative and some its conclusions highly debatable. It’s not on Nemko’s site anymore, but here is a reference to it: "While browsing Marty Nemko, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report's blog site I found a disturbing essay of one man's account of what it's like to teach students of color." I have no idea who also printed the essay or whether they had his permission to do. And I don’t care. If a neo-Nazi website reprints a Dan Bice column, for example, does that make Dan Bice a neo-Nazi? If a Communist Party website reprinted a rant by Mike Tate, would that make Tate a Communist? That sort of guilt by association seems a bit of reach even for the new neo-McCarthyite race baiters. Chapter's work stands on its own. It's edgy. It's provocative. And it gets people talking. Bottomline: I’m not going to let crackpots from the right or speech police from the left tell me what I can say or what I can play. And I'm not going anywhere. ' Sorry, Graeme.

What part of racist-stereotype described as "satire" does Charlie Sykes not understand?

It's quite obvious you have little to no morals. You're a bigot and a racist one at that. You say you're not going anywhere... that may be true at the moment, but you and your ilk's time has come and as you see your days waning you're getting more and more desperate with the words that spew from your foul mouth. You're more hate filled than ever because you can't handle your dwindling fame. You're more filled with anger then ever because your child like mind can't handle not being the center of attention. So keep up the good Christian work, Charlie, keep desperately trying to stay relevant, you will get your just rewards when turned away from the pearly gates.

Your story contains some inaccuracies. This is what happened. 1. The Journal Sentinel began looking into this issue after being contacted by a source in Madison who considered the clip on Sykes' show racist. After tracking down the provenance for the radio bit, I traded emails with Sykes before I talked to anyone at the Democratic Party. 2. It was apparent to me when I called Democratic Party officials for comment that they were aware of the issue but did not know that Sykes was using a bit from a YouTube song. 3. Democrats chose to put out a press release on this subject shortly after I asked officials there for comment. The press release used links I sent the Democratic Party -- and, earlier, Sykes -- when seeking comment. 4. I decided not to pursue the story further when I learned that the Democrats had sent out a release. I try to write exclusive material. This means I don't write up press releases from either party. 5. Jason Stein of our Madison bureau wrote about the subject online on Monday. The post was one of the most popular items on our page yesterday.

Apparently <a href=""> Sykes has now scrubbed his website and podcasts of the skit. </a> Why Charlie? Afraid us plebes can't figure out what you're really trying to say? Those of us that grew up in suburban Milwaukee know exactly what Sykes was trying to say. It's the real reason suburban Milwaukee supports Republicans like they do. Remember that it was Sykes' buddy Steven Einhorn that put up the racist voter suppression billboards in Wisconsin before the election last November in a transparent attempt to inflame white anger and drive up GOP turnout (the scheme got exposed and Romney lost easily here). This is in the same vein, and it's the way the Bradley boys roll in a way to sucker the rubes into buying their destructive agenda. My question is why Sykes' employer allows this trash to go out over the air every day. Time to really lay it on to AM 620.

Listening to TMJ is like listening to old men radio. I find it about as entertaining as the lone ranger radio show. AFA news worthy-ness? It is worthless.

I think of Charley occasionally, in part because for a while we shared the same radio studio...he, for opinion and me, for news (not opinionated) presentation. When I think of Charley's grasp of what's going on around him I recall with some amusement his statement in February of 1994 when I confided in him that I thought my time at WTMJ was nearing an end. Charlie told me "they can't let you go, you're an institution here." Two weeks later they let me go. I've never gotten over it. I have never harbored any animosity for the station or its staff but my nightmares about an unfinished newscast continue nearly 20 years later.

You sound just like a real journalist...a rare breed. If they let you go it was the best thing that ever happened to you and good riddance to them. They are the ones that should have the nightmares, not you.