The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

23 August 2005

Update On WMAL Firing

DC: What Really Happened?

New Information Sheds Light On Host's Sacking


Getting to the bottom of talk host Michael Graham's firing from Washington's WMAL-AM hasn't been easy.

Was he really terminated after a pressure campaign led by Islamic extremists? Did his comments cross the line?

Hunting down real answers has been especially tricky. Both sides are opening up, however, one with exclusive information for the Radio Equalizer. Clearly, there was a bloody behind-the-scenes battle.

Declared winner: neither party.

Graham's out of a job and WMAL is taking it on the chin from the very conservative listeners it needs to survive. Ratings were already in the toilet, though Graham was said not to be the primary cause.

For ABC, WMAL's a major part of the company's news-talk chain, at a time when corporate parent Disney is reported to be unloading the radio division.

Neither side needs these headaches. So, is there any way to resolve the situation?

The Radio Equalizer's been riding both sides for additional details, after nagging questions were going unanswered.

Finally, Graham went further. Here's his response:


Radio Equalizer: Michael, were you really fired? Management's saying you chose not to return. Which is it?

Graham: "Here's the deal: I was ready to go back on the air without an apology. ABC and I had a deal. Then (Chris) Berry demanded an apology and went back on his word. I wouldn't apologize. I got fired. Period.

"The apology was, according to Berry, non-negotiable. That was the end of that.

"If he really IS prepared to let me back on without an apology, I'll be back on WMAL tomorrow!

"So ask him: Can I come back without an apology? My termination letter says no."


WMAL General Manager Chris Berry issued this statement:

Typically we don't comment on personnel matters, but given the misstatements being communicated by Michael, I want to set the record straight.

Some of Michael’s statements about Islam went over the line – and this isn’t the first time that he has been reprimanded for insensitive language and comments.

In this case, as previously, Michael’s on-air statements do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of station management.

I asked Michael for an on-air acknowledgement that some of his remarks were overly broad and inexplicably he refused.

Michael has also tried to position this that we were pressured into taking disciplinary action against him.

For the record we make our decisions independent of external pressures or third parties and we will not permit an employee to willfully violate our policies or disregard management direction.

Chris Berry President, General Manager News Talk 630 WMAL



The question: can the situation be resolved? One side or the other would have to concede ground and it doesn't appear that will occur soon.

--- Blogger lgf has this update and there's a new Billboard story here.

--- Town Hall has two new pieces, one from Graham and another by Joel Mowbray.

--- Chateau D'If says fellow WMAL host Chris Core's new public statement stinks.

--- There's a site set up for Graham's supporters. See it here.

Stay tuned for updates.


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12 Comments:

  • I'm sorry, but Michael Graham has done CAIR a great service.

    By Blogger Christopher Fotos, at 23 August, 2005 12:53  

  • Perhaps a published pdf of the actual termination letter can determine whether the apology was a demand or a request.

    By Blogger Max Creel, at 23 August, 2005 13:49  

  • You know what we need, Brian?

    Our own I-net only national radio station. Have Michael Graham, you and some other good guys on it. Heck, if the price is right ($35,000 and up), I'd give it a try.

    Catch would be you are your own producer and staff. The host does AMAP/As Much As Possible to keep costs down.

    By Blogger Josef, at 23 August, 2005 16:40  

  • The best way to go national in radio these days is either the internet, including podcasting, or satellite. With wireless internet, you should soon reach just about anywhere local broadcast radio could reach, and a lot of places it cannot. Both satellite radio and online radio have been successful using the subscription business model.

    All that bandwidth being used by local and regional analog broadcasters could be used far more efficiently with newer digital technology. Goodbye to the old radio and television robber barons.

    By Blogger al fin, at 23 August, 2005 17:51  

  • Chris Berry sounds like a big fat liar. From email (one of my readers sent me this--there's more at my site if you're interested):

    From: Berry, Chris J [mailto:Chris.J.Berry@abc.com]
    Sent: Friday, August 12, 2005 9:58
    To: [xxxxxx] Paul R
    Subject: RE: Lack of honesty at WMAL?

    Dear Mr. [xxxxxx],

    Thank you for your email, comments and heartfelt support for Michael Graham.

    As a United States Marine you have no doubt been faced with many difficult challenges - and perhaps difficult decisions. I suspect that you may have even been questioned about your decisions by those who might not have all of the facts.

    I know that Michael appreciates your support, however I must tell you that boycotting his advertisers may have exactly the opposite effect that you have intended.

    Many of the advertisers with whom I have spoken have criticized the actions of those who have tried to pressure them into changing their long standing relationship with WMAL. Most realize that their association with the station is bigger than any one broadcaster or program. By threatening boycotts, etc some advertisers have actually responded that while they will continue to advertise on WMAL they no longer want to advertise on “The Michael Graham Show”. Clearly I am concerned about the economic impact that will have on Michael’s assigned timeslot.

    Rest assured that your message has been heard loud and clear, however in my opinion the contacting his advertisers will do more to harm Michael’s reputation than you might realize.

    I am truly sorry that you don’t believe that I have the testicular fortitude to deal with organizations like CAIR. Although they may have claimed some sort of victory associated with Michael’s suspension, that is not the case. I can assure you that I am taking this internal personal matter very seriously.

    Sincerely,

    Chris Berry
    President, General Manager
    News Talk 630 WMAL


    It certainly appears to me that CAIR's advertiser targeting had everything to do with his suspension and subsequent firing.

    Furthermore, WMAL doesn't apply the same standard to their other radio show hosts; one in particular constantly drones on with the "Bush is a liar" meme. Why is that any more acceptable? Because it's the favored opinion?

    Do they think we're stupid? Everyone knows MONEY TALKS. If they took action against Michael Graham on moral grounds, then they should do so with other hosts. I submit they will not, unless CAIR or someone else demands it through their advertisers.

    By Blogger Beth, at 23 August, 2005 18:20  

  • And by the way, there's nothing Michael Graham said that ISLAMIC CLERICS AND SCHOLARS haven't said themselves, in defense of violence.

    Christopher Fotos: I certainly hope you can refute what those clerics and scholars have said countless times (far more than the 23 times you cite in your post), if you find Graham's statments so offensive.

    By Blogger Beth, at 23 August, 2005 18:24  

  • WMAL's action reminds me of the limp response of KABC-AM Los Angeles a few years ago when African-American groups boycotted conservative talk host Larry Elder.

    KABC caved, cutting Elder's afternoon show time by half with a liberal host filling the other half. After looking silly and weak for about a year, KABC restored Elder to his normal 4-hour slot.

    I don't think Disney/ABC is a good operator of serious talk radio stations. They seem to have no stomach for controversy and little ability to resist noisy pressure groups.

    By Blogger Mike W, at 23 August, 2005 20:08  

  • Josef and all....

    Speaking of internet radio, I plan to use this as a center piece in my show tomorrow. My show is syndicated domestically (to keep the lights on) but some of the stations that carry me are internet-only. I know they'd dole out $60,000+ to get him on.

    Always something... if it's not the FCC breathing down your neck it's Disney!

    There are a handful of online stations who can afford at least a producer to help.

    Anyway... Wed. morning beginning @ 10 (ET) at meekerbroadcasting.com.

    By Blogger S. Fuller, at 24 August, 2005 00:27  

  • Doesn't matter much now that KFI has just extended an offer to Graham.

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 24 August, 2005 04:15  

  • Sailor Republica - you mean KFI in LA, right?

    By Blogger Josef, at 24 August, 2005 11:17  

  • Yep, That KFI. Located in the #2 market in the Nation.

    By Blogger Sailor Republica, at 24 August, 2005 14:14  

  • Graham has been hired by Boston's WTKK

    http://www.michaelgraham.com

    http://www.969fmtalk.com

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 19 November, 2005 13:33  

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