Classic H2O prank gets radio DJs suspended (Updated)

This joke was on them.

Radio DJs Suspended Over April Fool’s Joke |

During their Monday morning show on Gator Country 101.9, Val St. John and Scott Fish used a decades-old hoax, announcing that “dihydrogen monoxide” was coming out of Lee County taps. Dihydrogen monoxide is another name for water, based on its molecular composition of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

Tony Renda, general manager at the Bonita Springs country music station, didn’t find the joke funny. The News-Press reported that he immediately pulled the duo and began airing a retraction and apologies.

This prank is an old but classic joke (Penn & Teller did this prank in one of their Penn & Teller’s Bullshit episodes) about dihydrogen monoxide (aka H2O – “water”) being toxic or in some way bad for you. And it’s been a successful prank in the past. Just take a look at this story.

It just goes to show that using different words for something harmless, especially if you make it sound very chemical-like, it sounds bad.

What’s even more depressing is that the County officials had to go out and assure the people that their water was safe as some people freaked out. Oh for some better skepticism… especially on April 1st.

For more on myth that chemicals=bad, see this piece.

UPDATE: Some people have said this was debunked as a hoax itself but I’m not so sure. This from the Atlantic.

The popular deejays are mainly in all this trouble (potentially of a felony level) because their listeners panicked so much — about the molecular makeup of their drinking water, however unwittingly — that Lee County utility officials had to issue a county-wide statement calming the fears of chemistry challenged Floridians.

Audio evidence of exactly how St. John and Fish executed this bad joke remains scarce, as they were pulled off the air around 8:30 a.m. — about three and half hours into their Val and Scott in the Morning show on WWGR/Gator Country 101.9 FM, which airs across a big region of Southwest Florida. That was enough time for listeners to begin calling the water company.

  10 comments for “Classic H2O prank gets radio DJs suspended (Updated)

  1. spookyparadigm
    April 2, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    1. Somehow being a country station, the douchey management makes more sense.

    2. This has to be the only unjustified suspension of a radio DJ ever. I hate DJ radio, hate it. But this time, they didn’t do anything wrong.

  2. April 2, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    I can’t believe people still fall for…no wait I totally believe it. 🙂

  3. One Eyed Jack
    April 2, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    There is a difference between pulling this prank on a few friends and doing so over a radio broadcast. Yes, people are ignorant, but they are already primed for dangerous chemicals in the water. Pranks like this cause a lot of wasted time by public officials to correct the situation.

  4. April 2, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    West Florida has a rather uncritical history with drinking water.

    I remember the Pinellas County Commission voting to stop fluoridation because of weird conspiracy mongering

    Then blamed their votes against fluoride as the reason they were soundly trounced in reelections::

    Greatest quote ever, ‘”The voters clearly said they want fluoride in the water,” Brickfield said. “And I will never vote against fluoride again as long as I live.”‘

    Now, I’ve got myself laughing…..

  5. April 2, 2013 at 7:56 PM

    Why hundreds if not thousands of people die every year from breathing dihydrogen monoxide – I don’t consider that to be a hoax!

  6. April 3, 2013 at 2:45 AM

    They may have handled the joke badly — I don’t know. But when done well, the DHMO prank can actually be quite educational. I have a couple of friends who retell crazy ideas they read somewhere on the internet or on television, every few weeks, and I keep getting pulled into these stupid arguments. About one or two months ago, I told them all about the dangers of DHMO, but I was sure to explain afterwards that DHMO was water. One of them was actually quite angry with me — “Why didn’t I just call it water?”. So I slowly explained how I was trying to show them that that was why they were afraid — not because of any actual danger, but because it just sounded scary. It’s not completely stopping them from repeating nonsense they hear or read, but when I say “DHMO” now, they stop arguing.

  7. April 3, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    No good deed goes unpunished.

  8. April 3, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I note with some interest the last update on the Atlantic story, where they point out that the station seems to be “enjoying this controversy.” It is my understanding that it is a pretty standard trick in morning radio to “suspend” your hosts as part of a publicity stunt to draw attention to the station. Here’s one example from 2010, here is another from a memoir about the radio business.

  9. Kiljoy616
    April 3, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    So in the Internet age people still dumb as rocks and scared shepple and will not google a freaking term.

    No wonder its so easy to push what ever agenda leaders have on the populous.

  10. Graham
    April 4, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    @Peter Barber, absolutely right.

    “Florida DJs May Face Felony for April Fools’ Water Joke Worse Than Rubio’s”

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