Gunshot Warning Has Secret Service Concerned
Over Presidential Threat, Air America Host Again in Hot Water
Did Randi Rhodes threaten the President again? Was it real, or another desperate stunt to gain attention for a failing network?
While Matt Drudge has splashed the latest incident in huge type, some readers will note this is at least the second time Rhodes has allowed something like this on the airwaves.
According to his report:
Government officials are reviewing a skit which aired on the network Monday evening -- a skit featuring an apparent gunshot warning to the president!
The announcer: "A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little bastard. [audio of gun being cocked]."
Last year, Rhodes did something similar and while opinions differed on what exactly she said and meant, there's no question she's been crossing the line.
And Radio Equalizer readers will be familiar with another matter, involving a extreme-left Seattle talk show host, who last year demanded on-air the President be executed. He denied the entire matter, but threatened a lawsuit after being confronted with tapes of the broadcast.
I was also able to obtain a recording of the show, where he did in fact make the remarks, but faced no reprimand over the incident. In fact, he was rewarded with an additional hour, he's now heard four full hours nightly.
The host, KIRO's Mike Webb, is a former co-worker with a long history of litigation threats against any and all critics. He has been successful at keeping the Seattle media from exposing his behavior, by outbullying opponents.
That seems to be an effective strategy for career survival, even when ratings haven't held up: have your attorney send another threatening letter.
The obvious: why the double standard? Would conservative hosts ever be allowed to threaten the President, whether directly or indirectly?
For all of the fuss over indecency, I believe that inciting violent acts against Bush, whether one supports him or not, is a more serious matter.
So far the Secret Service has not taken action against Rhodes or Webb, but that may yet change, if they determine things are getting out of hand.
Do you know of other hosts who have made similar remarks and gotten away with them? Three documented incidents does begin to show a trend, but if there have been others, the Radio Equalizer needs to know.
Update: Air America, in a release, is denying Drudge's report. This from Radio and Records:
"We are not under investigation from the Secret Service," said Sinton. "We regret that a produced comedy bit that was in bad taste slipped through our normal vetting process. We do acknowledge that it was an internal error and internal discipline will be enforced.” No word on just what actions might be taken against Rhodes or any other AAR employees who were involved in the incident.
If this is true, then why isn't the Secret Service investigating these repeated instances? The security incident involving the White House today should serve as a reminder that the last thing we want to do is allow radio hosts to incite, or encourage, violence against the President just because they don't like him.
Is this going to require a large number of telephone calls to the Secret Service?
Update: Drudge reports White House calling skit "very inappropriate and over the line." Rhodes apparently apologizes on the air for "lame attempt at humor."
Was my original premise correct? With the way Rhodes is featuring it on her website, it looks like a publicity grab. It worked, but is it the right kind of ink? Will advertisers want to be a part of this show?
Thursday: Now the New York Post's John Mainelli reports the Secret Service is investigating the incident:
Secret Service spokesperson Lorie Lewis told The Post that "if we determine that questions need to be asked, we will attempt to get them answered, but at this point we have not made any inquiries to anyone connected with the show."
During Dan Quayle's vice-presidency, ex-WABC lefty Lynn Samuels was investigated by the Secret Service for saying "Too bad it can't happen here" while discussing a vice-presidential candidate getting beaten up in South America.
"There are very few things that you absolutely, positively cannot do on the radio," she said, "and pretending to shoot the president is right up there at the top."
Update: Meanwhile radio trades are covering for Rhodes, the way they have for hosts in previous incidents. Here's the Radio and Records version:
The Air America Radio host opened her show on Wednesday with an apology for airing a pre-recorded comedy skit earlier this week that some have argued advocated shooting President Bush. Although she noted upfront that the bit originated from AAR's New York studios and she told listeners that she had "no control" over its content, Rhodes nevertheless took responsibility for its airing during her program. "I didn't think it was funny at all," said Rhodes. "And I apologize to the President of the United States and anyone else who didn't like it."
From where did "some have argued" emerge in this story? I haven't heard anyone try to maintain that this was actually about something else, including Rhodes and Air America! Why do the radio trades cover for these people?
Answer: they rely on advertising from Air America and other syndication networks to stay afloat.
Radio and Records has not retracted, or updated, the incorrect assertion from Air America that it was not under Secret Service scrutiny. As you've seen above, they are being investigated. Nice to have apologists, isn't it?
2006 update: after being charged with insurance fraud, Webb was fired from KIRO-AM.