The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

24 July 2008

Michael Savage Syndicator Stands By His Program


Savage Survives, Though Opponents Not Ready To Give Up

While leftist smear groups keep up the battle against him, Michael Savage's radio syndicator is standing by him, at least for now.

But the backlash against his recent comment regarding autistic children remains strong and it seems unlikely his program could survive another major controversy. Though only a handful of stations have so far cancelled his show, that could change at any moment if the flames are once again fanned.

Oddly enough, some autism experts actually believe the flap has helped their cause as the issue is placed on the news media's front burner.

For the Talk Radio Network, in the news just recently over Laura Ingraham's month- long program lockout, the defense strategy is simple: it believes Savage's words were taken out of context and should be weighed against dozens of other comments he's made on the same subject.

To make its case, TRN has set up a special website where his past comments on autism are archived.

In addition, it believes his traditional enemies at Media Matters and other leftist organizations have no business determining the on-air fate of anyone in talk radio.

Excerpted from a statement issued this afternoon by CEO Mark Masters (with your Radio Equalizer's take just below it):

Promptly after the Network’s management learned of the comments in issue, the Network commenced an investigation into the particulars and the circumstances of those comments. This investigation began with the Network’s CEO, Mark Masters, personally contacting Dr. Savage to address the concerns and obtain an explanation of the comments directly from Dr. Savage.

In that conversation, and other subsequent conversations between Mr. Masters and Dr. Savage, Dr. Savage explained the circumstances and intent of his statements in considerable detail. The Network also carefully monitored subsequent broadcasts of the Show, on Monday, July 21st and Tuesday, July 22nd, which were devoted to the subject of autism and further explanations by Dr. Savage of his views on the subject.

Dr. Savage has clarified that his July 16th statements concerning autism were not directed at those who are in fact challenged by this horrible affliction, but were instead addressing efforts to broaden the concept of autism beyond those who truly are autistic to a broader “autistic spectrum” of behavioral symptoms which are also manifested by persons who do not suffer from autism, and his concern that many children are being misdiagnosed as autistic due to the subjective nature of autism diagnosis (due to the lack of known biomedical indicators, such as blood tests, to definitively confirm or deny the actual existence of autism).

Dr. Savage has also explained his belief that there have been efforts by certain professionals and professional organizations to expand diagnoses of autism more broadly, for various reasons, and his concern that this victimizes and stigmatizes children who are misdiagnosed as autistic. On multiple other occasions Dr. Savage has expressed his concerns that other conditions, such as ADD and ADHD, are overdiagnosed and result in improper medication of young children, which Dr. Savage regards as abusive.

In the context of his broader concerns, it is clear that Dr. Savage’s comments were intended to suggest his opinion that, in the vast majority of cases, most children throwing tantrums, or refusing to communicate, are not autistic. Unfortunately, by condensing his multifaceted concerns into 84 seconds of commentary, the necessary context for his remarks was not apparent, and the few words he used to express his concerns were, in this instance, inartfully phrased.

As a result, Dr. Savage’s comments did facially appear to be directed at children who suffer from autism, and clearly could be perceived as such. This has, in turn, caused understandable pain and distress to those who have a child or family member who is challenged by autism. This was not Dr. Savage’s intent, and, on behalf of the Network and all persons associated with the Network, we wish to note that our hearts go out to all families who are forced to face the realities of autism every day of their lives, and to sincerely apologize to these families for any increase in these burdens resulting from inartful commentary appearing in the Network’s programming.

While the phrasing of Dr. Savage’s remarks was inartful, after the aforementioned investigation, as well as personal knowledge of Dr. Savage’s strongly held views towards children and those dealing with special challenges, the Network is satisfied that he did not mean any disrespect to autistic children or their families but was instead reiterating his longstanding concerns on public health issues.

Indeed, on these points, Mark Masters, the Network’s CEO, notes that:

“I have known Michael Savage for nine years now. Over those nine years, we have had occasion to disagree on many issues.

However, I have always respected Michael as a man of conviction, and I have noticed throughout our relationship that he has always been passionate and intense in his opposition to persons who he perceived to be disrespectful of persons dealing with special challenges.

I once asked him about his passion in this area, and he noted that it was because he had a brother who was disabled, but that he did not want to discuss it. Michael never shared any particulars on this with me until he shared with his audience on Monday that his brother never spoke during his lifetime, was institutionalized at 5 or 6 years old, and died in that institution in his 20’s.

My observations of Michael’s consistent opposition to what he viewed as abuse or disrespect of persons dealing with special challenges, and of his interest in children, as well as his 1982 book, Healing Children Naturally, are completely inconsistent with Michael attacking children who are truly autistic. In contrast, his belief that misdiagnosing children as autistic will damage those children who are misdiagnosed and stigmatize them for life, his aversion to what he sees as improper medication of young children, and subjecting them to a lifetime of chemical straight jackets, and his recent sharing of his belief that the medical profession failed to properly care for his brother prior to his brother’s death, do
explain his passion in challenging what he sees as improper efforts by some in the health care industry to brand and treat as autistic persons who are not.”

In this context, for multiple reasons, the Network does not believe that it is appropriate to take adversarial action to suspend or terminate Dr. Savage for not phrasing his comments in this instance more carefully.

First, the Network recognizes, and those who are calling for action against Dr. Savage should recognize, that live talk radio is unscripted. Hosts do not read from prompters. Regardless of the abilities of any individual host, it is impossible to expect that hosts can in all instances avoid any instances of failure to provide full context and caveats for every statement made in three hours per day, five days per week, of a live talk program.

The Network also believes, as a policy matter, that it is not appropriate to censor the opinions of its hosts on legitimate issues. Neither the Network nor its management personnel agree with all positions asserted by all hosts on each of the Network’s shows.

As a policy matter, the Network neither supports nor rejects individual policy statements asserted by its hosts. It does, however, support the rights of its hosts to express their views on public policy issues.

The purpose of talk radio is to raise the level of public discourse by introducing commentary on controversial issues. If the Network were to require hosts to refrain from stating views which others disagree with, or discipline hosts for holding unpopular views, its hosts would be intimidated from exercising their freedom of expression. Should this ever become the standard for talk radio, the interchange of ideas and debate which is the lifeblood of talk radio would be destroyed, and the freedom of expression which is a hallmark of American democracy would be eroded.

The Network is particularly concerned with respect to efforts to remove Dr. Savage from the airwaves by persons or organizations who disagree with his political views. In the case of the underlying July 16th autism clip comments now in issue, the Network must be cognizant of the fact that the initiation of a campaign to remove Dr. Savage from the air for those comments was instigated by Media Matters, an organization which regularly tapes broadcasts of The Michael Savage Show for the purpose of finding sound bites which could be used in an effort to remove him from the airwaves, for their own political ends.

In this case, the Network does believe that there has been an effort by Media Matters to take advantage of an inartful lapse on the part of Dr. Savage in failing to supply full context, caveats and explanations in the 84 seconds of comments at issue. While the Network and Dr. Savage regret any pain to families of autistic children as a result of inartfully phrased comments intended to enhance the welfare of children, it does appear to the Network that Media Matters and others now seek to cynically exploit this particular sound bite, out of context, to harness the pain of parents with truly autistic children, for their own self-serving agenda, in a broader political effort to remove a voice they politically disagree with from the airwaves.

In this context, the Network does question, if such efforts were to be successful with respect to Michael Savage, which other hosts will be the next targets. This is not the first, nor will it be the last, attempt by Media Matters to exploit any issue for their own self -serving political and social agenda.

Despite the concerns on the Network’s part as to the motivations of Media Matters and other organizations which seek to remove those hosts they disagree with from the airwaves, and its belief that no action against Michael Savage is warranted under all applicable circumstances of this situation, the Network does want to take some positive action to address the fact that inartful statements concerning autism were made on one of its programs. As a result, the Network will begin broadcasting public service announcements with respect to legitimate autism issues, subject to spot availability, without charge, and will be encouraging other networks to do the same. In this regard, the Network invites organizations which would desire to submit public service announcements to forward them by email to, or by mail to P.O. Box 3755, Central Point, OR 97502.

In contrast to the cynical efforts of Media Matters to manipulate 84 seconds of commentary out of context, for its own ends, the Network does believe that the issue is about the children. While the 84 seconds at issue has created intense controversy, the Network welcomes the opportunity to broaden the discussion on the important issues relating to autism, the “autism spectrum”, the validity of autism diagnoses, and the ever-expanding drugging of America’s children.

The Network commenced this discussion in the July 21st and 22nd broadcasts of The Michael Savage Show. For those who believe that the 84 seconds cited by Media Matters defines Michael Savage’s views on autism, the Network recommends going to (or clicking). to view a representative sampling of Dr. Savage’s views, as well as the applicable issues, in true context.

From here, Savage and TRN have some choices to make: either their top- rated host rethinks some of his rhetoric, or what's left of the show and his credibility will collapse. Can Michael stay in control?

In addition, it's also a good time for Savage to reconsider the direction of his program. He was at his best in the early days on San Francisco radio when he remained focused on current events and political topics.

At the time, he could be amazingly effective in going after key targets. He was railing against George Soros, Nancy Pelosi and others years before they appeared on the national radar.

Since then, however, the program's quality has been erratic, with a lack of focus on major issues and energy wasted endlessly bashing Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and others.

In addition, there have been too many previous incidents of off-the-wall, loose cannon- like remarks that do nothing but cause headaches for his syndicator, affiliates and advertisers.

The industry perception of Savage is that he isn't willing to listen to advice and won't change his style to suit anyone. That kind of approach might be admirable at times, but here, it's likely to mean an early end to his program. Remain stubborn and it all comes crashing down.

At the moment, he's hanging by a thread.

Will this site soon be writing about his show's outright cancellation? It's up to him.

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

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  • 'The industry' you cite, meaning the talk radio industry, is of no interest to me as a Savage listener. Those of us who are his listeners are not hanging by a thread. As you stated in an earlier post, those attacking him don't care about autism anyway. This whole thing is only being discussed because of an email campaign against him. Some seem stuck on seeing just 2 types of people in the world which worked in the 1960's and 70's but does not work at all today. The issue is not about his show or what he says. It's about the ability of an email campaign to dissect comments and ridiculously magnify them. Savage is about borders, language and culture-his show has not veered from these issues.

    By Blogger susan mullen, at 25 July, 2008 00:21  

  • I have listened to Savage for over five years. I agree with him about 40% of the time, but his views on child psychology are completely wrong. His degree does not qualify him to comment about autism or ADHD. When will he ever discuss the specifics of the diagnosis? He gives a shallow and superficial interpretation of the disorders, which are serious. He does not appear to have any in depth understanding of ADHD medications yet probably influence thousands of parents to keep their children off a much needed, possibly life saving treatment. Sad.

    By Blogger The SchoolP, at 25 July, 2008 11:01  

  • Actually I care very much about autism. More so the people affected by it, like my son. Its us, the parents of kids with ASD and the Autism Community, that are being hurt the most by these comments - its backpedaled statements - and the misinformation it spreads. So its US that are leading this fight, NOT your Left-Wing enemies. We don't care about your Bi-partisan bickering. We spend our lives advocating and fighting for autism related causes. We didn't choose this path, it's our responsibility. Its like I said when the comments first broke out. I don't think you realize which community you've offended, and I don't think you understand the difference between ADD and ASD.

    By Blogger Bryan, at 25 July, 2008 16:35  

  • ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The NY Times, the LA Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, Fox TV, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair,many internet sites, etc. These are some of the many outlets that reach and influence the masses 24 hours a day. Michael Savage's reach is nothing compared to these and others. It was an email campaign that drew attention to 84 seconds of his comments. He could not possibly have influenced many people with so few words on his own. This is saying nothing about partisan views, simply reality. I worked in local radio stations for 20 years. One of my early managers described a radio station as a "mom and pop grocery store" and that's even more accurate today. They are peanuts and scotch tape operations compared to other mass media outlets.

    By Blogger susan mullen, at 25 July, 2008 21:35  

  • As noted on OMW, Savage affiliate WHK/Cleveland is jettisoning the show starting 8/4, with the local manager calling Savage a "knucklehead" to the newspaper's media writer.

    Whatever you think about this latest gaffe, the message is clear, IMHO.

    Savage was once basically the "only option" of any significance to local talk radio programmers in the 6-9 PM (once 7-10 PM) Eastern slot.

    He started getting successful in SF, got some other ratings success stories, and became talk radio's "default" early evening (ET) show.

    But in the back of local managers' heads everywhere was a worry he'd go off the deep end, on or off the air. It's his schtick. It's what he does...the ranting angry man at night.

    Not many station managers want to deal with protests and complaints over something their syndicated evening host did.

    And now that Mark Levin has picked up steam in the same time slot, and lots of non-ABC clearances, local managers have an option...and this little problem of Savage's, or the next one, or the next one, probably has the ABC/Citadel folks who sell Levin licking their chops.

    It's not about the ideology, or the Media Matters folks, or anything but the fact that Savage is a loose cannon, and even the slightest headache at this point may be enough to drive local talk radio programmers into the waiting arms of Mr. Levin's show.

    Just my opinion.

    By Blogger Ohio Media Watch, at 26 July, 2008 00:07  

  • um, brian - would you like to update your link to TRN with the FACT that these supposed "past" quotes by savage were all - all - in reality statements he made _after_ the autism comments he made that got him in so much trouble?

    So - little timeline here:

    - savage says 99% comment that gets him in trouble

    - savage comes back days later and makes nice about autism and lies that he was taken out of context, thereby retroactively qualifying his comments

    - trn links the audio from the SECOND BULLET POINT ABOVE, and claims those are things savage has said "before" (well, he did say them BEFORE TRN LINKED THEM, but none before the first bullet point that got him in trouble)

    By Anonymous TJ, at 28 July, 2008 01:59  

  • I am writing this letter in response to Michael Savage’s comments concerning Autism. As some of you know he is a Radio Talk Show Host for WRKO Am 680. The remarks he made saying, that people with Autism were “brats that haven’t been told to cut it out” are completely and utterly ridiculous! This, coming from a man that has no idea of what raising a child with any disability is like.

    I am the mother of three boys, one of which happens to have severe Autism, Mental Retardation and severe Sensory Integration Dysfunction. He is not a brat or moron or an idiot! He has become a wonderful loving, embracing and caring person. For years they told us that by the time he was seven he would have to be institutionalized because he would never be able to function in society. He would never be able to communicate, give or receive affection, be able to deal with his surroundings, become a productive human being, and that he would become so physically aggressive, we wouldn’t be able to handle or care for him. They went on to say that he would ultimately endanger any other children brought into our home. That is so far from the truth for my now sixteen year old child with Autism. He has two younger brothers that he loves dearly and he is very protective of them.

    Through the persistence of our family we all worked diligently in desensitizing him through our touch and embraces. Never letting him push us away to avoid our contact. Now, he is able to give and receive affection. Though it has taken us many years to accomplish this task, it has been well worth the wait! In the beginning we were unable to hold, touch, kiss or even lay next to him. He would bag his head violently against anything hard just to be able to feel something – anything to let him know he was there. Dylan suffers from extreme Sensory Integration Dysfunction. These are just a few of those issues to have to deal with daily;
    • An acute awareness of background noises
    • Fascination with lights, fans, water
    • Hand flapping/repetitive movements
    • Spinning items, taking things apart
    • Walking on tip-toe
    • Little awareness of pain or temperature
    • Coordination problems
    • Unusually high or low activity level
    • Difficulty with transitions (doesn't "go with the flow")
    • Self-Injury or aggression
    • Extremes of activity level (either hyperactive or under active).
    • Fearful in space (on the swings, seesaw or heights).
    • Striking out at someone who accidentally brushes by them.
    • Avoidance of physical contact with people and with certain "textures," such as sand, paste and finger paints.
    • The child may react strongly to stimuli on face, hands and feet.
    • A child may have a very short attention span and become easily distracted. A strong dislike of certain grooming activities, such as brushing the teeth, washing the face, having the hair brushed or cut.
    • An unusual sensitivity to sounds and smells.
    • A child may refuse to wear certain clothes or insist on wearing long sleeves/pants so that the skin is not exposed.
    • Frequently adjusts clothing, pushing up sleeves and/or pant legs.

    Dylan has learned through years of desensitizing therapy how to cope with some of these areas. But for the most part he still struggles daily with them. He no longer bags his head to feel something. We have learned how to give him the sensation he needs through deep pressure rubs. Again, this is something that has taken us years to be able to do with him.
    Verbal skills are another issue. Although, he is somewhat verbal in his immediate needs, he is unable to tell us if something is wrong. Most children are able to relay their concerns to their parents; in our case all Dylan knows how to do is cry. He has cried for many hours trying to convey his problem to us, only to come up short, because he doesn’t know how to tell us. Autism is truly connecting the pieces of a puzzle together. As parents, we have to try to figure out what is wrong, where it hurts or how to fix it. Sometimes, it seems almost impossible to know what to do or how to fix your child’s crying broken heart.
    As for Mr. Savage’s remarks that Autism is merely a “racket to get public assistance”, again this is so far from the truth! Our family has struggled for years to make ends meet. For the most part, when Dylan was younger, I was able to work. However, now that he is older and requires more assistance, making it impossible for me to work. There is no one qualified to care for him that we can afford. Dylan needs constant care before, during and after school. During school he has a personal aid that stays with him. Under IDEA 2004 this is paid for by the school but only during school hours. Because of the severity in his disability and his extremely limited verbal skills, we as parents, could not fathom leaving him in the care of anyone who has no idea how to care for a person with Autism. So for the last couple of years I have had to stay home unable to work.
    As for public assistance – we are still fighting to get any help. Dylan is on the Medicaid-Wavier waiting list and has been for several years. This is a program designed to keep families together versus institutionalizing people with disabilities. It allows support personnel to be brought into the home so that families can work to better provide for their household. There are literally thousands on this waiting list still waiting to receive any help. However, while these families wait for the help needed, sometimes we loose vital things such as electricity, gas and sometimes food!
    We are not losers, low lifers, nor are we people just waiting for hand outs. We are families in desperate need of help from our communities and our government. I think for the majority of the parents we would rather be a working member of society and not one that requires any assistance from outside sources. But in many cases it just isn’t possible. Our children didn’t ask to have their disabilities - they didn’t have a say in it. We as parents never wish to have a child with great impairments, we wish for perfect healthy babies. But guess what, there is no such thing as perfect in any human being except for Jesus Christ! He and he alone is the only perfect specimen in our world’s creation!
    For Michael Savage to make such an ignorant assumption about people with Autism not only does he belittle those living with it daily, he also may as well slap the parents in the face. What he fails to realize is that parents spend countless hours dealing with;
    • Many doctors that know less than the parents know about their child’s disability
    • Numerous visits to many far away doctor visits
    • Years of continued struggles with school systems to ensure our children receive an education regardless of their disability.
    • Fighting for our children’s right to be a part of their own communities
    • Worrying what the future holds for them and if we’ll be around to protect that future
    The list of worries and concerns can go on for miles. But as for Michael Savage, I guess he’s one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to deal with issues like what “we common folk have to”! As for my personal opinion, my family is so blessed to have Dylan. God has given us a wonderful gift three times over. I have three wonderful, beautiful, loving and caring children that I get the privilege of rising. Although, we have our many struggles in life be they financial or emotional, I wouldn’t trade them for the world! I am a better mother and person because of them and will continue to be a superior parent for them.

    Kim Johnson
    Proud mother of three ;-)

    Medina, TN 38355

    By Anonymous Kim J, at 28 July, 2008 13:31  

  • Talk Radio Network and CEO Mark Masters spin is even more disingenous than you may think. TRN also syndicates a show hosted by Mark Masters father - Roy Masters - who is spreading the same lies about autism.

    By Blogger TED, at 29 July, 2008 17:31  

  • To Ted and Kim:

    You two have been used by the left-leaning Media Matters and other so called Autistic people to blast Michael Savage.

    Kim in your case, you have an extremely legitimate case with your children suffering those disabilities and they should get all of the treatment possible.

    But I want you two and others to visit Hating Autism. This blog EXPOSES the TRUTH about Autism, vaccines, and those frauds who want nothing more than to silence critics through left-leaning politics.

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 30 July, 2008 19:45  

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