KSFO's Morgan: "I wouldn't describe Friday's show as apologetic by any means"

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

On the January 15 edition of the Morning Show on ABC-owned Bay Area radio station KSFO, conservative co-hosts Melanie Morgan and Officer Vic assailed the media coverage of their special January 12 "no-holds-barred" discussion in which they and other KSFO hosts responded to the criticism by Media Matters for America and various bloggers of their extreme rhetoric. Specifically, Morgan lambasted a report by San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX that described the KSFO hosts as "apologetic" during the broadcast. "They spent 30 seconds in a voice-over form explaining that we were apologetic," Morgan said. "Well, I wouldn't define Friday's show as apologetic by any means or any stretch of the imagination."

During the January 12 program, the hosts certainly did defend many of the inflammatory remarks that, in 2006, San Francisco-based blogger Spocko highlighted on his weblog and in letters to KSFO advertisers, before ABC Inc. issued a cease-and-desist letter that ultimately led to his blog being shut down. Nonetheless, on several occasions throughout the broadcast, the hosts emphasized that they had already apologized for some of the comments in question. For instance, when discussing his October 2005 remarks in which he asked a caller to "[s]ay Allah is a whore" in order to prove he was not a Muslim, host Brian Sussman said, "I realized what I said was over the top. It offended a lot of people. It could be deemed as being highly insensitive. And not only did I apologize once, but I've apologized several times since." Later in the show, Sussman addressed another controversial comment from December 2006 in which he referred to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) as a "Halfrican" -- a term that Morgan repeated. Sussman said on January 12, "[A]gain, this is one that I've apologized for and I've mentioned that my comments were insensitive." He then complained that people "don't want to hear any mea culpa. They don't want to hear any excuse. They don't want to hear any forgiveness or the asking thereof."

Morgan subsequently directed listeners to what she claimed were online apologies. "[O]ur apologies have been up on our websites," she said. "Mine has been up there since December 16. Nobody has reported about that. Yours is on your website. So let's get it all in context people." Media Matters searched their respective websites -- melaniemorganrocks.com, briansussman.com, and ksfo560.com -- but was unable to find the reported apologies.

Also on the January 15 broadcast, Morgan and Officer Vic repeated their claim that the KSFO audio clips highlighted by critics are "cherry-picked" and taken out of context and persisted in their complaints of those they said are "trying to get us fired" and "trying to deprive us of our free-speech rights, because they don't like what we say." Each of the remarks highlighted by Media Matters, however, has been accompanied by full audio and, in many cases, a full transcript.

Morgan also discussed the number of supportive emails she said she has received from her listeners, while noting that "there were our fair share of hate mails" because of Media Matters and "their little emails to their lefty, liberal, socialist, communist, anarchist friends."

Furthermore, Morgan recommended a January 15 post by Noel Sheppard on the Media Research Center's Newsbusters blog summarizing the KSFO controversy from what she admitted is a "conservative point of view." "He makes some excellent points in there," Morgan said. "I mean, just absolutely concise, well-written, well-researched."

In the piece, Sheppard strongly criticized Spocko's decision to contact KSFO's advertisers and echoed Morgan's claim that he had simply "cherry-pick[ed] out of context snippets to prove a specious point." But Morgan did not mention that Sheppard also called into question the grounds for ABC's cease-and-desist letter:

[Q]uite curiously on December 21, ABC's legal counsel sent a letter to his Internet service provider asking it to discontinue the use of KSFO's audio clips without permission. In response to this correspondence, 1&1 Internet, Inc. canceled Spocko's account.

This raises "Fair Use" questions that have been addressed by a number of bloggers. I too use audio and video clips in my writing, and will do so here. As such, I wonder what legal grounds ABC actually had in sending this letter, or whether the ISP in question should have caved into the pressure.

From the January 15 edition of KSFO's Morning Show:

MORGAN: What a day it was yester -- or Friday. Man. It was a 14-hour day for those of us here at KSFO radio. It started for us at 3 o'clock in the morning; ended at about 4, 5 o'clock in the afternoon. The drinking commenced immediately afterwards. It was just a wild day.

But it was certainly one that was very heartening for those of us at this radio station, because we had an opportunity after about a year and a half of annoyance by a guy who hides out behind a Star Trek mask and who's been contacting our advertisers on a regular basis, imploring them to not advertise because of our supposed, quote, "hateful, violent rhetoric," which was, in essence, a handful of cherry-picked audio cuts that were posted on a website that 15 people read until a bunch of other liberal blogswarmers got involved. Well, we had an opportunity to respond to them. And, you know, they have been trying to get us fired, they have trying to deprive us of our free-speech rights, because they don't like what we say.

OFFICER VIC: Well, free speech only goes one way now, Mel.

MORGAN: We understand that, Officer Vic. We've been aware of that for some time now.

But it was interesting to, first of all, watch the reaction of our listeners here at KSFO, our detractors from across the country, and then the mainstream media weighing in over the weekend. And of course, depending on the bias of the mainstream media, it was clear how they reported the story. The San Jose Mercury News -- which hates our guts and would frankly be happier if we all went off the air -- the columnist Brad Kava, who simply is incapable of ever writing a story about me without: A) slamming me; and B) reminding everybody that I happen to be married to the operations manager here at KSFO. Every story -- every single one for the last 12 years --

OFFICER VIC: Has to carry that little caveat.

MORGAN: Yes, exactly. Caveat. Very cute.

OFFICER VIC: Well, I'm very sorry --

MORGAN: So it continues -- he was, of course, just bitter -- just absolutely bitterly awful about what we did and what we said. And then there was Channel 5 [KPIX], who just ran a hatchet story on us two times without ever contacting any of us.

OFFICER VIC: Well, the first two were hatchet stories. And I thought -- when they were in here Friday -- I thought what came out of that was --

MORGAN: I did not.

OFFICER VIC: Really?

MORGAN: Did you see it?

OFFICER VIC: Yeah.

MORGAN: It was 30 seconds on the air. They spent, you know, first of all, four minutes between two days ripping us and reporting an anonymous blogger without every questioning his identity or his agenda. And then they spent 30 seconds in a voice-over form explaining that we were apologetic. That was it. That is the sum and substance. Well, I wouldn't define Friday's show as apologetic --

OFFICER VIC: Uh, no.

MORGAN: -- by any means or any stretch of the imagination.

And then, of course, there was the [San Francisco] Chronicle story, which tried to play it down the middle. Largely succeeded, with the exception of the fact they -- they neglected to mention -- Joe Garofoli of the Chronicle neglected to mention that we had put a number of critical callers up -- he actually said --

OFFICER VIC: Well, he made it sound as though we ignored critics --

MORGAN: Yeah.

OFFICER VIC: -- and we only put --

MORGAN: Supporters.

OFFICER VIC: -- supporters on the air. Well, what he didn't know was the fact that that's pretty much what the phone banks yielded. I mean, we only had a few detractors call and we welcomed them. We said, "Please call in." And we gave that [blogger Mike] Stark guy a full chance to say his mind. And then, of course, you're -- you're not going to let that go too far without Lee Rodgers taking his coat off and having some of it.

MORGAN: Yes. Well, you know, I found it interesting that this Mike Stark, who is accusing us in the blogosphere of hate speech and violent rhetoric is the same Mike Stark who stepped in front of a live television camera when Senator George Allen [R-VA] was running for re-election in Virginia and asked him, quote, "Have you ever used the N-word?" And then he did it a second time. And he's a very smart guy. He's from UVA [University of Virginia] --

OFFICER VIC: Oh, yeah.

MORGAN: He's a law student there. So you know, he plots out --

OFFICER VIC: He's tricky. Tricky, tricky, tricky.

MORGAN: -- every move. And then the next one was -- he steps in front of a live camera and says to Senator Allen, "Have you ever spit on your wife?" Now I ask you, who's speech is more hateful? The fact that we would suggest that somebody who was -- if they were tried and convicted of the charge of treason should be executed. Or somebody who uses the N-word on live television in order to upset a national election. I'm a little bit skeptical about the way this whole story has been portrayed.

However, just want to say that I have received well over -- well, well over -- I stopped counting, in fact, I stopped counting around a thousand emails. And you know, certainly there were our fair share of hate mails because Media Matters made sure that -- you know, they reported and blogged on this and everybody sent out, you know, their little emails to their lefty, liberal, socialist, communist, anarchist friends. So we all got -- we got that share. But the overwhelming amount of support that we received was just phenomenal.

I just sent to Sheri [Yee, producer] a link that we should put up on our website -- Mel recommends. Newsbusters.org, which is run by Media Research Center, has a fine gentleman who lives here in the Bay Area by the name of Noel Sheppard, who monitored the whole controversy. He has written a very extensive piece about it from an admittedly conservative point of view. But he makes some excellent points in there. I mean, just absolutely concise, well-written, well-researched. He had to -- he had to synthesize a lot of material in a short period of time and just does an excellent job of summarizing the whole controversy. And it's well worth a read today. I recommend that you go to KSFO.com, because you will get the truth about what actually happened and some of the relevant points in the argument.

And hopefully, we're not going to have to address this again. I know it's not over -- it won't be over for the -- ever -- for the liberals because they hate our guts. They would like to see us all fired. They would like to make sure that KSFO is shut down forever. They have no interest in so-called free speech. They only have interest in the speech that fits their preconceived definitions. So I'm sure it will continue to revolve around and around. But I hope that we are done with it.

Except for today, we'll just kind of keep a little recap for you, in case you missed the show on Friday. We interrupted our regular programming and Dr. Laura [Schlessinger] will return today from noon to 3. But we busted free and we did a three-hour special program -- Lee Rodgers, myself, Officer Vic, and our good friend Brian Sussman. And of course, Brian and I have come in for the lion's share of the criticism because we have been much more visible in television as well as on the radio. And we've become a target for the left. We can handle it. We're big kids. But we just got our say in, for the, you know, for the first time in the last year and a half. And that was very rewarding.

Officer Vic, you did an outstanding job yourself. We were very proud --

OFFICER VIC: Thank you.

MORGAN: -- of your contributions. It was a wonderful program, and I hope that you had a chance to listen to it.

From the January 12 KSFO broadcast, with co-host Brian Sussman:

SUSSMAN: This has to do -- let's set this up. This was two years ago, Lee [Rodgers, co-host]. That's what people don't understand. This was from 2005. I have apologized for my comments. I have brought many -- well, I have brought a lot of clarity to what I was trying to say.

And let's just set it up for you. There was a caller on our program that would try to get in on the show -- my evening show between 6 and 8 o'clock here on KSFO -- on a regular basis. And he would call in under different aliases. And it was really getting annoying.

RODGERS: All the time. It happens all the time.

SUSSMAN: Oh yeah, you know from all your years of doing shows with callers, some of these punks -- they want to get on so badly they'll try to do anything.

RODGERS: They're unscrupulous. They lie all the time. Okay, go ahead. So what's it about?

[...]

SUSSMAN: Okay, so --

RODGERS: There you have it.

SUSSMAN: -- my little plan backfired. He didn't go for the bait. However, again, this is two years ago. And I realized what I said was over the top. It offended a lot of people. It could be deemed as being highly insensitive. And not only did I apologize once, but I've apologized several times since. And during the course of this particular two-year experience, I have gone on the air on numerous occasions talking about all of the wonderful Muslims who live even in the Bay Area who are people that are just going about their jobs and they're trying to raise their families and they want to enjoy the American experience and they look at these wide-eyed zealots who have hijacked their religion, using the Quran as an excuse to kill people, and they don't like it. I've had members of CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] on my program, to have thoughtful conversations with them, I've had imams on my program, to converse with them. And I think overall I've done an excellent job of giving that religion a very fair representation.

However, this blogger takes 20 seconds from my program and throws it on the Internet for all to behold -- for the radio, for newspapers to use, for the televisions to use. I'm on the air 10 hours a week -- he takes 20 seconds. I'm on the air 500 hours a year -- he takes 20 seconds, without full disclosure, without a reply, without showing both sides of the story. And that is completely unfair and that's an abuse of the First Amendment.

RODGERS: And without any context.

SUSSMAN: Absolutely.

RODGERS: Without any context at all. See there -- there's one thing which we would all like to cheerfully admit. You're on the air live for hours and hours and hours, week in and week out. And I don't care who you are, there are going to be times when you say, "Well, I wish I hadn't said that in that way," or whatever. But you know, you -- it goes on. You just go on.

[...]

RODGERS: All right, Brian, what is this piece of tape lifted out of the evening program about Barack Obama?

SUSSMAN: Oh, yes. The junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

OFFICER VIC: The one [Sen.] Ted Kennedy [D-MA] called "Osama-Obama"?

SUSSMAN: Yes, that -

OFFICER VIC: Osama-balama, Obama, Osama, Obama.

SUSSMAN: Well this, again, this is one that I've apologized for and I've mentioned that my comments were insensitive. And I'm looking at my email right now, Lee, from my going over the Allah comments from two years ago and it's -- it's quite clear people have already become judge, jury, trial, and executioner. They don't want to hear any mea culpa. They don't want to hear any excuse. They don't want to hear any forgiveness or the asking thereof. They've already tried me on that. So I don't know what's gonna happen with this one. But the point is, there's a term -- that I did not coin -- it's called "halfrican." You can go online and buy "I'm Halfrican" coffee mugs, "I'm Halfrican" t-shirts. These are people who are half African and they're very proud of their heritage. As opposed to an African-American. These are people who have a father or mother directly from Africa. So they're first-generation Americans. And I referred to Senator Obama as a "halfrican" because his father was from Kenya -- I'm not making this up -- and his mother is from Kansas. So he is mixed race -- half white, half African. So I made some comments about that on the Morning Show and -- why does all of this stuff happen on the Morning Show when you're not there, Lee? Maybe --

MORGAN: Officer Vic and I are trying to get you in trouble.

RODGERS: You come on on Mondays and just cause all kinds of problems and difficulties.

SUSSMAN: We need you to have you come in as a --

RODGERS: Sweet, peace-loving old uncle Lee has to come along and sweep up after you and clean everything up.

SUSSMAN: But listen to this cut. It's a bit lengthy, but we'll listen to it now on KSFO.

[...]

SUSSMAN: No sooner had I said this, but I apologized for it and said, "You know, That was insensitive. I don't need to go in this direction. Especially anyone who knows my family and knows my life and my lifestyle."

MORGAN: Can I share the inside scoop on you?

RODGERS: Yes or no. I mean, you --

MORGAN: Can I share that, Brian?

SUSSMAN: Well --

MORGAN: Because what I want to say is that both Brian and I have taken enormous, enormous criticism over this comment. In fact, I was blamed for it. Brian said it and he said it from the heart. But let me also say this. He never said this publicly on this radio station and I'm going to say it because he has been called a racist. He has been called all sorts of ugly and vile names. But what most people doesn't know is that his three adopted sons are of half-race. So please, liberals, take it and -- well, let's not get into anymore trouble by saying anything nasty. But, you know, I really -- I'm at the end of my patience for these people.

SUSSMAN: Well, you know, again, nobody wants to hear the truth on this, Lee. My family represents all the continents. My kids look like they're the children of ambassadors to the United Nations when we gather around the dinner table, as do our extended family, my son-in-law, etc. I worship at a predominantly black church. I'm involved with a lot of different types of people during the course of my day. But the most important thing is, I apologized for those statements. I admitted they were insensitive. I promised this audience I would never use that term again, even though it wasn't original. And guess what? That's not enough for people. That blogger took that line. Channel 5, I'm told, used that line. The newspapers have used that line. But nobody wants to talk about the full story. They've taken it out of context, once again, to paint me.

MORGAN: And our apologies have been up on our websites. Mine has been up there since December 16th. Nobody has reported about that. Yours is on your website. So let's get it all in context people.

Network/Outlet
KSFO
Person
Melanie Morgan
Show/Publication
The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program
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