'Conservative' Host Smerconish Endorses Obama
Hoping For MSM Career Support, Philly Talker Backs Obama
As anyone in the broadcast industry can tell you, there are a lot of phonies in this business. Sure, some true believers project a sincere and consistent belief system, one which the audience comes to depend upon over time. They often rise to the top.
Then, there are the slithering snakes, chameleons who are willing to betray listeners for their own career benefit. Any bond formed with a host like this isn't real as these are hollow, shallow individuals interested only in endless self-promotion. Usually, they struggle.
Your Radio Equalizer has worked with a few over the years: one particularly shameless individual played "conservative" at one station in the morning and "liberal" for another (on the opposite coast) in the afternoon!
Sincerity and honesty mean nothing to these guys; they would trip their grandmother if it led to a cable talk show appearance.
This week's award for unadulterated Phoniness in Broadcasting goes to Philly's Michael Smerconish, a second-tier talk player with unrealistic national ambitions. Though he was more than happy to take advantage of conservative listeners for many years for fun and profit, he's now had a sudden, last-minute change of heart that's led to an endorsement of Barack Obama for president.
Worse, he's actually got the nerve to pretend this is somehow a principled move in response to talk radio's "ideologues":
Michael Smerconish lit up the phone lines and filled his in-box this morning at his WPHT show with word that he's planning to vote for Barack Obama -- marking the first time since he registered to vote 28 years ago that he'll pull the Democrat lever for president.
He'll explain all in his Sunday column in The Inquirer's Currents section -- as much as he can do in 750 words. The intro reads: "John McCain is an honorable man who has served his country well. But he will not get my vote."
In a chat this afternoon, Smerconish acknowledged that most of the callers and e-mails were scathing, capping months of criticism that began when Smerconish invited Obama to speak on the air. "They never wanted me to welcome Obama in the first place," he said. In the spring, Smerconish announced that if he were a Democrat, he'd prefer Obama over Hillary Clinton.
Smerconish's associations with John McCain date back years. I remember a Smerconish "book club" appearance with McCain at the Downtown Club in December 2005 that was a veritable love-in for the Arizona senator.
Smerconish also acknowledged that this "coming out" might hurt his career nationally. He's been a frequent guest on and fill-in host for big names such as Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly -- both of whom wear their conservativism loudly and proudly.
Which is the case with most talk radio today. As a Republican -- and Smerconish was a HUD administrator here under Bush 41 and he spoke on behalf of 43 here in 2004 -- Smerconish's politics have been frequently mislabeled as "conservative."
"Take a look at idealogues who dominate the [talk] industry today," he told me. "Nobody who straddles [the local and national scene] like I do has success at a national level unless they work at the ends of the political spectrum. I'm never going to be Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann." He agreed that making his decision public was "not in my professional best interest, but it's how I see it. Mine is an opinion, purely based on a lot of circumspection. I'm fortunate that I've chatted with both, been in their presence, so this is not uninformed decision."
Don't believe for a minute Smerconish has made this publicity-generating move believing it would "hurt his career." That's a flat out lie.
This is all about winning friends at MSNBC, where the WPHT host serves as a thrice-weekly panelist. The ONLY reason was to please Olbermann & Friends.
At TVNewser, Gail Shister brings up the inevitable questions about his motives:
Smerconish's radio contract expires Dec. 31. Buzz says he won't re-sign unless the station takes him national. His exclusive deal with MSNBC is up in the spring. He appears three times a week, on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" and on David Gregory's "Race to the White House."
Backing Obama will not win him points with either employer, Smerconish insists.
As a precaution, however, he gave a heads-up to his radio boss about the endorsement and he responded with a supportive email, Smerconish says.
Still, in the radio industry "listeners are surrounded by people who work them into a lather all day. I'm in a business where ideologues get rewarded. You tow the party line, and in talk radio the party line is very conservative."
By the same token, he says he didn't do himself any favors at MSNBC, either. (Not that there are any prime-time openings there.)
Think about this: Smerconish works a CBS station in Philly. He'd like the company, a liberal outfit, to syndicate him nationally (despite ZERO industry interest in such a venture) and has threatened to leave WPHT if they won't.
In addition, his deal with fringe-leftist NBC outlet MSNBC is also running out and you know how they feel about conservatives. Could an Obama endorsement from someone in this situation be any more transparent?
But unlike the phonies your Radio Equalizer has known in the past who try keep their insincerity and dual roles quiet, Smerconish has compounded the sleaziness of his move by attempting to wrap it some sort of "principled" independence.
Sadly, that means he views the audience as too stupid to see through his moves. But they know they've been burned. He used them for years to earn a high salary in one of the nation's top radio markets. Now that bigger opportunities have become possible, however, he's flushed his listeners right down the toilet.
To those on the left who might be ready to welcome Smerconish with open arms, don't think for a moment that he won't burn you as well, should a profitable opportunity arise.
One might hope this stunt could backfire, but it's far more likely mainstream media execs will reward him for supporting their candidate. In terms of listener credibility, however, Michael Smerconish has lost it forever.
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