SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Late-night radio personality Art Bell sued fellow talk-radio host Michael Savage for defamation, saying Savage insinuated his wife was a “hooker” and underage when she married Bell.
“On Sept. 25, 2016, Savage made defamatory and slanderous statements on his radio program, ‘The Savage Nation,’” Bell says in the complaint, filed in federal court on Wednesday.
Savage was apparently talking about topics he thought radio personalities should avoid and he brought up UFOs – a frequent topic on Bell’s former late-night radio show “Coast to Coast.”
“You say UFOs, you wind up in the Philippines with a 10-year-old hooker and you are off the radio after a number of years. You can’t do UFOs. That’s an in joke, by the way, for people who understand the business,” Savage said during his show, according to the complaint.
Bell hosted “Coast to Coast” from 1998 to 2007, discussing many types of paranormal phenomena including UFO activity. The show was syndicated on 500 stations and garnered more than 22 million listeners.
Bell met his wife Airyn Ruiz Bell in the Philippines when she was a 22-year old college student, according to the complaint. Bell said the marriage and the subsequent visa issues were well-known within the radio industry and that it is clear that Savage was alluding to them in his on-air comments.
“Mr. and Ms. Bell experienced repeated difficulties obtaining a visa for Ms. Bell to reside permanently in the United States, a fact that was publicly known and closely followed by many in the radio broadcasting industry and general public,” Bell says in the complaint.
Savage, who Bell refers to as a “shock jock,” is a radio host and conservative commentator with a doctorate in nutritional ethnomedicine from the University of California, Berkeley. Under his real name, Michael Weiner, he has published several books on diet, homeopathic remedies and associated subjects.
Yet he is more famous for his conservative viewpoints, including fervid anti-immigration and pro-English language stances, which he espouses frequently on his popular radio program.
“The Savage Nation” is a top five radio program in terms of popularity with a listenership of nearly 5 million, according to the complaint.
However, Bell says that Savage’s popularity belies his unsavory personality, pointing out he was fired after four months on MSNBC and has been banned from entering the United Kingdom because of his views.
Bell also names Westwood One and its parent Cumulus Broadcasting, the networks that carries “The Savage Nation,” in the lawsuit.
“Cumulus and Westwood One failed to exercise due care and adhere to standard radio broadcast industry practice by not utilizing the delay function to prevent broadcast of the statement,” Bell says in the complaint.
While Bell acknowledges that Savage did not mention Bell by name, he said the statement – which he called “hateful and untruthful” – was clearly alluding to him.
“A listener of the program would understand that Mr. Bell was the foremost radio personality that spoke about UFOs on the air and that Mr. Bell is not currently on the air,” Bell says in the complaint. “The statement is defamatory per se because Savage falsely stated that Mr. Bell is no longer broadcasting a radio show because he allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with an underage female prostitute and that Ms. Bell was a prostitute.”
Bell said he is in the process of returning to broadcasting, but Savage’s statement has stymied his comeback attempt.
“The statement has harmed his professional reputation and is hindering (Bell’s) efforts to return to broadcasting and journalism,” the complaint states.
Bell seeks damages – including punitive damages – on claims of defamation, false light invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress.
He is represented by Gerard Fox and Belinda Vega in Los Angeles.
An email sent to Westwood One was not returned as of press time.