Saturday, October 30, 2021

Chicago Radio: Eric Ferguson EXITS Mix 101.9 FM

Eric Ferguson exits WTMX

Chicago radio host Eric Ferguson is leaving the popular morning program he led at WTMX 101.9 FM for 25 years following allegations of inappropriate behavior by female former colleagues.

Ferguson was sidelined from “Eric in the Morning” after the Chicago Tribune reported in late September that a former assistant producer, Cynthia DeNicolo, had sued him earlier in the year. DeNicolo’s lawsuit alleged he coerced sexual favors from her in 2004, then retaliated against her for years because she refused to resume the “unwelcome sexual relationship.”

More allegations followed from three other women who used to work at The Mix, including former co-host Melissa McGurren, who said in court filings that she left the show after Ferguson created an unbearably hostile work environment.

On Friday, a statement from Ferguson was circulated to station employees.

“I feel that returning to the air at this time, in this environment, will be an unfair distraction to my colleagues, and the rest of the morning show members who work so hard,” Ferguson wrote.

“As a result, and after discussions with Hubbard leadership, we’ve decided it is best that I step away from the show. I’m energized to move forward and defend myself against claims made against me and the station, and look forward to seeing them through to their conclusion. I am confident that at the end of the day the courts will rule and the right outcome will prevail.”

A representative for Hubbard Radio Chicago, which owns and operates The Mix, did not respond to a Tribune request for comment Friday. The four women who have come forward allege management of 101.9-FM protected Ferguson because of the popularity of his show.

An attorney for Ferguson, 54, declined to comment. His lawyers previously denied DeNicolo’s allegations in a motion to dismiss her lawsuit. A judge is expected to rule on the motion by Dec. 23, court records show.

During Ferguson’s absence from the airwaves, show colleagues Nikki Chuminatto, Brian “Whip” Paruch and Violeta Podrumedic continued to broadcast “Eric in the Morning.” Ferguson said in his statement “it will be fun to listen to their success.”

Station management initially said Ferguson would be off the air through October. Ferguson, in his statement, said he has not decided what’s next. He said he’s taken time to focus on himself and his family and reflect on his career.

An Elburn native, Ferguson joined The Mix in 1996 after stops that included Rock Island, Rockford and Denver. He told the Tribune in 2004 that it took him 10 years of “traversing the country doing morning shows in different size markets” before he was able to make it back to Chicago.

The Mix struck gold when it paired Ferguson with Kathy Hart. The former co-hosts of “Eric & Kathy” are widely considered the most successful morning radio team in Chicago history and, during a 21-year run, won radio’s biggest awards. The duo was inducted into the Museum of Broadcast Communications’ Radio Hall of Fame in 2016, and their faces were formerly plastered on billboards throughout the Chicago area.

Less than a year after the Hall of Fame induction, Hart departed the adult-contemporary station without explanation. Ferguson’s rebranded show, “Eric in the Morning with Melissa & Whip,” increased the role of McGurren and Paruch and remained a ratings juggernaut.

McGurren left the show last December, saying at the time that the truth would come out eventually about her reasons.

DeNicolo was laid off from 101.9 in May 2020. In her lawsuit, filed a year later, she alleged Ferguson blocked raises and promotions before orchestrating her dismissal, in addition to her allegations of sexual misconduct.

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