The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

09 November 2005

Lizz Winstead-Air America Suit Proceeds


While Air America Suit Heats Up, New MSNBC Deal Emerges

Monday's heavily-publicized Connie Chung-Maury Povich MSNBC talk show announcement immediately brought a few questions to mind:

--- Maury still has a TV show? Who knew?

--- How was Connie Chung nearly forgotten in just two years off the air?

--- Was Don Imus right when he made this comment (via New York Post):

Yesterday, reacting to news that Aaron Brown had left CNN and been replaced by Anderson Cooper, the I-Man said, "Which means there will be, very soon, 'The Aaron Brown Report' here on MSNBC, because the MO for MSNBC is [that] anybody at either Fox or CNN who can't get it done, they hire 'em here, thinking I don't know what . . ."

--- And, of course: why does it matter what happens at a network without viewers?

After her stormy departure earlier this year, the real surprise here was seeing former Air America Radio host Lizz Winstead resurface at MSNBC.

Winstead seemed to disappear off the face of the planet in the months after her Air America sacking. Her lawsuit against the liberal radio network's parent company Piquant LLC can be viewed here.

Winstead didn't respond to previous emails and recently removed the address link from her website. In addition, it hasn't been updated since September.

Given just one paragraph in a lengthy New York Times piece on the Chung-Povich pairing, nothing was said about the former Daily Show co-creator's recent past:

The as-yet-untitled, half-hour program - a review of the week's news that will fuse elements of "Meet the Press," the defunct "Crossfire" and "The Daily Show" - will appear on Saturday mornings and be rerun on Sundays. The executive producer is Lizz Winstead, a co-creator of "The Daily Show" who, until earlier this year, was the host of her own program on Air America, the talk radio network.

With investigative partner Michelle Malkin, we've been tracking the status of Lizz Winstead's lawsuit against Air America Radio for several months. From our previous reporting:

On May 20, 2005, comedian Lizz Winstead filed suit in New York, detailing a laundry list of allegations against Air America Radio parent Piquant LLC.

Accusing the company of failing to pay wages, promotional fees, accrued holiday compensation and severance, Winstead is seeking $290,716, plus interest...

...After a bumpy career path, Winstead found major success as co-creator of "The Daily Show With Craig Kilborn", but departed in early 1998, after Kilborn made apparently offensive public remarks about her. Later, she appeared in guest spots on other programs.

It seems clear Winstead was utilized in dual programming and on-air roles at Air America. Published reports from early 2004 listed her in both, here and here. Mediaweek noted she'd been programmer and host, in this blurb regarding her exit.

It's not known what was in her original employment agreement, or for which programming decisions Winstead may have been responsible (other than her own "Unfiltered"). One thing isn't in dispute: on May 24, 2004, she agreed to sign a release supplied by the company.

What exactly it was intended to cover is exceptionally confusing. Winstead believed it to be a release of monetary claims against Progress Media, so Piquant could take it over, without facing demands for unpaid compensation....

....After May 24th, 2004, Winstead believed her previous employment terms remained, with an annual management salary of $250,000, plus options, a potential bonus, profit-sharing, an AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) union-designated scale wage for her on-air duties ($225,000), less $50,000, for reasons not disclosed in her complaint.

While there was recent speculation about a possible settlement, details obtained today by the Radio Equalizer point to a continued legal fistfight.

That earlier, unconfirmed report had the two sides about $60,000 apart on settlement terms. Obviously, that gap wasn't bridged.

New information indicates Air America and Winstead are miles apart and not at all likely to settle out of court. The pre-trial discovery phase has now concluded and depositions soon will be complete, as well.

Winstead has retained Madison Avenue-based Edward Hernstadt of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz to represent her.

For their defense, Piquant LLC (Air America Radio) went outside their usual counsel and hired Park Avenue-based Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP.

With an upcoming courtroom showdown, it's increasingly possible Winstead and Air America will again see this suit generate significant news coverage.

Does this give Air America an advantage in pushing a hardball settlement? MSNBC might not want its name associated with this action. In addition, Chung and Povich might want Winstead's focus on the new show, rather than old business.

Or does it help Winstead? Air America doesn't need further bad publicity related to litigation. And since it's not the kind of suit one would expect to be covered by corporate insurance, any judgment could hit already-depleted corporate coffers.

Would Air America's Rob Glaser (serving a dual role as CEO of RealNetworks) end up covering a Winstead payout? Is Glaser really willing to forever function as the company's cash machine?

So often recently, the company's found itself on the wrong end of threatened or filed legal actions. Several have not yet been brought to public attention.

As a result, one would imagine they'd rather generate headlines for their product, rather than grievances by former staffers, executives, architects and corporations.

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Chung/Povich Photo: New York Times


  • Brian, I can't believe you haven't made any comment about the shuttering of Democracy Radio.

    Furthermore, I can't believe you're not checking Viking Pundit on a daily basis to find this information. Geez.

    By Blogger Eric, at 08 November, 2005 20:41  

  • Tom Athans KILLED Democracy radio, and now he is going to take his "history of success" to Hairball America!

    By Blogger Tom C, at 08 November, 2005 21:20  

  • Athans successfully got Ed Shultz on over 100 stations and Stephanie Miller on 40. He sold the syndication rights to Clear Channel, made a bundle of money, and moved on to Air America.

    Yeah, he killed it all right.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 09 November, 2005 05:08  

  • Ya know, if Nancy Pelosi would just donate some of that money she saves by paying less than subsistence wages to her employees at the country club, restaurants, and hotels she owns to Err America, they could put it toward paying Winstead what she's owed.

    By Blogger Crapdog, at 09 November, 2005 10:31  

  • If Michael Moore would sell some of the thousands of shares of Halliburton he owns, he could help out also.

    By Blogger Crapdog, at 09 November, 2005 10:33  

  • Ted and the rest of the Kennedy crime family could pitch in also if they would just liquidate some of the trusts they have set up overseas in order to avoid paying taxes.

    By Blogger Crapdog, at 09 November, 2005 10:35  

  • "And since it's not the kind of suit one would expect to be covered by corporate insurance, any judgment could hit already-depleted corporate coffers."

    you got any figures to back that up? if not, might i suggest that you refrain from making speculations. after all, one could specualte that the maloney family is down to their last dollar. i have no evidence of this, but apparently on this blog we are allowed to make factless claims.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 09 November, 2005 12:37  


    New TALKERS list actually has some prog. talk folks but they still lag way behind the Rush/Hannity/Savage

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 09 November, 2005 13:08  

  • hardcore:

    It's a fair question, but the sourcing is solid on these details.

    Any settlement for Winstead would be out-of-pocket for AAR. Take it to the bank.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 09 November, 2005 13:39  

  • I can't believe you haven't asked why is that horse mouthed fat lady Rita Cosby Live and Direct on people's TV's nightly ... like she wasn't bad enough as part of the Fauxnews team...Now she has to come to the Republican Mainstream channels like MSNBC?

    She's recockulous like GW Bush.

    By Blogger BRUISER, at 09 November, 2005 13:41  

  • Eric:

    Viking Pundit is terrific, one of the very best. Sorry I missed your post.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 09 November, 2005 14:04  

  • $60,000 is indeed small time to a major corporation. It's suprising they can't come to terms considering litigation costs. Of course, that assumes that AAR has the money.

    crapdog: Do you have a link for the Pelosi allegation? I'm sure lots of people would be interested. For instance, here's some speculation about the two small vineyards she owns.

    By Blogger LonewackoDotCom, at 09 November, 2005 17:35  

  • Anybody hear the deal between Ed Schults and Dennis Prager?

    Ed made very disparaging remarks about Dennis.

    Dennis invited him to come on his show and debate...offered to pay Ed's travel expenses...Ed's producer emailed Dennis' producer and said Ed would not do it.
    Ed continued to rant about Dennis..then claimed "He never said he wouldn't appear on Dennis' show"
    No..he didn't..his producer did.
    That's the kind of person Ed Schultz is.

    By Blogger Khodabear, at 10 November, 2005 18:49  

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