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WAPA-TV's 'Super Xclusivo' Under Fire

Puppet's Remarks on Publicist Death Prompt Boycott 12/19/2012 6:55 AM Eastern

WAPA-TV’s Super Xclusivo, one of Puerto Rico’s most successful TV shows, has come under fire by activists and media organizations after its puppet host made harsh remarks surrounding the gruesome death of publicist Jose Gomez-Saladin earlier this month.

In a segment that aired Dec. 4, the show’s host Kobbo Santarrosa -- through his puppet persona “La Comay” -- inferred that Gomez-Saladin asked for what happened after “allegedly and apparently” soliciting sexual favors in the streets of Puerto Rico, despite his marital status.

Immediately after the segment aired, Puerto Rican organizations called for a boycott and by press time, several advertisers, including Walmart and AT&T had pulled out of the show. The half-hour show also airs in the U.S. on cable channel WAPA America.

At press time, a Facebook page calling for a boycott on La Comay had ammassed almost 74,000 followers. The dustup even gained the attention of The New York Times, which ran an article earlier this week explaining the importance of the show and the ongoing boycott.

In a statement to Hispanic TV Update, WAPA-TV president Joe Ramos lamented the fact that the incident “has caused a division” between Puerto Ricans. Ramos also acknowledged that several advertisers have pulled ads from Super Xclusivo, and he added that: “While we respect their decision, it's unfortunate that it was based on a misinterpretation of words.”

While WAPA TV has said it believes La Comay’s comments were “misinterpreted,” Puerto Rican activists and journalists think otherwise. The Dec. 4 “incident” was not the first time Super Xclusivo, which airs daily at 5:55 pm, and its host drew the ire of activists. The ‘La Comay’ character has been blasted before for insensitive comments about homosexuals and for sensationalizing stories and then portraying them as genuine news and investigative journalism.

“It is TMZ on steroids,” journalist Julio R. Varela, founder of the blog Latino Rebels and a contributor to NBC Latino, said. “Super Xclusivo is a show that presents news with inuendos and rumors, and in a very unethical way,” he added.

That’s not mentioning the fact that its ‘real’ host is actually a marionnette (La Comay) handled by Santarrosa. “It’s a freaking puppet, for God’s sake!” Varela said.

Super Xclusivo continues to be the island’s highest-rated TV show, consistently beating the local Univision and Telemundo stations during its time period and attracting almost 50% of households each night. According to figures provided by WAPA-TV, the ratings for Super Xclusivo went up after Dec. 4.

At press time, Super Xclusivo was still on the air and there was no intention to yield to activists.

“At this time, the program will continue,” Ramos said in an email message to HTU. “We want to reiterate our respect for all of those supporting the show, as well as those who do not.”

Published reports from Puerto Rico indicated that Super Xclusivo was losing roughly $1.3 million of ad revenue per week at press time. Meanwhie, several Hispanic media organizations including the National Puerto Rican Coalition, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, had joined the Puerto Rican community in support of a boycott against WAPA TV and WAPA America's gossip show.

September