Todd "M.J." Schnitt (left) and Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem (right) appear in a Hillsborough courtroom. Schnitt has filed a defamation lawsuit, saying Clem made offensive comments about him and his wife.
Tampa, FL -- Testimony is underway in Tampa Bay's battle of the shock jocks.
Todd "M.J." Schnitt and his wife Michelle are suing Bubba the Love Sponge Clem in a case that could also define how far is too far on the radio.
After the lawyers' opening statements, Bubba himself was first to take the stand Wednesday.
He is clearly more comfortable in his own studios where he gets to call the shots, than having to take the stand in court, where he was peppered with questions and accusations.
At times, Bubba was even confrontational as he would take issue with the Schnitts' lawyer, who said Bubba had taken their shock-jock rivalry too far.
It wasn't just business, it was personal, said attorney Philip Campbell. Campbell told jurors that words used by Clem incited his "Bubba Army" listeners to violence and vandalism.
It got so bad, said Campbell, that the Schnitts had to plan where and when they could appear in public, "without fear of having confrontations with this fan base."
Schnitt's lawyer also told the jury that Bubba's on-air accusations of fraud, payola and contest fixing went beyond rivalry, and that questioning Mrs. Schnitt's ethics as a lawyer and calling her names crossed the lines of parody and free speech.
"Laughing about calling her a whore and saying it's the most disrespectful thing that you can call someone," said Campbell.
But Clem's attorneys promised proof that the Schnitts had endured public confrontation, criticism, and vandalism well before Bubba's return to Tampa radio. Neither Schnitt nor his wife, said Bubba's attorney Joseph Diaco, had suffered financial damages.
She voluntarily quit her job as a lawyer, they say, and as for M.J.'s audience?
"It grew in listeners as well as affiliations, and it grew in ratings. All after Mr. Clem made these comments," said Diaco.
Schnitt, they say, was fair game because he is a public figure. And Mrs. Schnitt, a frequent guest on her husband's show, had made herself a target as well, they contend.
With Bubba himself first on the stand, the Schnitts' lawyers played audio clips from 2008 of the offensive name calling.
"I'm calling your wife a whore," Bubba had said laughing.
After threats of a lawsuit, there was also a subsequent on-air apology. "I'm sorry, and I'll redact and retract and what have-not," said Clem.
Bubba went on to say that the on-air claim Michelle Schnitt found so offensive was never meant literally.
"There's not a person in this room or a person listening to my show, or me or anybody, that thinks Michelle Schnitt goes out and sleeps with men for money," Bubba said on the air.
Clem, reluctant to call himself a shock jock, looked visibly uncomfortable on the stand at times.
Unlike radio, he could now see the faces and the reaction of those hearing his words. His audience today was not a loyal legion, but a jury.
Bubba was clearly more comfortable answering questions from his own legal team, and said his comments were always aimed at his radio rival's on air persona "M.J." and not Todd Schnitt himself.
Despite the war of words, he had never urged anyone of his listeners to do anything physical to Schnitt or his wife, Clem testified, and had always made it about the competition between their radio shows.
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