A Minnesota radio host has resigned after verbally attacking another DJ on the air.
Aaron Imholte, who has been with WHMH-FM in Sauk Rapids since 2014, had dedicated much of his Nov. 20 broadcast to ridiculing Heather Lee, co-host of “Fish & Heather,” a new morning program on Lazer 103.3 FM in Des Moines.
Imholte lit into Lee, claiming that he had applied for the Iowa gig and that Lee was unqualified for the job.
“I’m upset that a girl was allowed on a morning show,” he said on his “Steel Toe Morning Show” on WHMH, aka Rockin’ 101.
Lee, who was previously broadcasting at a Hubbard Radio-owned station in Seattle, said she could tolerate the digs about her on-air performance. But she balked at the personal insults, which included vicious comments on her weight and age.
“We will bury her in the ground. This chick is toast,” Imholte had said on the air. “We’re bullying today.”
At one point, Imholte urged his listeners to start a rumor that Lee uses the “N word” in her personal life.
“Those were the types of things I found predatory,” Lee said in a phone interview Monday. “Comments inciting your fans to defame me on top of demoralization? That’s crossing the line.”
Last week, Lee posted excerpts of the “Steel Toe” show on the SoundCloud service, triggering an online campaign to get Imholte ousted. A video from TikTok contributor @ohitstori_d in support of Lee has been viewed more than 279,000 times.
Imholte posted his resignation on Facebook on Nov. 25.
“I do not want my actions reflecting poorly on the wonderful team at a family-owned company that is under siege because of my actions,” he said in his message, according to Radio Insight. “I apologize to Heather at Lazer 103.3 and the entire team. I wish them and their families all the best. This is the best move I can make for me, my family, and so I can have peace.
“If the people who were offended want to consider this a cancellation, or a victory, I understand, I would do the same. I ask a truce. I made A LOT OF PEOPLE upset and that is not why I do radio.”
A few hours later, Imholte deleted the posting.
During an e-mail exchange Monday, Imholte adopted a different tone. He now says he was the victim of a “hatchet job” with Lee purposely taking his jokes out of context.
“They know they pulled a dirty move,” he wrote in the e-mail. “We are a comedy show built on sarcasm and satire. We did a segment two days previous lecturing guys that women have a terrible time in bars and how crappy it must be to go out and have to watch your drinks and hang out in groups because of the creepy things guys do.
“The herd mentality doesn’t decipher those things. They know only blood lust. They got me off the radio, but they pushed me out of a nest I needed to leave.”
Imholte has now moved his program to the Twitch streaming platform, where he says the response has been “amazing.”
“The way I was treated was very gross,” he wrote. “What I said would be horribly offensive if I meant a word of it. My audience knows that was in jest and in performance. No wonder radio didn’t get it.”
Officials at Tri-Country Broadcasting, which owns WHMH, did not respond to an interview request.
Lee said that she’s confident she did the right thing, especially after hearing from many people from the St. Cloud area.
“It became clear that this man created a bully culture in this town where his followers seem to be brainwashed,” she said. “They don’t seem to understand what is a joke and what isn’t allowed.”