Franken, Drobny, Air America: All Caught Fibbing
Inside Air America: Al Franken's Lying Lies
Part Of An Ongoing Investigative Blog Series
BY MICHELLE MALKIN AND BRIAN MALONEY
(This is part two, the story begins at Michelle Malkin's Site)
Once caught, what price does a liar typically pay in our society?
Does it depend on severity and circumstances? Is it about context, or whether anyone was harmed by the person's factual misstatements?
One would imagine all of these considerations to be important.
For a smug, self-righteous "lying liars" book author who proceeds to tell one of the year's biggest, however, there should be particular contempt.
When his company and its co-founder are caught up in the deception, the disgrace is compounded.
And when inner-city schoolchildren suffer as a result of this blatant fraud, it becomes the icing on the cake.
These newly disclosed documents go beyond casting serious doubt on Air America talk host Al Franken's recent assertions. They prove that Franken and his cohorts were aware long ago of the community center scandal, contrary to their public statements.
This settlement agreement (left) was signed by Franken and other key Air America officials, each in the presence of a notary public.
Six Weeks Without Consequences
Since first blowing the lid off of Air America Radio's Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club scandal in July, where $875,000 in taxpayer money was apparently diverted from the nonprofit to its own account, we've watched the network, its air personalities and supporters dismiss the mess with excuses:
--- We're a new company (Piquant), we simply purchased the old one (Progress Media).
--- It's not fair to pin this on the talk hosts, they knew nothing about it.
--- A Republican operative from Guam, Evan Montvel Cohen, is responsible, he did this to make Air America look bad.
--- Our critics are right-wingers, why should anyone pay attention to them?
So far, they've failed to face real consequences, as their defenders blame it entirely on Evan Cohen. Is this about to soon change?
Did Media Inspire Overconfidence?
As we've shown here and in previous pieces, these excuses simply don't wash.
Yet, despite the issue's severity, few mainstream media outlets took the opportunity to investigate it. As mentioned earlier, even some conservative talk hosts resisted discussing the matter, assuming Franken and other on-air personalities couldn't be held responsible.
Did this lead to overconfidence at Air America's headquarters, that consequences would simply not follow public revelations?
Or, is so much energy devoted merely to keeping the operation from going bust, there's simply no time to worry about negative publicity?
Franken sure seemed to believe he could get away with his blatant on-air lying, without the irony of his book titles (and years of blasting Bill O'Reilly and others over matters that seem small by comparison) smacking him in the face. Did arrogance fuel a sadly unfounded belief we wouldn't be able to obtain the smoking gun?
If so, it proved to be a fatal miscalculation.
Franken Not Alone
It isn't just Al Franken caught red-handed lying: add co-founder/Democrat Party activist Sheldon Drobny and Air America parent company Piquant to the mix, as well. It's a rogue's gallery of liberal talk radio tricksters.
Piquant's rank dishonesty in the matter is now also exposed. Recall the statement put out by Air America after our story broke-- which remains on their website:
If the allegations of mismanagement and corruption at Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club are true, it is absolutely disgraceful.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal and the HBO Documentary, Left of the Dial, the company that the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club officials gave money to, Progress Media, has been defunct since May 2004. That company was run at the time by Evan Cohen who has not had any involvement in Air America Radio since May 2004.
The current owners of Air America Radio have no obligation to Progress Media's business activities. We are very disturbed that Air America Radio's good name could be associated with a reduction in services for young people, which is why we agreed months ago to fully compensate the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club as a result of this transaction.
THE TRUTH: according to the November 2004 Evan Cohen-Rex Sorenson-Air America settlement agreement, Piquant is in fact obligated to pay back the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club money.
This directly contradicts Air America's claim that its owners "have no obligation" to pay back the loan.
Air America's recent website statement suggested they weren't sure if the allegations were true, but the 2004 document proves they knew of the situation all along.
Throwing in irrelevant references to HBO and the Wall Street Journal merely served to confuse Air America's fans into thinking this was old news. And the Evan Cohen mention is obviously meant to tie him alone to any wrongdoing.
While he certainly appeared to have a role in the taxpayer funds transfer, this new evidence points to a larger group of irresponsible corporate villains.
Air America Co-founder's Role
Remember Air America co-founder/Democrat activist/ Lyndon Larouche sympathizer Sheldon Drobny? We recently detailed his background, providing a transcript of this C-SPAN appearance:
Dallas caller: Yes, I was wondering, you talk about the road to Air America, I've been reading in the New York Sun and articles by Michele Malkin that $875,000 approximately was acquired in a loan from a children's center and an Alzheimer's center in New York.
And you just mentioned you had funding and introductions from VP Gore and former president Clinton and I was wondering are you proud of the fact that you've obtained money from a partially federally funded children's center in New York and that you are now in default on that loan?
What is your explanation on that because I think that is pretty troubling.
Drobny: Well, ah, if you go to the website www.airamericaradio.com they have a very, very appropriate response. Ah, I would love to be able to answer the question and you would love my answer but the, ah, that particular transaction occurred from the previous ownership and, ah, I cannot legally talk about it although I'd love to. But that was not our loan. That was a loan to the previous owner.
Host: For those who are not familiar with the issue, can you explain?
Drobny: (cough) Well, because we had difficulty funding the project, our firm was willing to allocate up to 10 million to an all liberal radio network and, ah, we were not able to raise any more than that and we needed about 30 to 40 million dollars.
So about, ah, about August or September of 2003, and we had already hired, or got Al Franken to commit, we had our executive team and whatever, we didn't have enough money to fund the thing to the process of. We were introduced to the former owner who acquired our network at the time and, ah, supposedly had the funding to take it forward and to get it on the air.
They got it on the air but unfortunately they ran into financial difficulty and I suppose one of those difficulties was this Boys Club situation. And, ah, then they defaulted when we sold the station or network, they defaulted on our loan.
So they also defaulted on our credit. So what happened was we had to reacquire, we reacquired the, ah, the network through a different company.
Host: But as you've been reading, Michelle Malkin and others have been quick to point to it as one of the problems in the financial structure of Air America.
Drobny: That was the former ownership. We are very solid right now. And I can tell you if you just read the Air America statement it will tell you that (unclear...)
THE TRUTH: we now know $167,000 of the Gloria Wise taxpayer money was transferred to Air America on October 2, 2003. This is revealed in the settlement agreement. The Drobnys turned over the reins in November, 2003, retaking it in 2004 from Evan Cohen and Rex Sorenson.
Therefore we can prove, via hard evidence, the transfers began on Sheldon's watch. He didn't tell the truth on C-SPAN, did he?
Smoking guns sure do come in handy.
What's Next For Franken?
On October 25, Franken's unfortunately-titled, long-anticipated The Truth (With Jokes) will reach bookstore shelves. This release is key for his career and the publishing industry will be carefully watching its performance.
Will Al face any road-tour fallout over this new proof he lied about his knowledge of the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls scandal?
One would expect the nature of Franken's books and public rhetoric to make him especially careful about telling the truth in public. Somehow, defending Air America got in the way.
The other question: how does this affect his possible US Senate plans? He's said to be a potential 2008 candidate for Minnesota, his home state. From the New York Times in June 2005:
The swells who showed up before Al Franken's speech at a Democratic fund-raiser to down finger food and punch were thrilled to see him, all the more so because he continues to make threatening noises about running for the Senate here in 2008.
A former writer and performer for ''Saturday Night Live'' and more recently a radio host on Air America, Mr. Franken has used his outsider status to hurl humor-based invective and indignation at the powers that be, but he is considering becoming part of what he so frequently assails.
On Saturday evening he worked the crowd as if being accosted by strangers in a sweltering tent redolent of meatballs was his idea of a good time.
Will he still be able to mount a credible campaign, or is there simply too much baggage at this point? Are his supporters loyal, no matter what has occurred at Air America?
Or will Minnesotans now look at him differently, finally grasping the real Al Franken?
It will be interesting to see how Franken, Drobny and Air America collectively manage to weasel out of this mess.
We've made an attempt to contact Franken regarding this article. We'd be happy to consider his response if we receive one.
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