Following three Colorado Media Matters items that pointed out bigoted and inflammatory comments made by talk show hosts on Denver stations of Clear Channel Communications Inc., Rocky Mountain News editorial page editor Vincent Carroll in his May 15 column defended using the "public airwaves" for incendiary rhetoric by stating that the "best protection against" offensive commentary "is the radio dial."
Specifically, Carroll mentioned:
- the May 9 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Jon Caldara Show, during which host Jon Caldara likened school finance legislation proposed by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter to "fiscal date rape"
- the April 25 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show, during which host Peter Boyles promoted a video depicting physical attacks on Spanish-speaking men and obscene ethnic slurs against Hispanics
- the May 8 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Gunny Bob Show, during which host "Gunny" Bob Newman called for stripping Muslim immigrants of some of their civil rights
In his column, "Seeing Imus everywhere," Carroll recounted that "two more New York City talk show hosts were forced to walk the plank for bad taste and worse judgment." He then asked if "the same unforgiving standard" should "apply to off-the-wall political views," and added, "The director of the left-wing Web site Colorado Media Matters seems to think so." Carroll wrote:
"In the past several days," [Colorado Media Matters editorial director] Bill Menezes e-mailed me last week, "one of Clear Channel's local radio talk show hosts likened the governor of Colorado to a rapist ... and another (Bob Newman) used the state's most powerful radio station to call for the elimination of civil rights for all Muslim immigrants, including those who are naturalized U.S. citizens ... These comments followed a few days after a third host, Peter Boyles, promoted a YouTube video depicting physical violence and ethnic slurs against Hispanics."
Noting that he was not speaking for the News, Carroll then explained why he personally found Caldara's comments "jarring" but did not consider them to be likening the governor to a rapist:
Talk host Jon Caldara did not liken the governor to a rapist. He said, "What [Bill] Ritter and pals are doing is the equivalent of fiscal date rape. They are taking the money without asking you first." The comparison is jarring, but no reasonable person would conclude that Caldara is saying fiscal date rape is the moral equivalent of rape. (emphasis in original)
Similarly, Carroll defended Boyles by supporting Boyles' dubious claim that he didn't see the video before promoting it on his broadcast. Carroll also suggested that Boyles is criticized simply because he promotes "an unpopular view" regarding immigration. In fact, Colorado Media Matters has documented numerous instances in which Boyles and his guests have used misleading information or falsehoods to support their "unpopular view." According to Carroll:
On April 25, Boyles' did indeed plug an ugly YouTube video, although he halted virtually in midsentence after someone in the background apparently warned him off. Boyles later said he'd never seen the video. Convenient? Maybe, but it's also plausible given his original description of it, which never mentioned that it starred a comic trying to be funny. That would be the first thing anyone who saw it would be likely mention.
The last time I was on Boyles' show, he and I traded insults and spent half of the time talking over each other, so I hold no brief for his program or his doomsday take on immigration. But I don't want him run off the air, either, just because he promotes what is, in the news media, an unpopular view.
Finally, while acknowledging that Newman's "extremist tirade on behalf of the unconstitutional monitoring of an entire class of citizens based upon their religion" was "of course, vile," Carroll nonetheless supported the continued broadcast of Newman's show on the "public airwaves" by arguing that listeners have the option of changing the station:
Finally, the indefensible. Last week "Gunny" Bob Newman said he wants "every Muslim immigrant to America who holds a green card, a visa or who is a naturalized citizen to be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times. And the FBI and the NSA should monitor their phones and their e-mails ... as well as bug their places of work and their residences. If they don't like the idea, or if they refuse, throw their asses out of this country."
Newman's extremist tirade on behalf of the unconstitutional monitoring of an entire class of citizens based upon their religion is, of course, vile -- and that is the kindest thing that can be said for it. If Newman were more influential, maybe I'd be more alarmed.
The best protection against such bilge is the radio dial. Turn it to sports talk. Turn it to music. Turn it to any island of sanity and let Gunny Bob rant to his heart's content. The great thing about the "public airwaves," after all, is that there are so many of them.