John Dennis (talk show host)

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John Adron Dennis is an American broadcaster best known as the co-host of WEEI-FM sports radio's former Dennis and Callahan morning show and for being suspended for comparing a young African American student to an escaped gorilla.


Dennis is a 1974 graduate of Kent State University.[1] At age 22, Dennis served as sports director and weekday anchor for WDAF-TV, an NBC affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri.[citation needed] He later became a studio anchorman at WPSL radio. In 1977, he joined WNAC-TV Channel 7 (later WNEV and now WHDH-TV) in Boston. Over the next 21 years he covered the Boston sports scene for the station holding the following roles: weekend and weekday sports anchor, sports producer, sports director as well as producing several sports features and investigative reports. Dennis is involved with several Boston based charities, raising money for the Jimmy Fund, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and he is on the board of directors for the Mutual Funds Against Cancer Organization.[2] Dennis has made cameos in many of the Farrelly brothers' films. In April 2015, Dennis entered an inpatient rehab facility to receive treatment for alcohol abuse.[3] On August 18, 2016 Entercom announced that Dennis, under a doctor's advice to reduce his workload, would immediately leave the morning show but would still be at the station for fill ins, relations with advertisers, and special events. Since his demotion, Dennis has sold his house in Florida and performs odd jobs in his spare time. [4]


Boston Globe Ban[edit]

In 1999, the Boston Globe's executive sports editor, Don Skwar, banned its sportswriters from the Globe from appearing on the Dennis & Callahan morning show because of its perceived lowbrow humor. This came two weeks after he banned Globe sportswriters from appearing on WEEI's afternoon The Big Show after columnist Ron Borges appeared on the show and used a racial slur to describe New York Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu. After the ban, WEEI retaliated by banning Globe sportswriters from all WEEI programs.[5][6]

METCO controversy[edit]

On September 29, 2003, during a segment called 'headlines', where they read and comment about current news stories, Dennis and his morning co-host Gerry Callahan made racially insensitive remarks while discussing a story about an escaped gorilla. The gorilla had escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo and had been recaptured at a bus stop. Their on the air banter included these lines:

Callahan: "They caught him at a bus stop, right -- he was like waiting to catch a bus out of town."

Dennis: "Yeah, yeah -- he's a METCO gorilla."
Callahan: "Heading out to Lexington."

Dennis: "Exactly."[7]

METCO is a state program that buses inner-city Boston students to nearby suburban schools. Many perceived the comments to be comparing poor, mostly African-American children to gorillas.[8]

WEEI general manager Tom Baker suspended both hosts for two days, then extended the suspension to two weeks after the Blue Cross-Blue Shield (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts) pulled $27,000 in ads and in turn donated that money to METCO. Dunkin' Donuts responded by ceasing all advertising that involved the voices of John Dennis or Gerry Callahan. Both hosts apologized, though in a way many thought was sarcastic and insincere, and were sent to sensitivity training. WEEI also agreed to provide free advertising for the METCO program on the radio station. In November 2003, WEEI General Manager Tom Baker was replaced by Julie Kahn. Station executives denied there was a connection between the METCO incident and Baker's replacement.[9]

Ryen Russillo voicemail[edit]

Dennis had a personal conflict with Ryen Russillo, who at the time was a New England Patriot commentator at WBCN, during which he left Rusillo a voicemail[10] following a conversation between Dennis's daughter and Rusillo at a local Boston bar. Subsequently, Russillo lost that job.[11] Russillo currently works for ESPN, which is heard in part on WEEI. The Russillo- Dennis feud continued in February 2012, when they encountered each other at an ESPN Super Bowl Party.[12]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 1978 Nominated for Regional Emmy for his feature, "Cowboys, Creole and Orange Crush."
  • 1978 & 1981 Regional Emmy for specialized reporting.
  • 1983 & 1984 Associated Press (AP) Best Sports Coverage award.
  • 1983, 1984 & 1985 National Association of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Boston/New England Chapter Emmy award for "Best Sports Coverage within a Newscast.
  • 1983, 1984 & 1985 UPI Best Sports Coverage awards.
  • 1986 As part of the WHDH-TV sports team, was awarded the United Press International (UPI) National Broadcast Award in the "Division One Sports Reporting" category.
  • 1987 Emmy Award for "Outstanding Sports Program within a Newscast."


  1. ^ "John Dennis reportedly done at WEEI". Providence Journal. August 16, 2016. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  2. ^ "Mutual Funds Against Cancer". Archived from the original on 2010-02-22. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  3. ^ Finn, Chad (16 April 2015). "WEEI's John Dennis taking leave of absence to enter rehab". The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  4. ^ "John Dennis steps down from WEEI morning program". 2016-08-18. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  5. ^ Dan Kennedy (2007-11-22). "Don't quote me". Bostonphoenix. Archived from the original on 2007-12-25. Retrieved 2007-11-22.
  6. ^ Wolfson, John (May 15, 2006). "LoudMouths". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 2010-08-09. ...the paper pulled its staffers from WEEI's morning program, too. Jack Thomas, then the Globe ombudsman, explained the decision in his column, writing that the paper realized "its sportswriters might do the newspaper, themselves, and common sense a favor by not appearing on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show as puppets strung among jokes about big penises, fat naked fags, and the banging of Korean whores." The paper caught plenty of criticism for the ban—after news columnist Eileen McNamara had a piece on the topic spiked, she appeared on Dennis & Callahan to blast the Globe for censorship...
  7. ^ Talcott, Sasha (October 7, 2003). "Hosts off air for two weeks: Station suspends 2 for Metco remarks". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-08-09. Faced with searing criticism from parents and political officials, WEEI yesterday suspended prominent radio hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan for two weeks for comparing an escaped gorilla to a Metco student waiting for a bus. The suspensions were announced on the same day that one of the station's advertisers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, announced that it would pull $27,000 in advertising from the station and donate the money to Metco, the voluntary desegregation program that places Boston children in suburban schools.
  8. ^ "What Does it Take to Get Fired from Boston Radio?". 2014-07-16. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  9. ^ "Shake-up at WEEI". 2003-11-21. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  10. ^ "Barstool Sports: John Dennis Voicemail for Ryen Russillo". Barstool Sports. September 7, 2005. Archived from the original on January 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  11. ^ Finn, Chad (October 30, 2009). "Tenacious Russillo finds his voice at ESPN". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-08-09. There was something else that soured Russillo on Boston for a time. In 2005, he was added to the revamped Patriots pregame and postgame shows on WBCN, a promising gig. But not long after he started, he was finished. A conversation with WEEI host John Dennis’s daughter in a Boston bar for some reason inspired Dennis to leave him a voice mail - the tone being either threatening or hilarious, depending upon your perspective. The message, in which Dennis sounded considerably less polished than he does on air, became a local Internet sensation. Not long after that, Russillo was relieved of his duties on the Patriots programming. He said he remains “100 percent convinced’’ that Dennis, who is friendly with the Krafts, persuaded them to let him go.
  12. ^ ESPN's Ryen Russillo and WEEI's John Dennis Nearly Got In A Fight at the ESPN Super Bowl Party