As Chuck Bonniwell welcomed listeners to his Colorado talk-radio show back from a break just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, he laughed as he introduced a segment discussing the “never-ending impeachment of Donald Trump.”
“You know,” he said, “you wish for a nice school shooting” to interrupt the nonstop impeachment coverage.
His wife and co-host, Julie Hayden, immediately jumped in and cut him off.
“No, no, don’t even — don’t even say that,” she said. “No, don’t even say that. Don’t call us, Chuck didn’t say that.”
Bonniwell quickly tried to walk back the statement, saying he would want a shooting “in which no one would be hurt,” but the damage had already been done. By the end of the day, the couple’s conservative show was canceled by the Aurora, Colorado, radio station 710 KNUS.
“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,” the station said in a statement Wednesday evening. “A programming decision was made to end the program immediately.”
Bonniwell did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday. In a now-deleted tweet, Bonniwell defended himself, suggesting people had misunderstood his intent.
“I made an inappropriate comment meant as a joke,” The Denver Post quoted him as saying. “I’m sorry it was not received that way.”
“Chuck & Julie” was removed from the station’s website and returned an error message by early Thursday.
The radio station said the “Chuck & Julie” show would be replaced by former White House aide Sebastian Gorka’s “America First” program starting Thursday.
KNUS is no stranger to controversy brought on by its programs. Another host denied allegations last week that he had posted white supremacist memes online after he made comments on-air that mirrored an anti-Semitic post by someone using his name on a Russian social media platform frequented by extremists. That host told 9News the post was part of an elaborate plot by a local anti-fascist group to defame him. The station defended him.
In November, the station unceremoniously interrupted another host as he began to criticize President Donald Trump on-air. The station denied pulling the program because of the anti-Trump comments, but the show later disappeared from the 710 KNUS website, 9News reported.
Bonniwell’s comments struck a raw nerve in a state that has been rocked by several devastating mass shootings. Twenty years ago, two teenage gunmen killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School. In 2012, a gunman walked into an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and killed 12 people. In May, two shooters killed a student and injured several others at a high school in a Denver suburb.
Those touched by gun violence in the state were quick to criticize the radio host. The mother of a woman killed in the Aurora theater shooting called for Bonniwell to be fired shortly after a reporter shared the clip on Twitter.
“Total ignorance,” Sandy Phillips wrote. “Shootings hurt us all … just ask witnesses and first responders. You don’t have to be shot to be wounded.”
Another parent who lost a child in a recent school shooting also denounced Bonniwell’s comment and shared tweets protesting the radio host’s show.
“Unbelievable that a radio host would suggest a school shooting to distract from the presidential [impeachment],” John Castillo, whose son Kendrick died in the May shooting, wrote on Twitter. “My comments have nothing to do with any political affiliation, only doing the right [thing] and not [promoting] domestic terror.”