Tonight, Howard Stern appears in a place many people thought they'd never see him: National primetime broadcast television.
The legendary shock jock begins his reign as a judge of "America's Got Talent" this evening, and already, critics are up in arms. The Parents Television Council, the watchdog group that bemoans any suggestion of sex or profanity on TV, sent a letter to 91 companies that have bought commerical time during the NBC competition in the past, advising them to spend their money elsewhere because of Stern's "reputation for sleaze and misogyny."
The PTC said in the letter, "[T]o our knowledge his only previous judging experience consisted of looking at insecure, naked young women and telling them whether or not they were hot enough to pose for Playboy."
For Stern, that's G-rated behavior. Let's look back on some of his most outrageous antics:
|The Fartman Stunt|
Rectal humor is kind of a speciality of Stern's, so in hindsight, it's not really a surprise that he exposed his butt cheeks in a $10,000, gold Spandex superhero costume at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. But at the time, it was pretty controversial, not to mention gross. Stern descended from the ceiling as Fartman and simulated a gigantic release of gas that triggered an on-stage explosion. MTV was appalled, and Stern hasn't been invited back to the awards since. He initially had visions of turning Fartman into a movie, but those never panned out.
|The Aunt Jemima Joke|
Stern denigrated the pancake icon in 1992 when he said on his radio show, "The closest I came to making love to a black woman was I masturbated to a picture of Aunt Jemima on a pancake box." The FCC fined Stern and Infinity Broadcasting $600,000 for that quip.
|The Selena Scandal|
In March 1995, while Selena's fans reeled from the shooting death of the Latin singer, Stern made fun of them. The day before her funeral, he played gunshots over Selena's music and mocked Selena's fans with a fake Hispanic accent. He also said, "Spanish people have the worst taste in music. ... This music does absolutely nothing for me. Alvin and the Chipmunks have more soul." He infuriated Hispanic communities across the country, and a disorderly conduct arrest warrant was issued in his name in Harlingen, Tex. The following week, Stern apologized on air in Spanish, saying his comments were made in satire and not intended to hurt Selena's fans, family, and friends.
|The Columbine Controversy|
Apparently whatever lesson Stern learned from the Selena salvo didn't last long. On April 21, 1999, the day after the Columbine High School shooting, Stern mused about the "really good-looking girls" who ran for their lives away from the gunmen. "There were some really good-looking girls running with their hands over their heads," he said. "Did those kids try to have sex with any of those good-looking girls? They didn't even do that? At least if you're going to kill yourself and kill the kids, why wouldn't you have some sex? If I was going to kill some people, I'd take them out with sex."
In response, the Rocky Mountain News wrote, "Let Howard Stern make his millions in other broadcast markets. He does not belong in Denver." The general manager of the station that aired Stern's show in Denver reportedly said that Stern felt "his comments were taken out of context."
|The Ban That Drove Him to Satellite|
In April 2004, Clear Channel Radio, the company that carried Stern's show in six markets including San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, and Pittsburgh, dropped the shock jock after they were hit with a $495,000 fine from the FCC. The reason? An interview with Rick Salomon, the co-star of Paris Hilton's sex tape, in which Stern and Salomon talked graphically about anal sex and a caller used the N-word. Stern accused the FCC of conducting a "McCarthy-type witch hunt" in the wake of Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl controversy, wherein the FCC fined CBS $550,000.
In October 2004, Stern announced he would leave traditional radio for Sirius Satellite Radio, a medium free from FCC regulations, where he remains today, though not without controversy. Stern and his agent sued Sirius last year for allegedly failing to pay stock bonuses that were promised to them. The lawsuit was dismissed in April but Stern said via Twitter that he plans to appeal.