KOIT Ditches, Then Brings Back ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’

Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams sing the Academy Award-winning song "Baby It's Cold Outside" in the 1949 musical comedy "Neptune's Daughter." (YouTube)

This holiday season, local radio station KOIT 96.5 found itself in the national spotlight when it took the tune "Baby It's Cold Outside" out of its holiday song rotation in the wake of receiving over 100 complaints about the song's undertones of date-rape.

But then came the backlash to the backlash, and as of yesterday morning, the song is back on-air.

After KOIT program director Brian Figula decided to pull the plug on the song last week, the story was picked up by Channel 7 news, and the radio station received a tidal wave of comments requesting the song's return to the airwaves.

Figula decided to create a poll on the KOIT website.

"We looked at it as an opportunity to have a discussion," he said. "We let our listeners talk about it and choose for themselves if they want to hear it."

Over 22,000 people weighed in. The results? 77 percent of its listeners supported the song.

Some listeners avidly supported silencing the ditty.

And some listeners felt the intense scrutiny of the song was unnecessary.

Considering the year it was written and the social mores that women were expected to follow  in the '40s — the song can be interpreted as either a coy dance among enamored adults or a red-flag-riddled date-rape scene. Yet other music lovers say the song has feminist underpinnings.

"Baby It's Cold Outside" appears in the 1949 Esther Williams film "Neptune's Daughter" and won the Academy Award for Best Song the very same year. The controversial duet depicts a man trying to convince a woman to stay with him despite her hesitations.
(Interestingly enough, the film features the song twice; its second appearance features Betty Garrett and Red Skelton where the woman aggressively tries to seduce the man.)

Conversations around consent have shifted dramatically over the past decades; at the time when the song was written, women were discouraged and shamed from being sexually forward. "Baby It's Cold Outside" is, in many ways, an illustration of the nuances that women must navigate to be able to say "yes" or "no" without judgement, according to an anonymous Tumblr post written by a former English teacher that went viral.

Betty Garrett makes her move on on Red Skelton. Photo courtesy of YouTube

Figula recognizes that he has waded into a political discussion beyond the ken of his chart-topper radio station which started this year's Christmas song playlist on November 16.  "Let's face it, there's a political agenda to all this," he said. "Our radio station is a music station. We don't have a political agenda. Our goal is to play the biggest hits in the United States."

Other radio stations who have received backlash for banning the duet include Cleveland's WDOK and Denver's KOSI.

Figula said it has been a difficult decision. "We've replied to literally every email that's come into the radio station. That's well over 1,000 emails over the last week," he said.  "Women have contacted me [who] have been raped or sexually harassed. Women with teenage daughters have said they don't want their kids to hear the lyrics. They find it offensive and I can respect that, though the majority disagrees."

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For now, the song will survive another Christmas season on KOIT.

"Majority rules," Figula said, who put the song back on rotation yesterday. "Our goal is to say, 'power to the people.' If people think we should play it, we'll play it."

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