The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

13 June 2005

Franken Antics Lead To Convention Revolt

Al Franken Empties The Room

NYC Convention Annoyed With Rambling Speech

What does it take for an award-receiving talk show host to empty a room full of radio industry leaders and supporters?

Air America host and alleged comedian Al Franken managed to do just that over the weekend, with a long and rambling speech that had both liberals and conservatives, bolting from the facility.

TALKERS magazine publisher Michael Harrison (l) and Air America talk host Al Franken (r) during the Freedom of Speech Award ceremony at the Friday evening cocktail party. Photo and caption from Talkers Magazine,

John Mainelli of the New York Post kicked off coverage with an item today, while the Radio Equalizer has been hearing from industry leaders, contributing their versions of what happened.

What was expected of Franken and who's to blame for the unhappy result? It turns out the answer isn't as simple as might be expected.

Each year Talkers Magazine, a Mass.-based industry trade publication, holds the New Media Seminar in Manhattan for talk show hosts, syndicators and other talk radio industry professionals.

Leading into this year's event, there was considerable concern from some quarters, that it would be hijacked by liberal talk radio interests. That's what happened at another talk radio convention earlier this year.

Those fears, which kept some talk radio people from attending this year, apparently turned out to be warranted.

Franken's acceptance of the annual Freedom of Speech award, a murky offering usually designed to drum up publicity rather than actually make a free speech statement, was asking for trouble.

Somehow, he got the idea he was there to deliver a full-blown political tirade, rather than a simple and polite thanks.

He attacked conservative talk hosts by name, for especially petty reasons, such as who claimed to broadcast from Iraq first.

Syndicated talk host Rusty Humphries, in particular, was lambasted for this, with an angry Franken insisting he went there before Humphries and a group of right-leaning talkers.

According to Jerry Agar, morning talk host at KMBZ in Kansas City, "I was there. Have not seen the Post story yet, but I saw the one on Drudge. I confirm its details and would add that he spent a bunch of time trashing Rusty's (radio) report from Iraq.

"Rusty was correct in what he reported and Franken was trashing the story with no knowledge whatsoever of what Rusty saw and reported.

"Franken later accused Rush Limbaugh of not telling the truth and pulling 'facts out of his butt.' Perhaps that is what Franken was doing on Friday night, because he had no idea what he was talking about."

Humphries issued this response to the Radio Equalizer this afternoon:

"I understand why he's so upset, while I was in Iraq, it was reported that I was the first nationally syndicated radio host to report from there.

"I have since found out that Franken had been there earlier. What should have been reported was that I was the first nationally syndicated host with ... LISTENERS to go. I thank Mr. Franken for allowing me to clear that up."

According to Mainelli in the Post report:

Al Franken became the guest who wouldn't leave — at a talk-radio convention held in his honor.

The talk-show host (WLIB/1190 AM) was forced off the stage after his award-acceptance speech became a nearly half-hour rant against TV commentator Bill O'Reilly and the war in Iraq.

"Al, hurry up," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, the convention sponsor.

AL FRANKEN Speech goes overtime. New York Post Photo

"It's freedom of speech," replied Franken, referring to the Freedom of Speech Award he'd just been given by the magazine.

"It's not freedom to kill everybody's evening," Harrison shot back.

"I have about two pages left," Franken said.

"There are people walking out" Harrison noted.

Brian Jennings, Vice President of Talk Programming for Citadel Communications, a major station owner, gave me this account today:

"I stood about 20-30 feet from it and was shocked he kept going on and on. In fact, it was the same basic speech he gave at the Radio and Records Talk Seminar in L.A. back in March. Same points.

"He even welled his voice up with emotion when talking about our troops in Iraq which told me it was a show and put on.

"Also, when Michael Harrison first dimmed the lights, you would think he would have gotten the hint. When Michael finally asked him to wrap it up and he kept going, it was painful. The crowd thinned considerably.

"We were bored - it was a cocktail party to say thanks for the award, then glad hand and have fun. Instead, he wanted to give an entire speech.

"Mike finally said to him, 'it's my party - sit down.' He finally did. By then, everyone was heading out."

David Bernstein, former WOR/New York Program Director, now with WPRO-AM in Providence, had this account:

"I can tell you with certainty that Al Franken gave a longwinded speech at a time that should have just been a quick acknowledgement of his award.

"It was to accommodate his schedule; the award is usually given out on Saturday (not at the Friday night cocktail party).

"For most attendees, it has been a year since catching up. Nobody wanted to stop for a speech, a self-serving one at that.

"Michael waited, but when Franken didn't let up, he had to break in. I would have, too. Kudos to Harrison for taking control of a situation that was spinning out of control," Bernstein concluded.

Others, including a major market program director, indicated they'd heard rumors that event sponsors, who provide rival programs up against Air America's, were unhappy with the amount of time taken by Franken at the event.

This programmer, who asked not to be named, was pleased with what happened the next day:

"I did go to the first event the next morning, and Al was on the panel. Thought he was quite good actually and surprised that after being cut off the night before, he showed up the next day. So I thought that was pretty classy," the program director indicated.

Did Franken have a motive here, or is he just socially clueless? Was this some kind of stunt gone awry?

Or could it be, as I'm inclined to believe, that he used the event as a warm-up for a Minnesota US Senate run?

Franken sure seems angry for a guy supposedly doing so well in liberal talk radio. Could it be an admission that things aren't so peachy, after all?

Feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Welcome Michelle Malkin, Powerline,, St. Louis Media, Orbusmax and Free Republic readers.

Update: Perry Michael Simon, talk radio editor for All Access, has a full account of the convention. For radio listeners, here's what really goes on behind the scenes. Hope it doesn't burst too many bubbles. Welcome to our world.

Update: Les Kinsolving has his account of what happened at WorldNetDaily.

New Wednesday Morning: Why Another Tucker Carlson Cable Show?


  • This is obviously a Clintonian strategy.

    Remember Bill's 1988 Democrat Convention speech that went way too long and had everyone cheering when it ended?

    Four years later... you know the rest.

    Long-winded bloviation is the road to statesmanship in the D.E.M.O.P.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13 June, 2005 19:03  

  • Air America's Al Franken to Add International Radio Award to Emmy, Grammy and Bookselling Accolades

    Oh yeah, Air America programming seems to be taking off in Albuquerque

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13 June, 2005 19:05  

  • If Mr. Franken thinks he can beat Norm Coleman in my homestate of Minnesota (which is what his plan is), He won't.

    Minnesotans hate carpetbaggers. Jesse Ventura was one of Minnesota's own, lived in Minnesota. Al Franken was born in frickin' New York City, grew up in St. Louis Park, then moved to New York City again.

    He is not a Minnesotan, and he will not win in Minnesota.

    The idiot is a carpetbagger

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 13 June, 2005 19:24  

  • If the Program Director thought that Franken is so good and classy, why was he so afraid to give his name? Frankin is a hack and to give him a "Freedom Of Speech Award" is a sham and a shame.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13 June, 2005 19:34  

  • I don't like long speeches so I think it is appropriate to limit the length of speeches whether it is Al Franken or ethically challenged Rush Limbaugh.

    All Al Franken needs to win is replay the Senate hearing with George Calloway where Norm Coleman was stuttering and practically crying like a baby. I would be ashamed if I was from Minnesota.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13 June, 2005 20:00  

  • There were only a few people in the room listening? So it was just like his Air America broadcasts.

    Maybe Al admires his hero Castro and his long speeches.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13 June, 2005 22:40  

  • Did that etchically challenged Scotsman, George Galloway really bring Coleman "practically to tears" (whatever that might mean), or that more of Hal Frankin's satire?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 June, 2005 09:27  

  • Franken is a hack. He simply loves the sound of his own smarmy voice, and honestly believes that he is God's gift to the airwaves. I am sure God is laughing.

    When our local station dropped Hannity for Air America (in the ultra liberal Amherst MA area. Go figure!), I gave him an honest chance to add me to his audience. It was worse than pathetic. He talks about Limbaugh, but Franken took statements out of context, twisted facts, then added his own liberal spiel to everthing. "Oi, oi oi" should be called "Sucks, sucks, sucks." He is trying to be the anti Rush, but his temper, verbal bullying and lack of class prevent that from happening.

    Without being shored up by rich liberals, he would have faded away a long time ago. Can't liberals find someone interesting to listen to?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 June, 2005 10:20  

  • Whoever wrote about carpetbaggers is an idiot. Norm Coleman is a carpetbagger also. I've read a lot of stories and blogs on this subject and none of them mention G. Gordon Liddy standing up for Al. TELL THE WHOLE STORY, you dopes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 June, 2005 12:14  

  • Al Franken is following the mold of fellow traveller Garrison Keillor, of Prairie Home Companion fame. Both seem to relish insulting their audience, and are generally grumpy. While they both can pretend to be happy long enough for a skit or some shtick, offstage they are jes' plain mean.

    Franken could win in MN. So what? We had a pro wrestler as governor. How could we complain? The only step down would be to chose an ex-con, a pedophile, or a random inanimate object.

    He knows enough about MN to fake the 'minnesota nice' part, and is chock full o' socialism. Ostensibly bright, he reveres the failed economic distribution strategies of Britain, Cuba, China and the USSR. So half of the population will love him, and half will despise him. If elected, he, too, will pass, and without causing overmuch harm, one might hope.

    By Blogger KCFleming, at 14 June, 2005 14:38  

  • That would be me, Anon. I wrote that carpetbaggers are idiots. And yes, Norm Coleman is an idiot. He is, however, a useful idiot (unlike yourself and Al Franken).

    The only places where Franken would end up winning would be in Downtown Minneapolis/St. Paul, a few precincts in St. Cloud, and the Iron Range. The rest of the state is laced with folk that know what they want.

    They put Collin Peterson (a Blue-Dog Democrat) into office, they gave the keys to the 6th district to Mark Kennedy by a good amount, even with an activist hack like Patty Wetterling running. Hell, they're even consistent with Jim Oberstar, who's been in Congress since the Ice Age.

    These are people who won't necessarily change to fit a communist/socialist's agenda. Al Franken will have to see this and know that he is about to lose a battle, and a big battle as well.

    Franken will fall in Minnesota, even with the Ventura crowd (I was one who put him into office).

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 15 June, 2005 14:44  

  • What ever idiot calls Norm Coleman a "carpetbagger" really is showing their liberal hatred of Republicans.

    Frankin-fraud is SPECIFICALLY moving back to Minnesota to SPECIFICALLY run for office. That is nearly a textbook definition of a carpetbagger.

    Coleman? He moved to the state in the in the late 70's-early 80's....worked for the Attorney General's office for many years....was elected Mayor of St. Paul in 1993 and re-elected in 1997. So, living in Minnesota for over 25 years still makes you a carpetbagger?

    Get a f--king life, you liberal a-hole.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16 June, 2005 15:54  

  • Al Franken? Talk about an angry white guy. The idea of two New York Jews running for the seante seat in Minnesota is kinda funny; I guess the notion of a place with mostly Lutherans and Catholics -simple folk is about as real as the idea of the prairie home and lake Wobegone.
    Do yourself a favor Al. Don't come here pretending to be from here. Stay in New York.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 17 June, 2005 05:16  



    Pretty, please.

    With sugar on top.

    By Blogger guinspen, at 20 June, 2005 19:01  

  • Prior to 2000 I would describe myself as a unenthusiastic republican who pretty much got my news from Rush, Fox News Channel etc. thinking they provided valuable insights. I started paying more attention to the world after 9/11 and started accessing more sources of information. I have a much better handle on seperating news developed to appeal to a audience with a predetermined viewpoint and the news where they have more respect for the truth. I would definitely have to say Mr. Franken, although having extremely liberal slant and therefore not to be considered a journalist, has never lied to make his point. I can't say the same for Rush and many of the guests on Fox News.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 June, 2005 17:57  

  • By Blogger Melanie, at 06 March, 2006 14:52  

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