The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

08 December 2005

MSNBC Host's Strange Approach To Guests


Scarborough Takes It Easy On Springer, Franken

If given the chance
to interview Jerry Springer and Al Franken, what would you ask the Air America Radio hosts? Larry King-style softball questions, or would you insist on accountability for past actions and positions?

Here at the Radio Equalizer, it's been some time since we last picked on MSNBC's Joe Scarborough. In fact, we forgot all about him. Two recent segments featuring Springer and Franken as guests, however, have the former Florida Republican congressman back in "the hot seat", one of his own making.

Apparently, viewers have also forgotten about ol' Joe, as his 10pm program ranks fourth out of the five primary cable news programs in the time period, with about 350,000 viewers on one recent weeknight. Only CNBC's Donny Deutsch has a smaller audience during the hour.

For MSNBC, does Scarborough serve as the resident non-threatening conservative? Perhaps, but he's not alone, given Tucker Carlson's even more ratings-challenged "Situation" following at 11pm.

Joe's even kind enough to extend his token role to the otherwise-leftist Huffington Post, believe it or not.

For a segment on (get this) Dr. Phil's personal problems, I'd be downright embarrassed to interview the likes of Jerry Springer. Even the trashmeister himself probably wondered what he was doing there:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: All right, so, Jerry, tell me, what's going on with Dr. Phil? You have been around syndicated TV. You know these guys. how can you explain a guy that moved from self-help for families into Aruban investigations and diet pills?

JERRY SPRINGER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first of all, I should say, I have never met Dr. Phil, so I don't know him personally, and I am not one to judge him.

But I do think what happens with talk shows is, as long as they stay in the entertainment area, that's fine, and that's good. They invariably get in trouble when all of a sudden they cross into the line of trying to be involved in news and make news. And there's a danger there, because you have two gods.

You have the gods of ratings to give you a hot show that people are going to watch, entertainment, and then you have the other god of news, which it's supposed to be -- there's a very strict standard about reporting and making sure that what you are talking about, you really know something about, making sure that the evidence that you present to the public is, in fact, valid.

And I think that's where perhaps that they are in trouble. They got into this criminal case, and I am not sure that's a real subject for a talk show.

SCARBOROUGH: And if you get into this sort of dead zone between entertainment and news, like Dr. Phil appears to be in, is it like, let's say, Hollywood stars that decide they want to talk about nuclear proliferation or global warming, where they get out of their comfort zone, and they have this need, I guess because of ego or whatever it is, to try to save the world?

SPRINGER: Well, that's different. The reason that situation is different, they are citizens. And every citizen, regardless of their job or their position, is entitled in a democracy to have a point of view, to express that point of view, to try to influence other people to that point of view. That's all great.

But when you are talking about a talk show, you are talking about something that itself is an entertainment business, and when it steps into the area of news, I think that's when trouble comes. If it would just stay in the area of entertainment, I think that's great.

SCARBOROUGH: All of a sudden, he seems to be getting out of his wheelhouse and looking kind of goofy. That's what Dr. Phil would say about himself, if he were taking himself on the couch, saying he is being goofy here. At what point does he start endangering this empire?

SPRINGER: Well, obviously, if there's a successful lawsuit against him and his credibility is then questioned, his empire is in danger then.

Here's the problem. This is what's different between talk show hosts and, let's say, actors. Actors play a role, whether it's in television or in movies. They are playing somebody else. And then if they want to give their opinion, that's separate, but they are playing someone else.

The problem with talk show hosts is, they are the empire of their talk show. It's the "Dr. Phil' show. It's the "Jerry Springer Show." It's "The Oprah Winfrey Show." So, therefore, we are not playing anybody else. We are ourselves. So what we say matters.

Aside from how simply asinine the topic and guest selection is here, trying to make some sense of Springer's train of thought took several transcript re-readings.

First, it's incredible to think Jerry Springer believes what he says actually matters to anyone.

In addition, is he arguing shows like Dr. Phil's have no business tackling current events because they're crossing an ethical line, or due to the probability they'll get in over their heads?

On the latter possibility, he'd have a valid point, depending on the show (his, for example).

Why not, however, ask Springer the real question: why should you have any credibility in discussing political issues on the radio, given what happens on your disgusting television show? Didn't Jerry leave himself wide open for that one?

Next, Scarborough viewers were treated to an amazingly generous (for the guest) book-plugging interview yesterday with Al Franken. While Joe did confront him on some political stances (at times strongly), there was no attempt to ask tough questions about his recent behavior issues, antics, or Air America sleaze.

Because Scarborough actually comes out looking okay in the first part of this excerpted transcript, look for more on my beef, below it:

He's a best-selling author, a talk radio pioneer, and now possible candidate for the United States Senate in the state of Minnesota.

He is Al Franken, host of "The Al Franken Show" on Air America Radio and now the Armed Forces Network. He's also the author most recently of a new book, "The Truth With Jokes."

JOE SCARBOROUGH: ... Let's talk about Howard Dean. You know -- and I am sure you have been talking about on your radio show the past couple days -- Howard Dean was on the radio on Monday, talking about the war in Iraq, a lot of people talking about it.

(audio clip of) HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that, unfortunately, is just plain wrong.

SCARBOROUGH: Now, as you know, Al, right-wingers like me jumped on this immediately.


SCARBOROUGH: Said that this showed that he was still caught in the Vietnam syndrome. I thought it was interesting, though. 'The Washington Post' (on Wednesday) wrote a column saying that Democratic leaders are very concerned that this type of talk and Nancy Pelosi's type of talk actually is going to hurt the party next year. What is your take on that?

FRANKEN: Well, I think he was at least telling, you know, what he thought was true. And I think it depends what you mean by winning the war. Are we going to do what we said we were going to do when we first went there, and set up a Jeffersonian democracy? No. That's just not going to happen. When the president said nothing short of complete victory, I am not sure what that means.

Howard Dean actually kind of was right. He was against our going in. I think it was a mistake. I was wrong. At the time, I believed Colin Powell. I believed that the presumption that the president is telling you the truth, so I thought I guess we have to go to war. It turns out that we were misled into the war, and not only that, but that, since then, the war has been badly bungled because of hubris, unwillingness to admit mistakes.

And we find ourselves in a situation where many, many smart people believe that our very presence there makes things worse. I don't -- and I think it's very hard to trust this administration in anything they say about the war.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, we could talk about that and debate the war. I would rather not do that, looking back. But I do want to talk...

FRANKEN: Well, I can understand why you wouldn't, because you are in such a weak position.

SCARBOROUGH: OK. Well, there you go. Now you have lured me into the debate. I always try to, you know, treat people when they come on my show like they are a guest in my home, but now you have pulled the switch. And I got to go after you.

FRANKEN: You don't have rude guests in your home ever?

SCARBOROUGH: All right. Well, I do, but I wait until they are rude to me before I start fighting back. I mean, you say the president lied about the war, but you know Ted Kennedy said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; Al Gore said it; Bill Clinton said it; John Kerry said it; John Edwards said it, said it was an imminent threat.

FRANKEN: Well, at what time?

SCARBOROUGH: Even Saddam Hussein said in 1998, I have got weapons of mass destruction. So...

FRANKEN: And, in 1998, he did have weapons of mass destruction. And after we bombed them, they didn't.

SCARBOROUGH: Where did they go? Where did they go?

FRANKEN: They were destroyed by President Clinton.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, good God. You don't believe that one missile strike at a camel and a tent destroyed Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction?

FRANKEN: That's wasn't what they did. As you know, it wasn't one missile strike at a camel and a tent. I don't know why you feel the need to mischaracterize...

SCARBOROUGH: Al, are you really suggesting -- listen, no serious person could step forward and say...

FRANKEN: No-the Duelfer report said that very thing.

SCARBOROUGH: ... Bill Clinton's missile strikes got rid of those weapons of mass destruction. Oh, come on. So, you are telling America tonight that the president's weapons of mass destruction, that the president's attack in '98 destroyed all of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction?

FRANKEN: Remaining weapons of mass destruction. That's exactly what the Duelfer report said. That's what the president's own weapons inspectors said, that those destroyed the remainder of...

(trimmed here)

SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much for being with us. Greatly appreciate it. The book is "The Truth With Jokes." Thanks so much, Al, for being with us.

Instead of gaining offensive control over the interview from the start, Scarborough fell into every debate trap set by Franken, which is inexcusable. If he's at all following Franken's recent antics, there should be plenty of ammo, even if he doesn't want to delve into the Air America scandal.

What about Franken's recent on-air "jokes" about executing Bush Administration officials? Or his ill-fated encounter with Justice Scalia? By going soft upfront, Al was in the driver's seat, even if Joe was correct on all of the points.

In the Radio Equalizer's view, there are guests with which one can cut slack upfront, but Franken isn't among them. Instead, the only reasonable approach is to have both guns drawn from the start, while maintaining a reasonably civil appearance.

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Scarborough, Dr. Phil photos: MSNBC, Lunatic by David A Lunde


  • Do you want concrete evidence illustrating why Al Franken can't be trusted? He flat-out lied to Scarborough:

    FRANKEN: And, in 1998, he did have weapons of mass destruction. And after we bombed them, they didn't.

    SCARBOROUGH: Where did they [WMD] go? Where did they go?

    FRANKEN: They were destroyed by President Clinton.


    SCARBOROUGH: ... the president's attack in '98 destroyed all of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction?

    FRANKEN: Remaining weapons of mass destruction. That's exactly what the Duelfer report said. That's what the president's own weapons inspectors said, that those destroyed the remainder of ...


    FRANKEN IS LYING. THE DUELFER REPORT SAYS NO SUCH THING. There's not even a hint of anything like Franken's claim in the Duelfer Report. Read more:

    Thank you, Brian. This is a classic example of the dishonesty of Al Franken.

    By Blogger frankenlies, at 08 December, 2005 23:23  

  • You can just read it for yourself at

    The key findings completely disagrees with what Franken says.(IE, weapons destroyed under Bush Sr. Programs rebuilt under Clinton. This suprised me to be honest. Usually he says stuff that's technically true but completely misleading. Here he's just lying.)

    By Blogger Big D, at 08 December, 2005 23:44  

  • Thanks guys, this is key, we should really make a stink here.

    And thanks for the Frankenlies site, I highly recommend it!

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 09 December, 2005 02:16  

  • Expect more Franken gloating: he's been Grammy nominated.

    What show of diversity the Spoken-Word category is. In addition to Franken, you've got:
    Sen. Obama
    Garrison Keillor
    Sean Penn
    George Carlin

    Franken just might be the most conservative of the group!!!

    By Blogger BF, at 09 December, 2005 08:37  

  • It's off the obsessive Franken subject matter, but since this used to dicuss talk radio in general: WRKO, the top-rated Boston talk station, has moved Michael Savage into the graveyard slot. His 7-10pm slot is being replaced by a local show focused on restaurants, arts, entertainment, etc.

    By Blogger Justin, at 09 December, 2005 09:05  

  • Justin,
    I'd say Savage deserves it. I still don't see what people see in him. He's whiny, angry, shrill, and contantly dissing other radio hosts. Except for telling us he's a conservative (and the only true conservative on the air), he sounds more like an AAR host than anything else.
    The local conservative host in Philly wups his but on a regular basis (but, to be fair, has a much better transmitter as well)

    By Blogger SCSIwuzzy, at 09 December, 2005 13:03  

  • Franklies:
    I like your site, particularly this below--

    About this site

    This web site is a non-profit, educational project of one individual.

    This individual was aided with the assistance of 0 Harvard researchers.

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 09 December, 2005 15:39  

  • Scarborough is in bed with AAR. he used to be law partners with one of the hosts. google it and find out which one. i'll give you a hint, there's only 2 lawyers on AAR, and they are on the same show. give up? try googling "rat of the week" and "scarborough" and see what you come up with.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 09 December, 2005 15:48  

  • "This individual was aided with the assistance of 0 Harvard researchers."

    A redundant statement. It would more clearly read, done with zero research.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 09 December, 2005 17:06  

  • Mike Papantonio it is.

    Iraq also sought dual-use items with potential ballistic missile applications from Chinese firms. Iraq sought items such as fuel for propellants and graphite, a key component in reentry vehicle nose tips, directional vanes, and engine nozzle throats. Iraq’s need for graphite-related products was heightened following severe damage inflicted during Operation Desert Fox to the Shahiyat Missile Facility, a known graphite production facility. Although this site was reconstructed, Western intelligence assessed that Iraq
    could not indigenously produce the quality of graphite necessary for ballistic missile components making it dependent on imports
    . Recovered documents from 2001 indicated a drive to acquire Chinese graphite related products such as electrodes, powder, and missile-related fuel:
    • Al-Najah Company, working through an Indian intermediary, purchased supplies of Chinese missile-grade graphite during August and September 2001.
    • In January 2003, Al-Merbab General Trading Company and Al-Ramig sought a supply of chemicals, both of which have applications in liquid rocket propellants, from Chinese companies (see inset). The Chinese companies, however, refused to sell chemicals to the Middle East because of its potential weapons application.

    Clinton took out their ballistics weapons construction capability; the Iraqis tried to get weapons grade material, but they couldn't find enough sellers.

    Trade in nitric acid, a precursor in the manufacture of solid propellant also flourished following the destruction of the Al Qa’Qa State Company Nitric Plant in
    December 1998, during Operation Desert Fox.

    Clinton took out their nitric acid facility. Since nitric acid is used in all sorts of things besides weapons, in particular semiconductor manufacturing, the Iraqis were clearly obliterated in their technological expertise.

    Pretty obvious that Clinton went after the manufacturing facilities and wiped them out, leaving Iraq in the stone age as far as state-of-the-art technology.

    By Blogger WHT, at 10 December, 2005 00:02  

  • Ahem:

    Iraq’s capacity to produce nitric acid tripled between 1998 and 2003.

    By Blogger HH, at 10 December, 2005 01:52  

  • It's not hard to triple something when it is down to nothing.

    It just so happens that Mike Malloy of AAR had a right-winger call in his show tonight who misinterpreted the Clinton Desert Fox action. Malloy basically destroyed the caller's argument, and gave the typical Malloy summary : "You as a group are the stupidest people I have come across"

    By Blogger WHT, at 10 December, 2005 03:00  

  • WHT,
    These guys are a bunch of morons, Franken's books are very well researched and vetted by the publisher.

    By Blogger pbrauer, at 10 December, 2005 13:03  

  • Umm, that's a red herring
    The original point was "Was Franken right in asserting Clinton got rid of the rest in 98 as per the Duelfer report?" The answer is no, he was wrong. All of a sudden the question is now "Did he get anything?" Different question. Sorry, no dice. (Now if you wanted to argue was Bush stupid to invade I'd give you that one hands down since the Duelfer report and other information definitely makes me think Bush overstated his case by a long long margin at best.)

    By Blogger Big D, at 10 December, 2005 14:18  

  • On page 225 of The Truth with jokes Franken wrote: "atrophied WMD capacity." Key on the word capacity. Without the capacity to deliver a weapon to the enemy, you have no weapon at. In fact the delivery system has to be considered part of the WMD, because without it, it is useless.

    Franken was correct.

    By Blogger pbrauer, at 10 December, 2005 18:25  

  • what pbrauer said.

    These right wing cretins just don't get it. For example, if we wanted to get rid of some sizable fraction of basic physics research, you could do it by taking out the helium supply. Find the lifeblood of any manufacturing activity and eliniate that, which is what Clinton basically accomplished.

    By Blogger WHT, at 11 December, 2005 01:01  

  • I'm afraid the comments by wht and pbrauer are emblematic of an inherent problem among many on the left today. Quite simply, there are some people that seem to never admit to an error by one of their own.

    Remember the actual issue: Al Franken claims that Iraq's WMD "were destroyed by President Clinton" and "the Duelfer Report said that very thing."

    The long cut-and-paste job from wht illustrates nothing.
    In it, wht simply adds his own made-up conclusions to the Duelfer Report, NONE of which are in the actual report itself (e.g., "the Iraqis were clearly obliterated in their technological expertise," "Clinton went after the manufacturing facilities and wiped them out.")

    The Duelfer Report is over 1,000 pages long. If Desert Fox did indeed "destroy" Iraq's WMD, the report would have said so; but it doesn't! Plain and simple.

    In addition, wht's implication that the graphite element (for ballistic delivery) was "wiped out" for good by Desert Fox is flat-out FALSE, and the Duelfer Report says so!: "Graphite Technology": "Through its efforts to reverse-engineer SCUD missile designs before 1991, Iraq gained an understanding and ability to produce graphite nose tips that would satisfy the technical requirements of warheads that could be used on systems from short to very long ranges ... ISG retrieved three Al Samud II graphite-tipped nose cones during site exploitations ... The procurement of graphite for the Iraqi ballistic missile program is well documented ... ISG discovered two large wooden boxes containing two to three tons of graphite blocks." Doh! That kinda debunks wht, doesn't it?

    The bottom line: Al Franken is flat-out wrong in this regard. His assertion is baseless and false.

    By Blogger frankenlies, at 11 December, 2005 07:45  

  • I'm sorry, Franken is just wrong. If you don't believe me here's a link to an interview with Duelfer himself. Yes really.
    You can listen to the man himself answer questions about his report. It's only about 8 minutes long but the point is this the reason that Iraq didn't have WMD is because they decided to not have them and focus on removal of sanctions. Once sanctions were gone he would restart his programs once those sanctions were gone. He is, as I am, uncertain if the invasion was actually necessary but he in no way suggests that the reason for the lack of WMD was Clinton.(I mean he's very clear on this point.) It was a strategic decision from Iraq and Saddam himself. I mean this is rediculous, Duelfer himself is disagreeing with Franken in an actual interview. He's being questioned about it and you can take a mere 8 minutes and listen to a PUBLIC interview and find out the answers for yourself and people here still can't admit Franken is being blatantly misleading.(Especially since the guy disagreing with Franken is the guy who wrote the report.) At this point unless you actually have, you know an interview from Duelfer where he says "I agree with Franken's assessment" I'm staying with my point of view since I have seen nothing that suggests at best Franken is playing his usual word games.

    By Blogger Big D, at 11 December, 2005 12:50  

  • frankenlies, I will disagree with you that it's just a lefty problem. I've seen too many far righties have exactly the same problem.(They can't admit one of their own is ever wrong.)

    By Blogger Big D, at 11 December, 2005 13:16  

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