As a former Chicago cop and, even more famously, as an on-stage security man on “Jerry Springer,” Steve Wilkos has long battled on behalf of violence victims.
So it’s not too surprising that, on his own daytime talk show, he’s recently turned his attention to the topic of bullying – particularly among teens. And on Monday (May 2), “The Steve Wilkos Show” brings two high school girls – sisters – together with another girl who they once called their friend, but who they later turned against. They beat her up, posted a video on Youtube that slandered her reputation, and drove her to transfer to another school. On the video, the sisters called the girl a “ho” and accused her of sleeping around.
“I ended up with two black eyes and every blood vessel in my right eye was popped,” says the victim, Tichina, 16, whose last name and the town where the incidents took place are not revealed on the show. “I had a bloody nose, a fat lip. I had a partial concussion.”
For their part, the two sisters are unrepentant when they first come on the show, accusing Tichina of “talking trash” about them. But by the end of the show, Wilkos convinces them to take the video off the Internet, which they agree to do under the scrutiny of the show’s cameras.
Since we hadn’t caught up with Wilkos, 47, in quite a while, XfinityTV decided to ask him about his special “bullying” episode and why he’s focusing on this crucial issue. We also asked him how he’s liking Connecticut, where this lifelong Chicagoan has been filming his talk show for the last two seasons. In fact, he’s just now finishing his fourth season and has a commitment for at least three more – not bad for a Chicago cop who never dreamed he’d fall into a career in show business.
Is bullying an issue you’re dealing with more frequently lately?
We do a lot of teen topics, but this bullying issue is something that’s becoming a little more rampant. And this case is typical of something that nobody in our generation had to deal with – these girls posting on Youtube some really horrible stuff about this girl who used to be a friend of theirs and inciting violence against this young woman.
What exactly is on this video? Do the girls get on camera and just basically trash this girl?
These teenager sisters made a video talking about this other girl, talking about how she’s a ho and she sleeps with all these guys and they’re gonna kick her ass and blah blah blah blah. And you have to ask: Where are the adults responsible for these women, seeing what they’re posting on the Internet – which they wouldn’t take down until we got them on the show and got them to agree to take it down.
Here’s the part I don’t understand about these things: So some kids post a video on Youtube. There are 100 million videos on that site. So how does their whole town find it and watch it?
With Facebook. They have links to each other and the town is small, and before long, everybody knows about it.
Aren’t there laws against slandering people?
There are laws about that, but when it comes to kids slandering each other, nobody can really do anything about it. The law is not really a deterrent.
Bullying has been with us for a long time. What’s different today that makes it an even more urgent issue?
Look, we all make mistakes when we’re young teenagers. Nowadays, though, when kids make mistakes it’s documented on Facebook, on cellphones, on all these social network sites. And then it’s out there forever and even though this girl took the down, somebody else could have saved it and that’s what so different now. It’s just a vastly different world we live in today.
When was this show taped?
We taped this about three weeks ago.
Since then, have you followed up on the story to see if these girls are still fighting with each other?
They’re calm now. We stay in contact with them and so there haven’t been any incidents since we taped the show. So far so good. [On the show] I asked them, How do you go on living in your community and fighting with someone all the time? When does it end?
How do you like Connecticut after living your whole life in Chicago?
It’s lovely, it’s a great area. My kids are going to great schools, but I miss the hell out of Chicago. If it was just me, I could fly back and forth to do my show because it’s a day-and-a-half [of work each week]. But my wife [Rachelle Wilkos] is my executive producer and she’s [also executive producer of “Jerry Springer,” which tapes in the same facility] so she works four or five days a week so I had to make the move [to Connecticut].
Looking back, can you believe what happened to you? Have any other big-city police officers become talk-show hosts?
I don’t think so! And the funny thing is, when I go out and warm up my audience, everyday someone asks me, ‘What made you inspired to have a talk show?’ And I say, ‘Nothing! I never wanted one.’ First of all, I never wanted to be in the entertainment field, it wasn’t something I aspired to. I wanted to play left field for the Cubs, but as I became a little older I became more realistic. I became a cop just like my dad and I was gonna be a cop for 30 years just like my father. Then “Springer” came along and it was supposed to be one day. And that one day of working on “Springer” led to me meeting my wife, later having kids, moving to Connecticut. I have this great life because of one day of security work!
“The Steve Wilkos Show” airs weekdays. Check local listings.