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Schnitt: 'Bubba's Army' harassment made life uncomfortable

Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 10:23 AM
TAMPA -

Todd Schnitt testified Wednesday he never heard Bubba the Love Sponge Clem tell listeners to use physical force against him, but he said confrontations with "Bubba's Army" made him fear for his life.

Schnitt was testifying a second day in his civil lawsuit against Clem, a rival radio shock jock. On Wednesday, he faced cross-examination by Clem's attorney.

Schnitt accuses Clem of making defamatory remarks about Schnitt and his wife, former Assistant State Attorney Michelle Schnitt, who often appeared on her husband's "MJ Morning Show." The Schnitts allege Clem took a "radio war" too far in 2008, inciting Clem's followers, known as "Bubba's Army," to harass their family.

Clem denies Schnitt's claims, testifying earlier that the Schnitts are public figures, meaning his "hyperbole" comments were "fair game" protected by the First Amendment. Public figures suing for defamation must prove "actual malice."

Clem's attorney asked Schnitt about several incidents with Clem followers.

Schnitt recounted driving on the Courtney Campbell Causeway at 65 mph when another vehicle attempted to force him off the road. A passenger in the other vehicle was yelling and throwing things at Schnitt, he said.

At a Gasparilla parade, Schnitt said he was briefly grabbed by a Clem fan. At another, he said a member of "Bubba's Army" yelled at him. He also discussed confrontations with Clem followers in Sarasota and at Channelside movie theater in Tampa.

Schnitt was also asked about "self-deprecating" humor used on his "MJ Morning Show" that he said was "all in fun." Schnitt agreed it was OK for others to make fun of him, but thought the insults that started coming from Clem and his fans were "vulgar" and "malicious."

Whether Michelle Schnitt was a cast member on her husband's show was also at issue. She was listed as a cast member in a CD of prank calls the show produced. However, Todd Schnitt said others were listed that were not cast members.

Schnitt said his wife appeared on the show periodically because he thought "it was interesting." Her appearances were not forced, he said, and they often discussed family issues, including children.

According to the suit, Clem called Michelle Schnitt a "whore" and said she orchestrated his arrest on animal cruelty charges while she worked for Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober. The latter claim was contradicted during testimony by Ober.

Before the cross-examination, Schnitt said the harassment he received made him feel "uncomfortable" in public, "just going to the supermarket." Schnitt recalled being confronted and yelled at by a Clem fan in front of his young daughter.

The result of the harassment, he said, was he and his family became more reclusive.

"We did not go out as much," he said. "We were not living our life normally."

He also said Clem's contention that he rigged a national radio contest was "taboo" and stabbed at his "professional integrity."

Under cross, Schnitt admitted he still goes out in public with his family but makes limited public appearances due to the harassment. He also said Clem's one-air comments have not limited his ability to gain a contract extension at a radio show or work for charities.

Schnitt said he believes he should be compensated enough to stop Clem from "ever doing this in the future."

"There's no amount of damages that will compensate me, my wife my family, for what we experienced," Schnitt said before the cross-examination. "But the jury should award damages that will enable us to believe we did all we could possible to clear our good names."

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