Radio station’s Hmong parody sparks backlash

KDWB radio in the Twin Cities is apologizing for a song that aired last week by one of its morning show employees. The morning show sidekick — Steve-O — sang these lyrics to the tune of “Tears in Heaven.” (audio here)

No room for a couch

‘Cause we sleep on the floor

One big group of Vangs

Hmong family of twenty-four

Kids work in St. Paul

Hang out at the mall

‘Cause I know they dwell so well

Thirty Hmongs in a house

Hmongs get pregnant early

First baby at 16

Seven kids by 23

Over the hill by 30

Like sardines they live

Packed in a two-room house with the kids

But you know they age quite well

They be Hmongs.

On the audio, popular radio personality Dave Ryan laughs and then appears to anticipate the backlash, adding, “I am not laughing at your song.”

Rob Morris, the station’s program director posted a message on the station’s Facebook page. He did not declare the bit wrong, but apologized to those who think it was:

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.

We appreciate the support we continue to receive from all of our listeners.

Morris said the subsequent discussion on the Facebook page about the incident is “healthy.”


This afternoon, the Twin Cities chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association issued this statement:

Last week, one of the Twin Cities’ top-ranked radio stations, KDWB-FM 101.3, featured a parody song on its morning program that has offended some members of the Asian-American community. The two-minute song by radio personality Steve-O mocked housing issues and teen pregnancy in the Hmong community. The song, which has gone viral, was part of an occasional segment on the popular “Dave Ryan in the Morning Show.” After soliciting listener-suggested song titles, Steve-O writes and sings a song, which is often meant to be in jest.

While the Minnesota chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association acknowledges the role of parody, we’ve heard from members of the community who found these remarks offensive and in poor taste. We know KDWB has a large Hmong listenership. We urge the station to take heed when promoting material that stereotypes and marginalizes a large segment of its fan base. It appears that the station recognizes the legitimacy of these concerns. We commend KDWB for addressing the situation. The station has issued a statement (which can be read below). It has also promoted a healthy discussion on its Facebook page, where many Hmong listeners are chiming in with comments.

In regards to Asian-American issues, we hope AAJA can serve as a resource to KDWB’s programming in the future.

Morning radio has a history of incidents of racial and ethnic insensitivity in the Twin Cities. In the early ’90s, KSTP fired a show host after a sidekick made jokes about drunken Native Americans. In 2007, some Native Americans protested KQRS after morning hosts made jokes about incest and suicide on the reservations.