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WOONSOCKET – A local radio host has apologized after on-air comments that he considers himself a “white nationalist” drew heavy criticism.

John Dionne, host of “The John Dionne Show” on WNRI station, told listeners Monday that sees a white nationalist as someone “who’s proud to be an American.” His comments were made during a discussion of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and President Donald Trump’s response.

“The people who are defending – in the article they call them the white nationalists. Well, I would consider myself a white nationalist,” said Dionne. “I consider a white nationalist as somebody who’s proud to be an American. Proud of our country’s heritage. That’s what a nationalist is. Proud of America. It doesn’t mean that I would fight and say some of the things that other people would be saying.”

The comments prompted sharp responses from residents and listeners this week after recordings of the show were shared on social media. Councilor-elect Alexander Kithes has requested that the station make a statement explicitly denouncing white nationalism.

On Wednesday, Dionne emailed a statement to media outlets apologizing for the comments, claiming he was not aware of the negative definition of the term when he used it.

“Let me make it clear that I have never used that term before in my life and am not today or ever been a white nationalist as defined in the definition,” he said. “I made that statement at 3:15 p.m. of my show and did not receive one call or email on the subject or statement from anyone. Had I received one and the true definition, I would have corrected it immediately. I deeply apologize to WNRI, and to my listeners, for this mistake that I made.”

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