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Illustration by Bob AulRich Agozino loves to provoke. In 1997, for example, the minister and host of Crosstalk (get it?) on Costa Mesa-based KBRT-AM 740, advocated public executions of California's gay and lesbian citizens. "This is not about hate or violence," he said. "God wants us to purge evil from our culture." Last year, he criticized the decision to ban cameras at the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. What the world needs now, Agozino said, is a good "public hanging." After Sept. 11, Agozino beat his colleagues Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to the straight-faced declaration that God allowed the deadly jet assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to punish America for its tolerance of homosexuals. After public ridicule, Falwell and Robertson apologized; Agozino—who routinely urges parents to "recruit-proof" their children from homosexuals—did not.
On Jan. 28, Agozino turned his anxieties south to Mexico. With the deadpan demeanor of a county coroner, Agozino revealed "a grand plan by Mexicans to take over California."
"They [undocumented Mexican workers] are having four or five or more children," said Agozino. "Christian women are having one, maybe two [children]. You do the math. They are going to take back the state and change our laws!"
As a solution, he urged elected officials and judges to immediately enforce Proposition 187, the anti-illegal-immigrant initiative that voters approved in 1994 but was later ruled unconstitutional. The proposition would have denied undocumented immigrants and their children access to public schools and non-emergency medical services.
Agozino's on-air rant was sparked by front-running Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Riordan's comments in late January that California should treat undocumented workers and their children with compassion. Agozino was seething. He implied that the former LA mayor had violated biblical scripture. Apparently unaware of Prop. 187's legal status, he also argued that "we can't violate the law in the name of love."
The outburst triggered more than a dozen supportive calls from Christian conservatives:
• "Jim," a Santa Ana building contractor, complained that "illegals" are "stealing jobs" from "whites" and wrecking America; he concluded that "we should send illegals back and blow their butts to hell."
• "Doug" argued without explanation that compassionate treatment of undocumented workers and their families would be a "violation of the separation of church and state."
• An anonymous West Covina female wanted Agozino to know she was frustrated that a legal immigrant neighbor "refused" to speak proper English. An indignant Agozino responded, "Only in America!"
• "Ben" claimed to know the true cause of illegal immigration: money-hungry public school teachers, whom he alleged get $10,000 for each "illegal" in class.
• A mostly incoherent Orange County construction consultant said the immigration issue cannot be solved because "Democrats and left-wing liberals give them [Mexicans] everything to come here."
Not every caller was in the mood to bash. "Karen" said Latinos historically have been mistreated in California and she worried that Agozino's show might fuel bigotry. She was cut off in mid-sentence.
"What do you mean?" responded an annoyed Agozino, whom the Weekly last year placed on its annual Halloween list of Orange County's "31 Scariest People."
Then "Steve" called to say that his wife had come to the United States illegally from Mexico many years ago but was now a hard-working, taxpaying citizen.
Steve was disconnected. Undeterred, he called back minutes later and asked why the show seemed "to be against Hispanics." That call also ended abruptly.
"Lost you again. Sorry, buddy," said Agozino.
Soft-spoken but concerned "Kara" got the show back on track. She recommended a right-wing, anti-immigrant Internet website; said alarmed Americans must organize to prevent a Mexican takeover; and claimed immigrants are literally soiling America.
"Illegals are coming over here and making bathroom droppings in people's back yards!" she said. "And it's not just Mexicans coming up here. We also have lots of Middle Eastern terrorists coming, too."
Agozino did not ask if the Middle Eastern terrorists were also relieving themselves on lawns, but he agreed with Kara and then told his listeners that Riordan's immigration stance was "taking the name of the Lord in vain" and "making an end run around the people."
"They [Mexican immigrants] can do anything they want," he said. "They do not respect our laws."
After peddling the services of a Christian mortgage broker during a commercial break, the radio minister ended the show by reading a passage from Deuteronomy and concluding that he—not Riordan, a socially moderate Republican—has God on his side.
Said Agozino, "If there is a one-word definition for 'Christian,' it is 'love.'"