NBA legend Magic Johnson has harshly denounced a Twin Cities talk radio duo who said during an on-air exchange that they believed he faked having AIDS, prompting a conciliatory statement from the station.
Wednesday's brief exchange regarding Johnson, who has been HIV-positive since 1991, came on the politically conservative KTLK radio (100.3 FM) between on-air personalities Chris Baker and Langdon Perry.
In a written statement issued Friday, KTLK program director Steve Versnick said that despite the Baker and Perry's "off-hand remarks," the station "recognizes the seriousness of the health issues presented by HIV/AIDS -- and the great work that Magic Johnson has done across the nation in calling attention to this disease, and the importance of HIV testing and treatment."
Versnick added that KTLK will be airing HIV/AIDS awareness public service announcements and will reach out to Johnson for his thoughts on educating the public. Versnick declined to say whether either Baker or Perry faced any discipline by the station.
In a statement issued Thursday, Johnson, 49, said, "I am outraged that Chris Baker and Langdon Perry would minimize such a serious and deadly issue.
"Millions are dying from HIV/AIDS, and the fact that they would make jokes about my status is unbelievable. Chris, Langdon and KTLK should use their power in a more positive light by encouraging people to get tested for this disease instead of making up such ridiculous lies."
Johnson, who was part of five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, retired abruptly in 1991 after revealing that he was HIV-positive. He made two brief comebacks before retiring for good in 1996. He also was on the U.S. basketball team that won Olympic gold in 1992.
The comments about the NBA Hall of Famer gained nationwide exposure through the liberal watchdog blog "Media Matters for America," which posted the audio and a transcript, which reads in part:
PERRY: What about diseases that are eminently treatable and you can live with for a long, long time quite healthily if you just get some basic drugs?
BAKER: Like Magic Johnson.
PERRY: Like Magic with his faked AIDS. Magic faked AIDS.
BAKER: You think Magic faked AIDS for sympathy?
PERRY: I'm convinced that Magic faked AIDS.
BAKER: Yeah, me too.
PERRY: It falls apart --
BAKER: Which is horrible.
PERRY: -- when you get into motivation. I'm not sure why, but I'm pretty sure he faked AIDS.
BAKER: I've got a great e-mail here from --
PERRY: 'Cause he's the only cured AIDS guy ever.