Who or what is Bubba the Love Sponge?
In short, he’s a radio DJ and shock jock based in Tampa, Florida. But perhaps the more pressing question on many people’s minds these days is what, exactly, his deal is — given his recent appearance in national headlines thanks to a viral series of old interviews he conducted with Fox News personality Tucker Carlson.
The answer to this question involves a wide-ranging, 33-year journey from the hinterlands of the small-town Midwest to seedy Tampa dive bars to the world of professional wrestling, along a lucrative path lined with famous media personalities, near-constant feuding, and not one but two major media scandals — including the one that brought down Gawker.
If that sounds like a lot, it is. Bubba the Love Sponge has led a full life, and there’s much to, er, absorb.
But let’s start with why you’ve been hearing so much about a dude called Bubba the Love Sponge — a.k.a. Bubba Clem — to begin with.
Bubba the Love Sponge’s longtime friendship with Tucker Carlson has had sudden new consequences
The turbulence of America’s current political landscape has made it de rigueur to dig into a public figure’s past in search of damning comments they made many years or even decades ago. Journalist Sarah Jeong, film director James Gunn, and comedian Kevin Hart are all recent examples of public figures coming under fire (though not always justifiably) for old tweets and statements.
Now it’s happened again as racist and misogynistic comments made by Fox News host Tucker Carlson have resurfaced and caused major public backlash. Advertisers have backed away from Carlson’s show even as Fox News stands behind him, and debate has ensued over Carlton’s worthiness to serve as a national political commentator.
On March 10 and 11, Media Matters published a litany of comments Carlson made between 2006 and 2011. The phone calls were part of Carlson’s regular weekly call-in appearances on Clem’s popular Tampa radio show The Bubba the Love Sponge Show, which came during the period of Carlson’s gradual transition from a low-rated MSNBC pundit to a contributor and occasional host at Fox News. (Carlson became a marquee name at the network in 2013 when he began co-hosting Fox & Friends; his current show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, debuted in 2016.) The comments spanned pages of transcripts and drew public outcry on social media.
The topics covered by Clem and Carlson were wide-ranging discussions of politics and the news of the day. They resulted in a long list of offensive remarks, such as Carlson’s description of Iraqi citizens as “semiliterate primitive monkeys” who “don’t use toilet paper or forks.” Carlson also called women “extremely primitive,” expressed fears that his teenage daughter might be pressured into becoming “a fake lesbian,” argued that Barack Obama never would have succeeded in national politics if he weren’t black, and suggested that a person making an accusation of rape has “the protection of anonymity,” while the “accused, whether he’s guilty or not, has his life destroyed.”
Carlson also downplayed the serious nature of statutory rape while attempting to argue that the behavior of Warren Jeffs, the former head of the FLDS Church, was not as worrisome as other sexual abuse. Jeffs promoted systemic child sexual abuse during his tenure, as well as keeping as many as 80 wives, many of whom were underage. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2011, in part for marrying a child who was 12 or possibly younger. At the time of Carlson’s comments about Jeffs in 2009, Jeffs stood indicted on two counts of facilitating rape. Carlson said on air that if he had his way, “Warren Jeffs would be out on the street,” and that “arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her. That’s bullshit.”
Throughout the transcripts, Clem and his co-host alternately encouraged or argued with Carlson. But Clem was notably enthusiastic in his responses, at one point agreeing with Carlson that Michelle Obama was too hard-edged and that “they need to whiten her up a little bit.” He also, while imitating ignorant racist callers, dropped a racial slur himself, and commented that a 13-year-old boy who had been repeatedly raped by an adult should “get, like, a Nobel Peace Prize” for his sexual prowess.
Given that Bubba Clem is a shock jock, trading in deliberately provocative and offensive content, some might argue that his and Carlson’s comments are best disregarded and forgotten. Clem has responded to the controversy over Carlson’s past comments by brushing off the outrage and noting, “Remember, this was my show, it wasn’t Crossfire with James Carville.” (Neither Carlson nor Clem immediately responded to a Vox request for comment.)
But Clem’s own past statements are difficult to dismiss or overlook — especially since this isn’t the first time he’s played an unexpected role in a major media scandal.
Bubba the Love Sponge is a veteran of shock radio with a long history of courting controversy
Clem is a 52-year-old DJ originally hailing from small-town Indiana. He started working in radio as a college student, gaining his “Love Sponge” moniker early on (reportedly because of his appeal to women), and progressed from his local college radio station to a string of jobs at radio stations throughout the Midwest. Clem weathered the vicissitudes of a changing media landscape in the ’80s and gradually gained more and more prominence as a DJ, until he finally landed at the Tampa radio station WFLZ in 1992, where he quickly established himself as a raunchy and irreverent local fave.
During this period, Clem — who officially changed his first name from Todd to “Bubba” in 1999 — became a well-known shock jock, with a local morning show and a syndicated national show through Clear Channel, and later an uncensored show on Sirius. During the 2010s, he moved between terrestrial and internet radio programs. He was also an entrepreneur; a 2018 profile in the Tampa Bay Times notes an impressive litany of “Bubba” ventures and merchandise that once paid lucrative dividends for Clem: “Bubba’s Beach Club, Bubba’s Ale House and Planet Bubba. You could buy a pager from Air Bubba Beepers or ride in a Love Sponge Limo. He sold Bubba Army T-shirts and tickets to Bubbapalooza.”
He also formed a rap group. Here’s one of their videos:
Clem’s career simultaneously featured a long parade of drama: He’s known for frequent on-air and off-air feuds with a number of public figures, guests, friends, foes, and other radio hosts, which have led to a number of lawsuits, and has frequently landed in hot water for ribald and inflammatory speech. He was kicked off Clear Channel in 2004 after the Federal Communications Commission fined the network for a series of violations on Clem’s radio show, most of which involved sexually explicit jokes. He routinely uses homophobic slurs and once threatened to “deep fat fry” the Quran.
This propensity toward offending listeners and advertisers has contributed to Clem continually shifting programs, shows, and stations over the years, while battling the FCC and relying on fans to follow him and drive his success.
In 2002, Clem and a producer stood trial for animal cruelty after they castrated and slaughtered a wild boar on Clem’s morning show. The animal was also allegedly abused before it was killed. Clem and the producer were acquitted after a jury found there wasn’t enough evidence to convict.
Clem was also sued in 2006 by a woman who claimed he held her down while encouraging another woman to rape her with a sex toy on live radio. The suit reportedly stated that Clem threatened to remove her from the studio if she did not comply, and the woman said she was physically injured during the incident. The suit was ultimately “voluntarily dismissed with prejudice” in 2008, a legal term that usually indicates that a case has been settled out of court.
Despite all this drama, or perhaps because of it, Clem has cultivated a staunch national fan base known as the Bubba Army. He has also enjoyed the friendship of celebrities like shock jock royalty Howard Stern, Fox News host Carlson, and Hulk Hogan, who came to know Clem through Clem’s affiliation with the wrestling community. (Clem is known for popularizing wrestling lingo in his DJ-speak, and briefly worked as a backstage interviewer for a wrestling promoter beginning in 2010.)
Clem and Hogan were at one time so close that Hogan was the best man at Clem’s 2007 wedding to his now-ex-wife, Heather Cole. And in fact, the Clems and Hogan would soon become involved in one of the largest media scandals of the modern era.
Bubba the Love Sponge, Hulk Hogan, and Gawker
You may recall that in 2012, a grainy sex tape featuring Hulk Hogan — and allegedly filmed without his permission — surfaced and spread through the adult entertainment industry. It was eventually seen by more mainstream audiences after the celebrity and media gossip website Gawker published an excerpt. The site published 60 seconds of the 30-minute tape and reported that it featured Heather Clem (now Heather Cole), who at the time was married to Hogan’s then-best friend Bubba.
The rest is media history.
Hogan went on to sue Gawker, in a suit bankrolled by venture capitalist and tech guru Peter Thiel. Thiel, it’s theorized, was pursuing a personal vendetta against Gawker for outing him as gay in 2007; he helped Hogan sue the website for $100 million, ultimately forcing the site’s controlling media network to declare bankruptcy, sell off most of its assets, shut down the site, and settle for $31 million.
During the lawsuit, the details of the sex tape’s origins became more widely known. The tape, the public learned, had been filmed in 2006, at the Clems’ house. Bubba Clem can be seen at the beginning of the tape, apparently giving his permission for Hogan and Heather Cole to engage in sexual activity. At the tape’s conclusion, Clem can reportedly be heard commenting to Cole, “If we ever need to retire, here is our ticket.”
Despite this implication, Clem maintained that he was innocent of leaking the tape. Instead, he admitted to having downloaded the tape from his bedroom surveillance, transferred it to a DVD, labeled it “Hogan,” and kept it in an unlocked drawer in his study — from which he then said it was later stolen. Though Hogan said he was deeply hurt by the entire affair, he ultimately settled his lawsuit against Clem for just $5,000. Clem stated in court that the decision to download the sex tape was “the biggest mistake of my life.”
Bubba the Love Sponge may be an unlikely barometer for the state of national politics
Between the Gawker episode, his various controversies, firings, and lawsuits over the years, Clem’s financial situation seems to have declined rapidly. Recent profiles have painted him as having fallen from national prominence, focusing on his dwindling finances and his difficulties staying on the air.
In 2011, Clem reportedly walked away from his Sirius hosting gig due to salary cuts by the network. Though he moved to another internet streaming site, he seems to have siloed himself from more mainstream radio hosting opportunities in the years since.
But it’s possible that staying out of the mainstream is paradoxically keeping him relevant to conservative America. Despite the profiles chronicling his decline, what’s remarkable about Clem is just how high-profile he still seems to be among certain listeners. He still has a daily radio show in Tampa, which also streams live on Twitch, where he has a respectable 2.2 million total views. Moreover, his particular blend of shock humor, reportedly licentious lifestyle, and a certain flavor of white American culture still seems to generate a striking collection of moments that intertwine with national American politics.
For instance, in 2007, Clem interviewed porn actress Stormy Daniels and openly spoke to her about her alleged sexual liaisons with Donald Trump. The details of that interview resurfaced last year. Clem’s on-air phone calls with Carlson may have ended years ago, but his friendship with the pundit hasn’t. And last month, he had a different guest caller who represents yet another facet of the interplay between conservative politics, white Americana, and the media: powerful, shadowy political consultant Roger Stone, days before special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Stone and arrested him on charges pertaining to Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
That Clem has managed to keep his fingers in so many political pies while drifting further afield of mainstream radio suggests that he is perhaps more in lockstep with a certain sort of national politics than with mainstream culture itself.
At this point, it’s possible we shouldn’t be asking who Bubba the Love Sponge is, but who and what else Bubba the Love Sponge knows.
Amazon 2-day shipping: Why packages sometimes arrive later
In less than two decades, Amazon single-handedly transformed the way we think about online shopping. Before Prime launched in 2005, two-day shipping was virtually unheard of — now more than 100 million people use the service, and they expect the things they order online to arrive at their doorsteps in 48 hours or fewer.
There’s just one problem: Amazon, which has focused on obtaining customers at all costs for decades, seems to be looking for ways to cut down on shipping costs. In some cases, that means weaning Prime users off the near-instantaneous shipping they’ve come to expect.
From the beginning, free two-day shipping was Prime’s biggest draw. Memberships were cheap — $79 a year in 2005 and $119 today — and users had the option of paying a small fee to get their orders delivered in just one day. Today, Prime is about much more than package delivery: Users can order everything, from groceries to a house cleaner, through Amazon. But as Amazon has expanded, the promise of free two-day shipping — the main draw of Prime — has begun to come with a lot of caveats.
That’s not to say Amazon is totally changing course. In 2014, Amazon launched Prime Now, a service designed to deliver products in an hour or less, for some New York City-based users. (It expanded to other major cities in 2016.) Amazon often makes headlines for the grueling work expected of its in-house delivery fleet — or, more accurately, the network of contractors that deliver packages to Prime users across the country — a sign that it continues to take its shipping promise seriously, often at the expense of workers. But even as Amazon has doubled down on ensuring speedy delivery, it has begun looking for ways to rein in customers’ desire for instant gratification, a phenomenon it arguably helped create, in an attempt to cut costs and streamline its supply chain.
The result? Prime orders don’t necessarily arrive in two days anymore, nor are they always delivered to customers’ homes. All of this makes sense from a financial perspective, but that may not be enough to win customers over.
Prime customers pay for — and expect — quick, free shipping. They aren’t always happy about Amazon’s cost-cutting efforts.
Two-day Prime shipping isn’t necessarily a thing of the past, but it’s undeniable that Amazon delivery isn’t as seamless as it used to be.
Amazon will no longer deliver some small items, like razors or hair ties, individually. Instead, customers have to purchase $25 worth of these “add-on” items before Amazon will send the box out; the point, according to the company, is to give customers access to “low-cost items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own.” Since 2011, Amazon has given users the option to have packages delivered to “lockers,” which are basically branded PO boxes, instead of to their homes or offices. Most recently, Amazon rolled out Amazon Day, a new delivery option that lets customers choose a specific day for all of their orders to arrive, is the company’s latest cost-cutting effort.
All of this makes sense from a financial perspective. Delivering packages to a single location instead of hundreds of individual homes cuts costs, and requiring customers to meet a delivery minimum for small orders helps Amazon consolidate deliveries, as does the Amazon Day program.
But the response to these new initiatives has been mixed at best.
Last December, Fast Company’s Mark Wilson wrote about how Amazon Prime is “getting worse,” claiming the company had all but abandoned its promise of two-day shipping for most products. “That little Prime logo used to mean something,” Wilson wrote. “Now it feels like a ruse that lulls shoppers into a false sense of security, until they go to checkout and see a shipping arrival date far later than anticipated.”
“This cuts through the greatest promise of Prime. It’s not just the free, two-day shipping. It’s that it’s so reliable, you never have to think for more than a second about buying something. In this sense, Prime was constructed to be great for the consumer (so efficient) and great for businesses (mindless impulse shopping!). … It doesn’t help that we’ve seen a slow dilution of Prime itself over time, with the rise of Prime Pantry and Add-on Items. They force you to buy a minimum number of items to get the best deal, adding back the very psychic burden Prime had eliminated from the equation of online shopping in the first place.”
Wilson’s complaints about Prime suggest a bait-and-switch strategy. Amazon got 100 million people to become Prime users by guaranteeing frictionless service, but now that it’s gotten a sizable chunk of the market hooked on quick, free shipping, it’s trying to cut delivery costs by scaling back on the very thing that got customers interested in the first place. Put another way, Prime is built on the idea that shopping should be frictionless; Amazon has now introduced a degree of friction that wasn’t there before, and some customers aren’t happy about it.
“I can’t help but feel the frustration around how the false sense of shopping confidence is blown when Amazon simply uses the PRIME lockup as a gimmick,” one reader wrote in response to Wilson’s article. “The ‘prime’ benefit of getting your stuff when you expect it is gone, and it’s not just because of the holiday shipping crunch.
Amazon changed customer expectations regarding shipping. Now it’s changing them again.
One of Amazon’s core principles is “customer obsession,” a “vigorous” desire to “earn and keep customer trust.” (Amazon has, by the way, also been known to use customer obsession as an anti-union talking point.) Put simply, customer obsession means giving the customer what they want as cheaply and quickly as possible — e.g., within 48 hours or fewer — at the expense of profits.
Anne Goodchild, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington who focuses on supply chain transportation and logistics, told me that Amazon significantly altered customer expectations and shopping patterns.
“The status quo [has been] that we take ourselves to the store, pick up the goods, and go back to our homes. That’s actually a pretty inefficient way of doing the last mile: We all individually use our cars, and that kind of commuting creates a great travel burden,” she said. “Delivery services, to some extent, have the potential to be an improvement. [They consolidate] a lot of deliveries — hopefully — into one vehicle like a UPS truck. They have strong incentives, profit incentives, to do that in an efficient and cost-effective way.”
The problem, she said, occurs when delivery becomes too quick. “As we move toward faster delivery, it gets harder to consolidate.” The promise of instant delivery means that customers can buy virtually anything they want without thinking about it; they don’t always think to consolidate their purchases into a single order, because there’s no need to. (A 2018 survey by the optimization platform Feedvisor found that 46 percent of Prime members shop online more than twice a week.) “When we’re not paying some sort of personal cost for the trip, I think it’s easy to overlook how much travel we’re adding,” she said.
Other retailers have attempted to compete by offering similarly fast shipping. “After Amazon, we have things like ShopRunner and even Target [now] saying that if you order certain items, you can get two-day shipping,” Ambulkar said. “I don’t see two-day shipping going away. I think there’s definitely more and more businesses adopting it.”
Even as other retailers lower their shipping times to keep up, Amazon appears to be tweaking its two-day shipping promise. Prime may be cheap and easy for customers, but the cost of all those deliveries adds up quickly. Amazon spent $21.7 billion on shipping costs in 2017, according to its annual report. That’s nearly twice the amount it spent on shipping in 2015.
“Amazon has pursued a growth trajectory rather than a profit one,” Goodchild added. “I think everyone would agree that their strategy has been to please customers and, in doing so, grow their market share.”
But now that it has more than 100 million Prime customers, Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more profitable — which could end up alienating some of the customers it has made an effort to court.
Justin Smith, the founder of TJI Research, an analytics firm that focuses on Amazon, told The Goods that Amazon is looking for ways to make Prime more efficient — and cost-effective. “Lockers or other pickup points, or encouraging customers to ship items in the fewest number of boxes possible, which might mean getting it a bit later than if you had shipped items separately,” are all part of that strategy.
“I also think that because of how big they are, they are able to become smarter about predicting what items people are going to order in different regions,” Smith added, “and I believe they’ve been able to put items in warehouses closer to where they expect people to order them from in order to reduce the distance that items have to be shipped when they’re ordered. If that can be done efficiently, I think you reduce the individual shipping volume as well as decrease the delivery time, which improves the customer experience.”
It’s also better for the environment. Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions in the US, and medium- and heavy-duty trucks — the kinds of freight vehicles that are often filled to the brim with Prime purchases and other online orders — are responsible for nearly one-quarter of the total transportation footprint. These trucks, which used to deliver the bulk of their loads to stores and other retail hubs, are now increasingly dropping packages off to individuals. All those one-off orders add up, both financially and environmentally — but, because this type of delivery is often more convenient for the consumer, this has become the new normal.
Not everyone agrees with the premise that more efficiency will result in greater customer satisfaction. Saurabh Ambulkar, a management professor at Northeastern University, said customers who have come to expect two-day — or even same-day — delivery might not readily accept more optimized, less customer-friendly options. “The whole [promise] was that Amazon can deliver the thing to my house, so why do I need to go to the central locker to get something? Why do I need to go to the store?” he said. “If I have to step out of my house to get something, they lose that competitive advantage that they have, but they have to do some of it [in order to] ease the pressure on the supply chain.”
“In bigger cities, maybe the central locker is closer to the place you work, but in other places, I think delivering to residents is what made Amazon more competitive than other players in the market,” Ambulkar added. “If I have to go to a central locker, I can just go to the store to get that product.”
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A Man From a Remote African Village Has Been Named Best Teacher and Will Get $1,000,000 for It
When talking about the job of a teacher, many people refer to it as “a calling”. We all want our children to be educated by teachers who love their jobs and who make children feel inspired, interested, and motivated. There are 2 opinions when it comes to teachers: “A talented person will be successful, no matter what,” and “A talented person needs a good teacher.”
A charity foundation that was set up in 2015 by a businessman named Sunny Varkey (and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, his patron) awards someone as “Best Teacher” every year with a Global Teacher Prize.
Bright Side was really interested in the winner of the 2019 competition because there were 10,000 applications from 179 countries, with a prize of $1,000,000.
Teachers from India, Australia, the US, Kenya, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Argentina, Great Britain, and Georgia made it to the final stage of the competition.
A Kenyan science teacher and Franciscan friar named Peter Tabichi won the award. The award ceremony took place in Dubai and the name of the winner was announced by actor Hugh Jackman.
Peter Tabichi is a teacher in a small African village where the inhabitants often don’t have enough of the most necessary things. Despite this, his students are famous for their wins in international science competitions which is what ultimately attracted the foundation’s attention.
The school these students go to doesn’t look like a school that houses major victories. There is only 1 teacher for 58 students and 1 computer, and in order to make it to lessons, many kids have to cover huge distances on washed-out roads during the rainy season. Most of Tabichi’s students are kids from poor families or they’re orphans. The school is sorely lacking financial support, so Peter donates 80% of the money he makes on the development of the school — the school uniforms, textbooks, and other materials.
7 years ago, he used to teach at a private school but then decided to become a Franciscan friar and leave his job. The code he lives by requires him to have a somewhat ascetic lifestyle and help others. This is why teaching at a poor school is considered charity for Tabichi.
“This win does not belong to me: it demonstrates the achievements of young minds. I am here only thanks to my students’ achievements. A victory gives them a chance. It means that there are no borders for them.”
Tabichi explains how he uses different motivation methods with his students because the secret to success is believing in yourself. Every person can find something they like doing and feel confident. Peter teaches kids to look at things from different perspectives. This is why his projects where students can organize processes and analyze results by themselves are very popular.
The teacher doesn’t say that some of these projects are “cool” and others are “not cool”. The most important thing about them is that the students have to use their imaginations and have to look for new solutions. Tabichi says, “Creativity is extremely important, especially in difficult situations when the resources are limited.”
In this school, there are scientific and creative clubs where every student can showcase their achievements.
“Seeing my learners grow in knowledge, skills, and confidence is my greatest joy in teaching! When they become resilient, creative, and productive in the society, I get a lot of satisfaction for I act as their greatest destiny enabler and key that unlocks their potential in the most exciting manner.”
Tabichi also managed to talk about tolerance: “He created the ’Peace Club’ where there are people of 7 different nationalities and religious beliefs who all visit this school.
People are most interested in one big question: What is he going to spend his prize money on?
His answer? First and foremost, on computer science class, the development of the science lab, and new projects that can improve people’s lives. For example, Peter wants to teach his students to grow drought-tolerant crops. This project is absolutely necessary for life in Africa.
Interestingly, the agreement terms of the foundation say that the winner has certain responsibilities and the prize is not given to the winner right away.
For 10 years, the winner gets $100,000 every year and they have to stay in the profession for 5 years and be a global ambassador for The Varkey Foundation. It means that they have to visit certain events, talk to the media, and participate in training.
We’re deeply impressed by such people! Their stories are bright illustrations of what we call “the purpose of life”. What do you think about this award?
Digital Trends Live – 4.15.19 – All Digital XBox + An App That Gives You Stock For Shopping
On today’s episode: The discless Xbox may be the worst kept secret and it’s coming next month, Apple is spending big on its Arcade offering, A.I. invents a new sport, Gixo fitness app goes live in a world of VOD offerings, Bumped is a loyalty app that gives you stock for shopping with your favorite brands, Stratolaunch makes maiden voyage, Pepsi may become the most hated brand in the world with upcoming space billboard, Freelancer teems with Arrow Electronics to provide on-demand engineering services.
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