KFQD talk radio host Bernadette Wilson ended her silence Saturday about the radio show she co-hosted with mayoral candidate Ethan Berkowitz in October, saying Berkowitz said on the air that he would approve of marriage between a man and his son -- statements Berkowitz's opponent Amy Demboski said she heard as a listener.
Berkowitz responded with his most direct statement to date in a controversy that has consumed the final week of the runoff campaign.
"Let me be really clear: I do not support fathers and sons marrying," Berkowitz said in a phone interview Saturday night. He called it "an obscene accusation."
In a commentary submitted to the Alaska Dispatch News and also published on the conservative blog Anchorage Daily Planet, Wilson, who has supported conservative Republican candidates in the past including U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller, recounted what she said was her memory of the conversation on "Bernadette and Berkowitz" last October. Wilson said the conversation happened Oct. 13, 2014, and the topic was same-sex marriage.
"As I sparred with my co-host Ethan Berkowitz, I brought up the topic of incest. If the argument against incest was grounded in reproduction, and if reproduction was not a consideration in a same-sex marriage, then could a father marry his son?" Wilson wrote.
"Yes, a father should be able to marry his son, Mr. Berkowitz informed me. Surely, I thought, he could not be serious. Mr. Berkowitz went on to explain that 'love is love' and if it is through a marriage that a father felt he could best provide for, and exemplify his love for his son, then who are we to judge?"
Wilson said she interrupted Berkowitz at that point and "suggested he was crazy." She said her co-host, "who had been a friend and confidant," got up and walked out of the studio.
"Individuals will draw their own conclusions and assign motivations. Did Mr. Berkowitz mean it? Did he get too far ahead of himself? Did he choose his words poorly? Those are questions Mr. Berkowitz must answer."
In an email late Saturday night, Wilson declined to comment further.
Efforts to confirm what exactly was said on the air went nowhere last week when the station said it only kept archives of broadcasts for six months, and the show in question was older than that.
Berkowitz said in the interview that Wilson's recollection is wrong. Asked if he recalled his exact wording, Berkowitz said, "I don't need to go back there. This is so far off of what is part of the kind of conversation we should be having."
He said he has prosecuted and jailed people for the kinds of acts he has been accused of endorsing.
"My opponent and her allies have been repeating it in a desperate, last-minute attempt to bail out a failing campaign," Berkowitz said.
The runoff election between Berkowitz and Demboski is Tuesday.
The issue first surfaced April 25 in a sermon by Anchorage Baptist Temple pastor Jerry Prevo. Prevo, a political conservative who frequently participates in electoral politics, told his congregation: "I've been told that last October, on his radio show, Ethan Berkowitz said … 'I would have no problem if a father fell in love with his son and wanted to marry his own son.' Is that the kind of mayor we want to have in the city of Anchorage that's going to promote that kind of sick lifestyle?"
Two days later, a host filling in on Wilson's KFQD show, Casey Reynolds, questioned Demboski about Prevo's sermon. He asked whether she thought Berkowitz supported incest. Demboski would only say she believed she heard Berkowitz say so on the radio.
The talk show was famous for the verbal combat between Wilson, a Republican, and Berkowitz, a Democrat.
On KWHL's "Bob and Mark Show" Friday morning, Joe Campbell, KFQD's station manager, said he also remembered the show in question, because both hosts were frustrated afterward and needed to sit down with him to talk about it. He said his recollection was that Berkowitz made his remark in frustration.
"In my recollection it was hyperbole," Campbell said. "It was kind of a 'Yeah, you know what, you're right, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.'"
Prevo also appeared on the show by phone. He said if Berkowitz didn't mean what was attributed to him, the candidate could have said so sooner. He echoed Demboski's comment that it was unclear what Berkowitz may have meant.