Third KNUS Strike: Bonniwell and Hayden Sacked Over School Shooting "Joke"

Julie Hayden and Chuck Bonniwell are out as co-hosts of an afternoon program on 710 KNUS.
Julie Hayden and Chuck Bonniwell are out as co-hosts of an afternoon program on 710 KNUS.
For the third time in just over a month, conservative radio station 710 KNUS is staring down a public relations disaster.

Last month, host Craig Silverman was yanked off the air while he happened to be speaking in support of impeaching President Donald Trump; he was subsequently banished permanently. More recently, reports surfaced in which producer and podcaster Kirk Widlund was accused of being a neo-Nazi. And now, the outlet has cancelled the afternoon program helmed by Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle publisher Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden after the former said during a December 17 broadcast that he wished "for a nice school shooting" to interrupt impeachment proceedings.

Irony alert: During her time as a local TV reporter, Hayden extensively covered the murderous 1999 attack on Columbine High School.

Bonniwell has not yet responded to outreach from Westword. But in a statement, he said, "I made an inappropriate comment meant as a joke. Iā€™m sorry it was not received that way."

Additionally, Bonniwell and Hayden tweeted the following from their joint account this morning: "As you know 710KNUS has cancelled our show. It's difficult to put everything into words here but we hope you hear our hearts. Chuck's comment about school shootings was inappropriate and if he could un-say it he would. Violence causes too much hurt to victims and their families and we truly did not intend to add to that pain. We have covered every school shooting and tragedy since Columbine and witnessed the unbearable pain and grief felt by the victims, families and community. We've always tried to tell the truth straight up and be willing to talk about any controversy even when we are in the middle of it. And to those of you whether you agree or disagree with us ā€” who have shared your afternoons with us our sincere thanks and appreciation."

Likewise, we haven't been able to speak with KNUS vice president and general manager Brian Taylor about this latest incident; when we connect, we'll share his thoughts in this space. But the station has responded with this announcement: "Given the history of school violence that has plagued our community, 710 KNUS confirms that an inappropriate comment was made on the Chuck & Julie show by co-host Chuck Bonniwell. A programming decision was made to end the program immediately. Starting...December 19, the 710KNUS, 1-4 p.m. weekday time slot will feature the Salem Network show, America First, hosted by Sebastian Gorka."

A source tells Westword that the Bonniwell and Hayden offering was likely going to be pulled at year's end, anyway; if true, that undoubtedly made the decision to say goodbye that much easier ā€” and indeed, all references to the pair have vanished from the outlet's website. In contrast, a page hyping Widlund's podcast, Keep America Great, remains on display, and he's also prominently featured at the address promoting The American Veteran Show, overseen by Steffan Tubbs.

The treatment of Widlund as compared to the bum's rush given Silverman is instructive. Granted, KNUS management maintained that Silverman was originally censured for his plan to appear on a rival station, KHOW, alongside his former radio partner, Dan Caplis, and not because he thought Trump, who was formally impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives last night, should be removed from office. But in a world where perception is reality, KNUS looks as if it sees being pro-impeachment as worse than allegations of white nationalism...even though its most prominent personality, Peter Boyles, frequently invokes the name of Alan Berg, who was assassinated by members of a racist group during the 1980s. (By the way, Boyles isn't on the air this morning. His substitute is 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler.)

Making light of school shootings, though, is clearly a bridge too far in Denver ā€” even for KNUS.

This post has been updated to include comments tweeted after publication by Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts