New York-Based Talk Host Exposed
Boston Globe Exposes Lies, Red Faces At CBS
In Boston, Jay Severin's luck may have finally run out.
After years of questions about the WTKK-FM talk host's wild boasts and other deceptive behavior, the Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh examined his most outrageous: Severin's claim to be a Pulitzer Prize winner.
The result was a devastating piece that should shatter sleazy Severin's talk radio future.
His academic background, place of residence, even his real name, have all apparently been faked.
And the timing couldn't be worse for the self-described "libertarian/libertine" host, more on that in a moment.
The Radio Equalizer raised other questions about Severin's claims in this July piece written after his sudden departure from MSNBC's "The Situation With Tucker Carlson". NBC insiders had claimed to cable news website TVNewser that Severin's bizarre behind-the-scenes behavior was disruptive.
Lehigh examined Severin's recent on-air assertion he won a Pulitzer for "online journalism" (were such an award to exist). From his report:
...last Friday, the talkmaster positively outdid himself in setting new laurels upon his brow: He awarded himself a Pulitzer Prize. That came as part of a conversation with a caller about the declining standards he sees in journalism.
Here's what Jay said: ''But since journalism began, and up until the time at least that I took my master's degree at Boston University -- and may I add without being obnoxious, up till and including the time that I received a Pulitzer Prize for my columns for excellence in online journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism, the highest possible award for writing on the Web -- right up to and including that in 1998, you still had to practice journalism to be a journalist."
That struck several listeners as unlikely. Once I'd heard the claim, I asked the Pulitzer folks to check it out. ''We looked at the records and there is no record of him winning a Pulitzer Prize," says Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzers. Nor is there a Pulitzer for excellence in online journalism. How does Jay explain his assertion?
''What I said was, there is a prize that my editor told me is the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for Web journalism," Severin said in an interview. ''That is a hell of a caveat."
Certainly it would have been if Severin had made it. The problem is, he didn't. I read him his on-air comment.
Things only look worse for Severin as it continues:
Interesting, a Google search turns up two mentions of Severin winning a Pulitzer for online journalism. They come in student newspaper articles covering a November 2003 appearance at Boston College.
''Currently, Severin is a featured columnist on MSNBC.com, for which he has won the Pulitzer Prize for online journalism," The Heights reported. Severin ''was the first recipient of Columbia University's Pulitzer Prize for online journalism," the Observer wrote. Both accounts also call him a graduate of Harvard Law School. He is not, Harvard says.
Joelle Pederson, who wrote the story for the Heights, thinks the information about Severin came from the person who introduced him.Now, where would anyone introducing Jay have gotten the notion that he was a Harvard Law School graduate?
''I have no idea," said Severin.
But one quickly occurred to him. As part of an arrangement made by his BU professors, he said, he had sat in on some classes at Harvard Law School, though not as an enrolled student. Perhaps, he said, whoever introduced him had heard him mention those classes on the air and arrived at that conclusion.
That's inventive, anyway. But then, there's long been an aura of self-invention about Severin.The young man known at Vassar as Jimmy Severino is now Jay Severin III.
The former B-grade political consultant would have his listeners believe he was once a top-level national strategist.
The Radio Equalizer has long tried to determine whether Severin really has the Republican campaign consulting background he claims on WTKK's website:
In addition to his daily “Extreme Games,” on 96.9 FM Talk, Severin is associated with NBC News, appearing regularly as a MSNBC political analyst. Severin also frequents The News with Brian Williams, he is a featured columnist on MSNBC.com and has served as an American political correspondent for the BBC.
Severin’s other media appearances include: NBC Nightly News, CNBC, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, PBS, FOX News Channel, Nightline, Politically Incorrect, Time, Business Week, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and more. As a national political advisor and critic, Severin is a veteran of more than 100 major campaigns for President, Governor, the Senate and the House.
One of the Google hits mentioned above is this 2003 piece from The Heights, a student newspaper at Boston College. It appears that somebody fed the reporter a number of dishonest statements:
"Politics is like sex ... there are really only two parties." So began Jay Severin, a featured speaker for the College Republicans of Boston College (CRBC), who delivered a lecture last Thursday evening. Severin, a notably conservative Boston talk show host, lectured for the first time at BC last year and was welcomed back.
Currently, Severin is a featured columnist on MSNBC.com, for which he has won the Pulitzer Prize for online journalism, and hosts the number one rated political talk show in Boston, titled "Extreme Games," on 96.9 FM Talk, which runs weekdays from 3-7 p.m. Originally from New York, Severin resides in Boston.
One of Severin's biggest lies has been in leading Bay State residents to believe he lives in Boston, while actually broadcasting from Long Island, New York.
In one of radio's biggest recent blunders, Infinity Broadcasting, a division of CBS, announced today they'd signed a deal with Severin to host a nationally syndicated talk show. How red the faces must have been at network headquarters!
Radio trade publication coverage predictably covered for him, leaving out the expose on his dishonest behavior. I alerted Lehigh to this earlier today.
From Radio & Records:
Infinity President/Programming Rob Barnett has signed Severin to host a show on "select Infinity stations" beginning January 2006.
The new deal reportedly does not include the Boston market, where Severin already hosts afternoons at Greater Media-owned FM talker WTKK.
However the Boston Globe reports that Severin's contract with Greater Media expires at the end of this year, and that has led to speculation that the talk host could jump ship to crosstown Infinity News/Talker WBZ or one of that company's four other Boston radio stations.
Specific Infinity stations on which the new show, Jay Severin Has Issues, might air have not been identified, but Severin's agent George Tobia told the newspaper he was assured by Infinity that they will include "several top 10 markets." Severin was an R&R Industry Achievement Award nominee as "News/Talk Local Host of the Year" in 2004.
Severin was not heard on WTKK today for unclear reasons. Conservative rival Howie Carr, of Boston's WRKO-AM, kicked off today's show with a crack about Severin's dishonesty.
Meanwhile, liberal bloggers have begun to tie his lying to the overall conservative movement, but trust the Radio Equalizer: he ain't one of us, Jay Severin's always been a fake.
Can WTKK really afford to keep Severin's damaged goods on the air until January's contract expiry? And what could CBS possibly do with him now?