Radio host hits listener at festival (April 17, 1989)

Radio host hits listener at festival
Tampa Bay Times (FL) (Published as St. Petersburg Times) April 17, 1989

LARGO – Controversial radio talk show host Bob Lassiter hit a 19-year-old listener with the back of his hand after the man screamed close to the microphone during a live broadcast at the Largo Renaissance Festival on Saturday, police said Sunday.

The man, Phillip Woodrow Mattox of St. Petersburg, told police that he received free tickets to the festival from the Lassiter show, broadcast on WFLA-AM, and that he screamed ”because I have been a regular caller on the show for the last two years. I have been asked by the producers to scream.”

Mattox told police that Lassiter ”seemed to recognize the scream,” and that after the scream, Lassiter ”turned to his side and punched me in the mouth.”

Officials at WFLA-AM did not return telephone calls from the St. Petersburg Times on Sunday, but according to a statement that Lassiter, 43, made to police, ”I was closing my radio show … when I heard a loud scream that appeared to be coming from my left rear directly into my ear.

”As I am the frequent target of threats of physical violence, I react first, ask questions later. I swung with my left arm, backhanding a young man before I ever made eye contact. He was stunned and left the area.

”I followed, approached, said I failed to find it funny, advised him that what he did was actually in violation of federal law and told him that I never wanted to see him again.”

According to Lassiter’s statement, Mattox ”was just in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing.”

Mattox gave police a somewhat different version of what happened after Lassiter hit him:

”He put down his microphone and ran ahead of where I was walking. He began poking his index finger in my chest, saying, ‘Don’t ever let me see you again. If I ever see you under different circumstances, I will beat the hell out of you.”’

Mattox’s shout made it onto the air.

”I happened to be in my car at the time he (Lassiter) was ending his live broadcast,” festival general manager Tim Ruedy said Sunday. ”I heard a loud scream, so all I could say is I heard the loud scream over the air.”

Largo police are investigating the matter, police spokesman Dennis Crandall said Sunday.

Caption: BLACK AND WHITE PHOTO Bob Lassiter