Florida country radio morning-show hosts Val St. John and Scott Fish are currently serving indefinite suspensions and possibly worse over a successful April Fools' Day prank. They told their listeners that "dihydrogen monoxide" was coming out of the taps throughout the Fort Myers area. Dihydrogen monoxide is water.
The popular deejays are mainly in all this trouble (potentially of a felony level) because their listeners panicked so much — about the molecular makeup of their drinking water, however unwittingly — that Lee County utility officials had to issue a county-wide statement calming the fears of chemistry challenged Floridians.
Audio evidence of exactly how St. John and Fish executed this bad joke remains scarce, as they were pulled off the air around 8:30 a.m. — about three and half hours into their Val and Scott in the Morning show on WWGR/Gator Country 101.9 FM, which airs across a big region of Southwest Florida. That was enough time for listeners to begin calling the water company. Here's the official statement from Lee County utility issued Monday after fielding many calls about the "dihydrogen monoxide" scare:
"They were joking that 'dihydrogen monoxide' was coming out of Lee County residents' taps," reports Florida's WPTV, though it also remains unclear just how much the two hosts stoked the joke, and whether they actually told people to stop drinking the "dihydrogen monoxide" coming out of their taps. The WWGR station's manager did have to issue a retraction — or at least a constant on-air admission that the gag was, in fact, a joke — even though St. John and Fish were technically correct that dihydrogen monoxide was, indeed, coming out of their taps.
"Every break we have we're telling listeners it was a goof, a bad joke," Tony Renda, general manager at WWGR radio told WTSP-TV. And apparently, the station, the water works, and perhaps the authorities are still trying to figure out if the two hosts could face felony charges for, again, reporting that the scientific name of water was coming out of the pipes. "My understanding is it is a felony to call in a false water quality issue," Diane Holm, a public information officer for Lee County, told WTSP, while Renda stood firm about his deejays: "They will have to deal with the circumstances."
St. John and Fish are currently off the air, and maybe someone should tell their Senator, Marco Rubio — he of the unending water joke — or conservative lawmakers across the land: Our CPAC correspondent Elspeth Reeve tells us that the whole water-is-a-chemical-called-"dihydrogen oxide" bit was a really hit at the annual conference's panel entitled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Plastic Water Bottles, Fracking, Genetically Modified Food, & Big Gulp Sodas."
Update, 4:36 p.m. Eastern: We noticed that the station seems to be enjoying this controversy, despite the very real concerns expressed to the Lee County utility. There's a poll on the Gator Country website asking when the two DJs should return to air, with (at the time we viewed the results) 78 percent of those voting "never."
Update, Wednesday: St. John and Fish were back on the air Wednesday, and officials with the local health department tell The Atlantic Wire that felony charges are not expected.
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This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.