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German Radio Station Bayern3 Apologized After Their Host Likened BTS To The Coronavirus In An On-Air Rant

In a vitriolic rant, host Matthias Matuschik likened the Korean group to "a virus that we'll hopefully have a vaccine for soon."

Posted on March 1, 2021, at 8:51 a.m. ET

German radio station Bayern3 issued a statement of apology on Friday after one of their hosts, Matthias Matuschik, likened Korean group BTS to the coronavirus on air.

Courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment

Matuschik apparently took issue with the group's MTV Unplugged cover of Coldplay's "Fix You," calling it "a catastrophe" and "blasphemy" in a vitriolic rant during his radio show on Thursday.

MTV / youtube.com

"Dear teenagers who are listening: Please take no offense," Matuschik said, per a translation uploaded to YouTube. "But personally, I think that BTS is... Let me put it like this: BTS is like SARS."

"It's an abbreviation for some fucking virus that we'll hopefully have a vaccine for soon as well," he continued.

Matuschik went on to argue that he has "nothing against South Korea," and couldn't be called xenophobic because he owns a South Korean car. (According to Teen Vogue, one look at Matuschik's now-deleted Instagram account showed photos of his Daihatsu Copen, which is made in Japan.)

"These little suckers brag with their cover of 'Fix You' by Coldplay," he said. "To which I respond: That's blasphemy... For doing that, you should have to spend a 20-year-long vacation in North Korea."

The moment was immediately picked up by fans of BTS, known as ARMY, and within just a few hours, the hashtags #Bayern3Racist and #RassismusBeiBayern3 were trending worldwide alongside calls for the station to hold Matuschik accountable for his words.

A German radio host said, that BTS is just like an abbreviation for Covid-19 and that he hopes there will be a vaccine against BTS soon. He openly cursed at them for covering a coldplay song and said BTS deserves a 20 year vacation in North Korea for that. https://t.co/KKz9tk6b7u

Twitter: @mysevenwhaliens

Imagine making it to the world trends ... for being racist in the year of 2021. Humiliating.

Twitter: @BangtanGER_twt

In response to the backlash, Bayern3 released a statement "formally apologizing," but explaining that Matuschik had simply "overshot" while expressing an "exaggerated" opinion of BTS and their Coldplay cover.

Amy Sussman / Getty Images

In the statement, Bayern3 claimed the host was attempting to "express his opinion in an ironically exaggerated manner," and in doing so "overshot his choice of words and thus hurt the feelings of the BTS fans."

"He had — he assured us — in no way intended that," the statement went on. "He just wanted to express his displeasure with the cover version mentioned above."

In his own statement to BuzzFeed Germany, Matuschik said the nationality of the group "doesn't matter to him," and that he would have been just as upset about a German band covering the song.

He added that he had "underestimated the huge fan potential hidden behind the three letters [BTS]," and accused ARMY — who he described as "fanatical followers of a musical cash machine" — of twisting his original words in order to accuse him of racism.

It's safe to say those statements didn't go down well either.

"[Matuschik] is free to like whatever music suits him, but in expressing his opinion his rhetoric crossed the line into xenophobia and racism," one fan wrote on Twitter.

.@bayern3 this is not about expression of personal opinions or taste. @MMatuschik is free to like whatever music suits him, but in expressing his opinion his rhetoric crossed the line into xenophobia and racism on a publicly-funded station. #RassismusBeiBayern3 #Bayern3Racist

Twitter: @soopdweller

Another example of organizations hiding their racism behind “we are sorry we hurt fans feelings.” I don’t care about MY feelings. I care about you perpetuating anti-Asian racism. #Bayern3Racist #RassismussBeiBayern3 @bayern3

Twitter: @soul_mapped

"There's a huge difference between free speech and hate speech," another person said.

There's a huge difference between free speech and hate speech. The freedom of voicing your personal opinion doesn't give you free pass to an unprovoked racist rants against Asian. Hold your host accountable @bayern3 #RassismusBeiBayern3 #Bayern3Racist

Twitter: @almostdita

Many pointed out the racism in comparing a group of Asian people to the coronavirus, particularly in the midst of an alarming increase in violent hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people.

Matthias Matuschik wasn't edgy when he said he hates BTS & likened them to Covid. He knows there's an epidemic of hatred towards Asians, fueled by public figures like him. I sincerely hope his slander doesn't incite physical attacks. @bayern3 #Bayern3Racist #RassismusbeiBayern3 https://t.co/5KX4DsVXVs

Twitter: @GoAwayWithJae

A German radio presenter equating the South Korean band BTS with Covid-19, a virus which has killed 2.5M+ & devastated the lives of hundreds of millions, reflects the *age-old* anti-Asian sentiment called “yellow peril.” Anti-Asian racism is a global, historic & systemic issue.

Twitter: @minjinlee11

"I deal with this kind of comments every day in Germany," wrote Hansl Chang, a South Korean native living in Berlin. "This is not just about BTS, it is about so many Asian people who are dealing with extreme racism."

Everything is just wrong🤮 Really pissing me off cos I deal with this kind of comments every day in Germany. This is not just about #BTS it is about so many Asian people who are dealing with extreme racism especially due to pandemic. #Bayern3Racist #Bayern3Apologize https://t.co/FWmmnUxs0v

Twitter: @ChangHansl

Racist attacks against Asian people have been on the rise in the United States in the last year, with the Stop AAPI Hate coalition reportedly receiving 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate throughout the country between March 18 and Dec. 31, 2020.

Many attribute the increased attacks to racist rhetoric used by former president Donald Trump, who often referred to the coronavirus as "the China virus."

Over the weekend, several of BTS's collaborators and music industry peers — including Steve Aoki, Zara Larsson, and Lauv — weighed in on the situation, calling it "unacceptable."

Absolutely unacceptable the way radio host Matthias Matuschik speaks hate and racism in general let alone to my brothers. I stand with @bts_BigHit to condemn hate of any kind and stop this kind of prejudice wherever we can. We must stand together. Spread love not hate.

standing by my @bts_bighit brothers and everyone continuously effected by racist remarks as hurtful as what we heard on Bayern 3. no one should have to endure this and together we must stand up and stop it

Twitter: @lauvsongs

And this is a bigger issue than one racist radio host speaking about BTS. This is about racism against Asians and xenophobia. we must all speak up, which is the bare minimum, to show people like him that his words have consequences.

Twitter: @zaralarsson

And in a post on her Instagram story, their friend and collaborator Halsey said she was "horrified" by Matuschik's remarks, calling them "irresponsible and disgusting."

Todd Williamson / NBCUniversal

"Racism and xenophobia cannot be thinly veiled as 'on-air humor,'" Halsey wrote. "Irresponsible and disgusting statements in a time where hate speech and violent behavior towards Asian communities are sky rocketing. This is unacceptable."

"I hope a better apology to BTS, and the Asian communities across the world, is on its way," she concluded.

In additional statements posted to the station's website following the backlash, both Bayern3 and Matuschik expressed "sincere apologies" for his "unacceptable" words.

Noam Galai / Getty Images

"We would like to sincerely apologize for the remarks made by moderator Matthias Matuschik on his live broadcast," the supplementary statement said.

"We from Bayern3 as well as Matthias himself know that they aren't [acceptable], even if they weren't supposed to come across in that way," it goes on. "If statements are seen as offensive or racist by many people, then they are."

"I was primarily annoyed by the fact that the boy band BTS covered the song 'Fix You' by Coldplay, a group I really admire," Matuschik said. "The nationality of the seven boys shouldn't matter — mentioning them and therefore creating a connection with a virus was completely wrong."

He went on: "People who have known me for a long time know that in addition to my work as a radio DJ and cabaret artist, since the influx of refugees in 2015, I have also campaigned against right-wing activities and for those seeking protection.

"It saddens me even more if I hurt others with a thoughtless statement, that I had intended to be funny, and therefore made myself look bad," he concluded. "I made a huge mistake that I'll learn from. I am really sorry."

This is far from the first time BTS has been the subject of racist rhetoric in the media. Just last year, Howard Stern called his SiriusXM coworker Sal Governale "racist" for his on-air remarks about the group.

Cindy Ord / Getty Images

"I walked into the lobby and it was like Chinatown, out of control, there were so many Asian people," Governale said of the group's visit to SiriusXM last February. "These people are traveling, they're not locals, they're going from country to country to country. It's a dangerous situation."

But Stern called him out.

"I'm super paranoid about diseases and germs," Stern said at the time. "But you came off as racist."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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