As concerns about the coronavirus continue to spread, Howard Stern has called out a member of his own staff for making a racist remark about the Korean pop band BTS possibly carrying the disease.
Stern, a noted germaphobe, first brought up coronavirus on Sunday by sharing an anecdote about longtime staffer Sal Governale, Variety reports. “BTS was here at Sirius on Friday and Sal was saying, ‘There’s no way those guys don’t have the coronavirus,’” Stern said. “He was like every asshole.”
The band made their appearance on the show to promote their latest album, Map of the Soul: 7. Governale recounted the moment during Sunday’s episode as well—and did himself no favors in the process. “I walked into the lobby and it was like Chinatown, out of control, there were so many Asian people,” he said. “These people are traveling, they’re not locals, they’re going from country to country to country. It’s a dangerous situation. You got to look at it that way—they’re on airplanes; they’re in hotels.”
The coronavirus outbreak first began in China, not South Korea, where BTS is from. And although the group does, as co-host Robin Quivers noted, frequently tour internationally, Variety reports that the band has only traveled between the U.S. and Korea in recent weeks. And as producer Gary Dell’Abate pointed out, every celebrity who visits the show travels internationally.
On Monday Stern told Governale on air, “I got so many emails about what an idiot you are for avoiding a Korean boy band... I’m super paranoid about diseases and germs, but you came off as racist.”
Although fears that BTS in particular would be more likely than other groups or celebrities to carry the virus are unfounded, the disease has affected the band’s promotion for its new album. BTS was forced to livestream its press conference from a nearly empty hall due to concerns about the illness and has instructed members of its fan club not to come to scheduled TV appearances to join the studio audience. (South Korean broadcasters are forgoing studio audiences due to concerns about the virus.) Fortunately for BTS, Map of the Soul: 7 is still expected to top charts globally.