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By Eric Deggans, Times TV/Media Critic
Published March 1, 2008
Mark Lunsford, whose 9-year-old daughter Jessica was raped and murdered in 2005, is demanding a retraction from radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
Otherwise, the lawsuit Lunsford plans to file against the Citrus County Sheriff's Office won't be the only one. He is threatening to sue Clem and Cox Radio, which airs his morning show on WHPT-102.5 FM the Bone.
The two butted heads during an interview Thursday, where Clem accused Lunsford of exploiting his daughter's death to increase his own fame.
As Lunsford was explaining he had to wait for IRS approval to establish his Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation, Clem dropped this bombshell comment: "You have to wait for your daughter to die before you can start raping money from people - I understand."
Lunsford called the shock jock a "fat slob" and accused him of spreading misinformation.
Lunsford's attorney Eric Block acknowledged his client's status as a nationally known advocate for tough laws supervising pedophiles will make proving slander difficult.
Still, "just because you're a public person doesn't mean you're fodder for slander," said Block, adding Lunsford would not comment on his latest fight with Clem.
Clem began airing pointed commentary about Lunsford after he revealed plans to sue the Citrus Country Sheriff's Office over its handling of Jessica's case.
Clem's producer, Brent Hatley, said Friday the shock jock apologized for his language with Lunsford, though he remains skeptical about the foundation's finances.
Jay O'Connor, regional vice president and Tampa market manager for Cox Radio, said the company supports Clem, though he could not discuss a possible retraction.
During the 12-minute interview, Lunsford insisted his foundation's financial records are available online, noting he takes a salary of $54,000.
Clem responded by asking Lunsford if he would take a drug test, and repeatedly asking where donations have been spent. Lunsford hung up when Clem asked a question alleging he was at a bar while Jessica was abducted.
Clem kept up his criticism Friday morning, playing a parody song with the refrain "greasy Mark Lunsford/is a white trash man," set to the music of rockers ZZ Top's 1983 hit Sharp Dressed Man.
"The only thing I'm guilty of is sticking up for the people of Citrus County, who will have to pay for this lawsuit," Clem said Thursday night. "I'm the most pro-law enforcement radio person out there."
Clem said he has hired investigators and a forensic accountant to examine the foundation.
"I may be looking like the bad guy now," Clem said. "But I won't be for long."
Eric Deggans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8521. See his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media.
[Last modified February 29, 2008, 21:38:13]