The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

10 March 2008

Spitzer's Troubles Boost Talk Radio, Corporate Owners Cheer


Spitzer Meldown Is Talk Gold, Suits See "Karma"

*** UPDATED ***

The same New York governor who approved a cushy deal for the swindlers who diverted taxpayer money to Air America Radio, at the same time he was declaring war on Wall Street, self- destructed today and talk radio couldn't be happier.

While hosts seized upon Spitzer's latest scandal, most likely the final nail in his coffin, corporate suits saw it as "karma" after he led a lengthy campaign against payola fraud in the radio business.

Moments after it broke, talk titan Rush Limbaugh dropped what he was doing (as did others) and jumped on the breaking story, quickly dispensing advice for the embattled governor:

RUSH: Another thing on this Spitzer thing. These people on TV won't leave this alone. Look, Fox hasn't left it, CNBC's awaiting Spitzer statement, MSNBC, this is a personal matter! It's about sex. It's a personal matter, and it has nothing to do with the way he's governed. Do you think prostitution rings had any impact on his driver's licenses for illegals program in New York? (laughing) I'm sorry, folks. I don't think I'm pulling this off. I'm just trying to use all the Clinton arguments back during the Lewinsky days. It's a private matter. It's personal matter. None of our business. Everybody does it. He's not tapping his toe in the bathroom, for crying out loud, in the airport up in Fargo. So what the hell?


RUSH: It's obvious, folks, Eliot Spitzer waiting for this show to end to start his 2:15 press conference. He's already 35 minutes late. Hillary can help here. Mrs. Clinton can be of major assistance here, got lots of experience, the bimbo eruptions. She does, and you don't know where this is coming from. Maybe one of the babes in prostitution ring talked and he's got no choice here. You never know. She could go after the prostitutes for charging too much money, seducing men for a profit, suggesting that Spitzer was just doing the right thing trying to take their profits like a good Democrat liberal would. Hillary can then advise Spitzer's wife how to play this. In this case, she's got experience on how to handle something like this. She's invaluable. She also can give him a heads-up advice on going after these sex-crazed prosecutors, so forth and so on. By the time it's all over, Spitzer could be the VP now. You never know. We'll just have to wait and see now.

At NewsBusters, Tim Graham has more on the media's selective spin when it comes to partisan political downfalls. Here, the New York Times covers reactions from its favorite (read: liberal) bloggers.

With Spitzer reportedly expected to resign tonight, the suddenly deteriorating state of New York Democrats is sure to take center stage on talk radio nationwide tomorrow.

As recently as this morning, however, Dems were crowing about being just one seat away from wresting control of the state senate from Republicans for the first time in years. That's the result of an unexpected GOP loss in a special upstate election held just days ago. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was so concerned with the coming one- party rule that he wrote a huge check to the Republicans, determined to help them keep control of the chamber.

But Spitzer was himself already quite unpopular before these bombshell revelations, mostly due to his role in the sleazy "Troopergate" scandal, which sought to bring down GOP Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno through a dirty tricks campaign.

In the past, these earlier flaps would have provided great ratings- building fodder for talk radio in New York City, but there is so little local programming left that the medium really hasn't been a major player this time.

While WABC is down to just one local show during daytime hours, sleepy competitor WOR still features fluff and food talk, although it has recently moved in the right direction by adding some issues- oriented programming. And even WABC's one remaining program, hosted by Curtis Sliwa, may yet go into syndication.

Given New York's rampant corruption and near- constant political intrigue, there's enough material to keep a station busy 24-7. Yet many cities have more local issues- oriented talk than the Big Apple, including Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago and many more. There's clearly a need, but the marketplace isn't filling it.

Another issue that needs to be addressed at once is the corporate gloating going on over Spitzer's downfall. While it is true that he attacked many companies unfairly for the sake of his own political advantage, his crusade against sleaze in the radio business was mostly on the mark. There's no way the suits can use Spitzer's political collapse to claim they weren't actively accepting payola. Nice try, guys, Eliot was merely picking the low- hanging fruit when he went after you.

In the coming days, talkers ought to adopt Graham's position and look for other examples of media hypocrisy: why is it that a single Republican caught in a scandal supposedly reflects poorly on the whole party, while a Democrat is treated as an individual with no partisan connection?

There's little doubt that in the coming days, that angle will represent just the tip of the iceberg for talk radio. That's why Client Nine = Cloud Nine for the medium.

UPDATE: NY Daily News has more on talk radio's reaction, including from WOR's Steve Malzberg and Sean Hannity:

There was not a lot of sympathy for disgraced Spitzer Monday on talk radio, where conservative hosts and the governor have had little use for each other.

"I feel badly for his wife and kids," said Malzberg. "What I don't like is his blatant steamrolling hypocrisy. Who hasn't made mistakes? Not the effing steamroller."

Over on WABC (770 AM), afternoon host Sean Hannity went on just about the time Spitzer was making his brief public statement, apologizing but not resigning.

"I don't like Spitzer," said Hannity. "He threatened me once. I think he's a jerk. But I see his wife and I think of his kids and I can't take pleasure in this."

Still, both Hannity and Malzberg, and most of their callers, noted Spitzer's reputation for arrogance and found some clear satisfaction at seeing him humbled.

Malzberg, noting Spitzer's apparent identification as "Client No. 9" in the call girl service, also played John Lennon singing "Number 9, Number 9" from the Beatles' "Revolution No. 9."

More media reactions from this NY Times update. WaPo: talk radio not likely to give up Hillary- Spitzer connection.

UPDATE: Here's Bill O'Reilly's reaction

UPDATE: Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes cover the breaking news

UPDATE: kicking off Tuesday's show, Rush is slamming the GOP's "tip-toeing" over the Spitzer affair, compared to the loud denunciations by Dems when a Republican is in similar trouble. Limbaugh says Internet and network liberals are now dwelling on how it's a "private matter" and a "tragedy" rather than an outrage.

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

Volume Two in Robert Ferrigno's "Assassins" Trilogy is finally available! See the Amazon box in the top right corner for details.

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