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Spanish-Language Radio Star Yanked Off The Air

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Spanish-Language Radio Star Yanked Off The Air

Spanish-Language Radio Star Yanked Off The Air

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RENE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It was shocking enough last week for Spanish-speaking listeners of Univision Radio when one of its most successful shows was suddenly taken off the air - with no explanation. This week, even more stunning news, accusations of harassment against the host of that show, a household name here in Latino Los Angeles and many other places where Univision has lots of listeners. Here's NPR's Mandalit Del Barco with more.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Eddie Sotelo is known as Piolin or Tweety Bird in Mexican Spanish. His irreverent show was, for a time, the number one radio program in all of Los Angeles. For seven hours each weekday morning, Piolin cracked silly jokes, played Mexican regional music and sometimes got political. He immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico and successfully rallied thousands of his listeners to march for immigrant rights in the mid-2000s.

EDDIE SOTELO: Why do we get the United States (unintelligible)?

DEL BARCO: Eddie Sotelo became so popular and so important that during the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama stopped by.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO BROADCAST)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Mexico...

SOTELO: (Spanish spoken)

OBAMA: (Spanish spoken)

SOTELO: (Spanish spoken)

OBAMA: (Spanish spoken)

DEL BARCO: Like other morning DJs, Piolin's show had a regular cast of characters, including Alberto Beto Cortez, a writer, producer and singer.

ALBERTO BETO CORTEZ: (Singing in Spanish)

DEL BARCO: Last week Univision abruptly canceled Piolin Por La Manana with no explanation. Piolin told reporters Univision had given him a great run. Now, perhaps related, perhaps not, the Los Angeles Times has published documents in which sidekick Albert Cortez accuses Eddie Sotelo of having harassed him for three years - physically, sexually and emotionally.

Times reporter Reed Johnson.

REED JOHNSON: Mr. Cortez alleges that Mr. Sotelo sexually abused him, that he repeatedly said to Mr. Cortez you should come out of the closet, and also made vulgar remarks about Mr. Cortez's girlfriend.

DEL BARCO: Sotelo's lawyer says these are false claims made as part of a demand for money. Cortez's attorney and Univision executives did not respond to requests to comment. Gustavo Arellano is an influential journalist with a column called Ask A Mexican. He says he hopes the allegations won't tarnish Sotelo's reputation or take away from his activism.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO: El Piolin's own belief in the dignity of undocumented folks - working class Latino immigrant who got up just like he did, up at 4:00 in the morning for hours and hours of work.

DEL BARCO: At the Plaza Mexico Mall in an L.A. suburb, fans of the show remain incredulous about the allegations.

PABLO LUGO: (Spanish spoken)

DEL BARCO: It's got to be a lie. It's impossible, says 25-year-old fan Pablo Lugo. Hospital worker Maria Salazar agreed.

MARIA SALAZAR: I was very surprised, you know, 'cause he seemed to be a very honest man. And, you know, the people really follow him and trusted him.

DEL BARCO: For now, Univision has replaced Piolin Por La Manana with music, and Eddie Sotelo is still scheduled this fall to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News.

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