The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

19 October 2005

Talk Stars Open Up


Hosts Agree To Rare Interviews, Rush Discusses AAR Scandal

Whether a cosmic coincidence or calculated strategy, something's clearly changed in talk radio.

With three major stars giving rare interviews in the same week, listeners are wondering about these sudden, sometimes emotional outpourings.

Whatever the reasons, we've gained a bit of insight into what makes Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage tick.

There's no doubt Sean Hannity got a major boost Tuesday from his candid televised discussion with Rush Limbaugh. Liberal complaints about the absence of co-host Alan Colmes should be met with laughter, since Colmes-bashing has long been a leftist spectator sport. Suddenly, they need him?

Most enjoyable was hearing Limbaugh, still talk radio's king, delve into subject areas not usually addressed on his show.

In particular, he discussed liberal talk radio's failures and Air America's sleazy Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club scandal, where $875,000 in taxpayer funds were diverted from the Bronx-based nonprofit.

Limbaugh's points are right on target and Air America would be wise to listen. It's clear he's been following the scandal closely, as well.

From the FOX News transcript:

HANNITY: I was listening to you on my way into work and you mentioned liberal radio. And I could see you rolling your eyes and you saying, "They just don't get it."

LIMBAUGH: I have a practice of really not talking about the competition. I'm from the old school. In my mind they don't even exist. Psychologically, when I sit down at noon, I'm it. I'm the only thing on. Nobody else does what I do. Nobody else has the opportunity. That's the psychological mindset. It's not an ego thing; it's just the way I've always approached it.

I started radio in 1967 and you never talked about the competition. You just never did. You didn't elevate them. You didn't promote them. You didn't give them credence. You didn't give them viability. You didn't even establish that they were alive.

And it's fascinating to me to watch liberal radio attempt. They think, I think, that you just announce you're going to start, and you'll get 20 million people and so forth. I find it fascinating they cannot make themselves a commercial success. They're already now out begging their listeners to send in money doing the NPR rip-off.

And I don't think they have, as liberals, the slightest understanding of the commercial aspects of the success that it takes in radio, particularly talk radio. They're in funding, and donations and stealing money from little boys and girls clubs and so forth — not stealing it, but having strange transactions go on there and so forth.

You look at them and, for a moment, you almost feel sorry for them. Then you realize, "No, they don't exist." And they don't pose a threat. I mean, they don't have an understanding of what works on radio. They don't understand about how the business works. They have no business model whatsoever.

They got a bunch of political activists to put it together rather than businesspeople. It's just fascinating to watch this thing flow on. But the most amazing thing about it is to watch how it is portrayed as a success by those who champion it elsewhere in the media.

HANNITY: I've never seen anybody get more media than some of these other guys out there. It is fascinating, though. You know your brother has been my lawyer for a lot of years, so we have a connection here, but, you have a family of lawyers.

You got behind the radio microphone for the first time. What happened? You just fell instantly in love?

LIMBAUGH: My family is all lawyers. Most people when they come on shows like this, "I'm proud of the first member of my family to get a college education." Well, my whole family was obsessed with going to college and they're lawyers, professional people, because they grew up in the Depression. That was the formative experience in my father and grandfather's lives.

When there's no work to be had, competition for jobs is intense. And it was a college degree back then that got you your leg up and your foot in the door. We haven't gone through anything like that in this country. And so I could only try to understand it, but I was just fortunate, or stupid, or whatever.

But I was stubborn and I knew what I wanted to do and stuck to it. My reason for liking radio was two-fold: I love music, and I hated school. And I hated school from second grade on.

NewsHounds, a FOX-bashing site, suddenly has never heard of the Gloria Wise scandal:

I don't have the resources to investigate and analyze the boys and girls club controversy but as far as donations go, what is so different between what Air America does and what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity do?

For example, Limbaugh urges readers of his website to join Rush 24/7 and receive bonus merchandise. Hannity's website offers readers a book club, a song club and a Hannity "Insider" membership.

And in case you think that just pertains to individuals, not networks, check out FOX News' store. It offers gimme caps, t-shirts and (my favorite) a FOX News dog collar and leash. How is that different from what Air America does?

Funny, NewsHounds seemed well aware of our Air America reporting when Michelle Malkin and I recently appeared on FOX's "O'Reilly Factor".

Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly himself really opened up in a rare newspaper interview with Verne Gay:

Gauging the animus against O'Reilly has always been a rough art, but by his own estimation "it's gotten worse. Now it's so bad that I spend an enormous amount of money protecting myself against evil."

One usual suspect behind this rising tide of hatred, he says, is the Liberal Media Establishment, infuriated because it "can't marginalize me."

But whatever the reason, almost exactly a year since he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with former Fox News producer Andrea Mackris - the anniversary is next Thursday - the embattled life of O'Reilly has become an increasingly strange and scary one.

As O'Reilly puts it, here are the facts: There are death threats. He has to hire bodyguards. He can't check into hotels with his family. People on the street with cell phones are stealth paparazzi, capable of snagging a picture one minute, then posting it on the Web the next.

He adds that during the past year he's had to "even get more stuff to make it more difficult for people to get through the wire. Who wants to live like that?"

And as a direct consequence of the lawsuit - which was settled for undisclosed terms and which both parties agreed to never speak of publicly - O'Reilly must have a third person present whenever he conducts a rare interview like this one, or talks to someone on the phone. "Anyone can accuse me of anything and [then] it's on a Web site."

So little wonder that when Bill O'Reilly is asked about his future after his current contract ends a little more than two years from now, he blurts out one word even as the question is asked: "Retirement."

"I might. I might," he adds. "That depends on how I feel physically. Like an athlete, the body breaks down after a while. There's only so much aggression you can absorb [but] right now, I have no other vocational aspirations." He will do no other shows for Fox, he says.

While it may be difficult to understand just how much abuse is hurled at today's talk megastars, clearly it's getting nastier out there. What O'Reilly describes isn't reserved for him alone, we know that for a fact, the left has a prime target list with a number of key names.

Especially annoying is how the "first anniversary" (as though a specific date can properly be pinned to this) of Mackris's claims against O'Reilly became the focus of new press attention. Talk about repackaging old, stale news!

O'Reilly even agreed to a second round, Tuesday night with cable's John Stewart.

Not to be left out, Michael Savage sat down for a very rare, lengthy discussion with Mike Kinosian for a broadcast trade publication:

A turbulent four-month MSNBC weekend stint came to a crashing close in July 2003 when Savage labeled a caller as a “sodomite” and suggested he should “get AIDS and die.” Hardly anxious to return to that medium anytime soon, Savage straightforwardly remarks, “It’s part of my past and I’m glad it’s over.

I didn’t have the support I thought I did.” If he were to attempt a television comeback, it would be in a non-news format. “It would be a fun thing, but I really don’t want to do it,” the onetime aspiring comedian remarks.

“I like the invisibility of radio and can think better in [this medium]. It was impossible to think in television. You’re [staring] at a camera and wondering how your hair and tie look. Those things distract you, [whereas] you can have an out-of-body experience in radio.

[But] if you make a mistake, you’ll pay for it the rest of your career. Thank God, radio has a delay and kill switch. It’s a net underneath a high wire we all work on. Radio is very mental – I love it.”

Next: the latest news roundups...

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Limbaugh, O'Reilly photos: FOX News Channel


  • Excellent coverage of two of the most influential talkers today, Hannity and Rush.

    Would be interesting to hear reporting on the pro-gun pro-life Don Imus, who's done more to help kids than any other radio show host I know.

    Keep up the good work.

    Ex-radio engineer/avionics/old time radio fan here. (I go back to vacuum tubs and Cousin Brucie).

    Proud Father of an American Soldier

    By Blogger meesterjoneser, at 19 October, 2005 17:17  

  • Hey Phantom Driver, you should check out satellite radio. Being an EE too, that portable one has got to be one of the neatest gadgets out there, IMO. Air America Radio has got it's own channel; they also put Colmes on the AAR schedule at 10:00pm.

    By Blogger WHT, at 20 October, 2005 00:10  

  • Oh, forgot to sign that last post with a full disclosure.

    Air America Associate

    By Blogger WHT, at 20 October, 2005 00:12  

  • what is so different between what Air America does and what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity do?

    I guess Rush had a point about lefties not understanding business or basic economics.

    Rush and Sean Hannity sell merchandise and premium services as an additional revenue stream to capitalize on their existing popularity.

    Air America is not popular, and can't support itself on advertising revenue. So, they solicit donations and offer crappy merchandise because, without it, they'll have to find another kids' charity to rob.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 20 October, 2005 08:21  

  • wht: Air American doesn't need my ears. I already know what they're going to say.

    Besides, they're losing just fine on their own, and, if I chose to do so, I'd tune 'em in on my l939 RCA 16-tube console.

    Have a Losing Day,

    Phantom Driver

    By Blogger meesterjoneser, at 20 October, 2005 09:12  

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