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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Words Mean Things

Oh, who can forget Hillary Clinton alleging that Senator Obama had nothing to offer but words.

And I seem to remember predicting that certain Conservative radio voices would trip over their tongues and be unable to negotiate the rapids of race in the political stream of consciousness that is American talk radio.

Well, I was surprised to notice this week that the first casualty on the talk radio front wasn't one of the Conservatives, but one of the loudest voices on the Left.

Randi Rhodes has left Air America over remarks she made at an affiliate event in San Francisco. Oh, the irony. Air America - prescribed antidote to the controlled message of Corporate media did the corporate thing and gagged it's most popular talker for being offensive. And after they checked with attorneys who defined the word exposure and the word slander, they did the mental math that says: exposure plus slander plus offensive equals suspended.

So she quit.

Now, I don't know what the Clinton campaign said or did. But Hillary Clinton is a lawyer. She knows lawyers. Lawyers know how to fire off threatening letters like my kids know how to mess up the house. It comes with the job. So let's assume there were words between the campaign and Air America about the words used by Randi Rhodes.

I know I once said some things I shouldn't have about an ex-girlfriend and I said them on an afternoon radio show when I was a top 40 DJ. I didn't call her a whore...exactly...and I didn't mention her name. But I wasn't prudent or kind.

And if she ever finds this post I hereby offer my apologies and I beg her pardon.

On the day I made my remarks I found out I that I had threatened my job and my employer. Her new boyfriend showed up to defend her honor. Jim Ranger was an old school broadcaster; a Reagan Conservative who built his broadcasting business as a local owner. He sat in his private office and listened to the story he was told by the offended party and promised the man he would deal with it. The plaintiff continued hotly and at one point made a legal threat - at which point he was shown the door and loudly told to get lost.

Later I heard a few quiet words from Jim explaining that what I had done was wrong. He told me it was wrong because my career, my interests, the interests of the business he owned and the community we served were bigger than whatever I thought I needed to say about one woman. A little self control - in my own interest - was all he asked me for. And we never spoke of it again.

Aside from the fact that Air America has made a lot of rookie mistakes and has indulged itself in plenty of poor programming choices made by people who aren't career broadcasters, it has now made the huge mistake of not standing up for it's flagship talent in public. They sacrificed their credibility and the ability of other hosts to continue to speak freely. Why? Because somebody lost their nerve.
National talk radio is hardball. Trash talk is part of the game. Talk radio will continue. But Air America has again proven that it isn't ready for the major leagues.

And Randi? To quote Good Morning Viet Nam, "You're mean. And this is just radio."

1 comment:

Raymond McInnis said...

john, when you are speaking of a Randi, it's an unknown -- just heard her name lately, because of an unfortunate choice of words.

Another Air America persona, rachel maddow, though, has made herself a star, not on air america, but on tv, specifically msnbc.

she can duke it out with and get the better of both joe Scarborough and pat buchanan.

(olbermann even allowed her to anchor his show recently!)

what makes her good is a strong knowledge of history and what is evidently a photographic memory. (Her ability to articulate clearly and persuasively isn't too shabby either!)

in today's idiom, "she's a comer!" and we'll soon be hearing more and more of her in higher and higher circles.

let's hope that she doesn't allow herself to get spoiled by her notoriety.

i predict that within 2 years, this young lady will be anchoring her own program, and will be recognized as a formidable voice for anyone to contend with, especially anyone seeking elected office.

Scarborough has found out how to control her -- just keep talking, don't let her say anything.

both buchanan and scarobough betray their true feelings about how formidable they think she is in verbal combat, though, when they comment on the fact that she is smiling while they are making a point that she thinks is utterly ridiculous.