Right Wing Radio Week in Review: June 22 – 26, 2009

* It was a week marked by celebrity deaths. On Monday, Dennis Miller remembered Ed McMahon, who’d hosted Star Search when Miller had appeared as a young contestant.

Years later, McMahon called Miller to ask if he’d appear on a Star Search retrospective, having apparently forgotten that Miller had actually lost.

McMahon was flabbergasted, and Miller said he had fun with it.

“Yeah, remember? I lost to that guy… Odyseus… some fictional sailor…”

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Sinbad??!” McMahon replied, expressing the same disbelief as many do when they find that out. Oh well, losing Star Search obviously didn’t hurt Miller’s career any, and as he’s said on the air many times, he feels that through talk radio, he’s finally found his true mediahome.

(Dennis Miller’s audio archives are members-only.)

* When Michael Jackson died ten minutes before airtime on Thursday, Hugh Hewitt’s scheduled show was forced to take a turn.

He’d planned to devote the day to a fundraiser for the African orphans’ charity Cross International, but he also knew he was now obliged to devote most of his three hours to the demise of a pop culture icon neither he nor most of his listeners were particularly fond of.

Hewitt, his producer and guests rose to the challenge, trying to balance these conflicted priorities. He also offered an explanation to his more exasperated listeners in the third hour that’s a good insight into how talk radio works:

I just got an email: “You need to stay focused on defeating cap and trade.” No, I don’t. I’m a radio talk show host. And when there’s a tsunami in the culture you surf the tsunami and try to turn it to some good use to you. I know some of you are adamant that cap and trade must be defeated today on the Hugh Hewitt show. And no one would listen to it. Here’s what they’ll listen to me say: “Michael Jackson had a screwed up youth … but I can surf that to good use. But imagine the 50 million kids who are orphaned in Africa today.”

Don’t feel sorry for Michael Jackson, Hugh Hewitt advised listeners; feel sorry for those African orphans and donate to help them, through Cross International.

* Dennis Prager‘s Friday shows are always terrific, in part because his Open Line segments are so quirky, with callers phoning in with questions about everything from politics and religion to (if his producer permits it) electronics and cigars.

Prager commended his friend Rabbi Schmuley Boteach’s rememberance of Michael Jackson, who he’d tried very publicly (and unsuccessfully) to help years ago. Prager read most of it on the air, and it was indeed sincerely moving, wise and candid.

Prager reached Boteach by phone, and the rabbi admitted that given Jackson’s tragic end, he "felt like a bit of a failure." (Dennis Prager’s archives are members-only.)

* Back to cap and trade for a moment: Mark Levin urged callers to contact their representatives all week, to express their disapproval of the bill. Ultimately, the bill narrowly passed, in part because a small gang of Republicans chickened out and voted "yes." As Allahpundit observered at HotAir.com, "…talk radio is about to make their lives very, very difficult…"

* Mark Steyn sat in for Rush Limbaugh on Monday, and as usual, did his gracious best to gently handle well-meaning callers who informed him that he was “the only Rush guest host I listen to…"

Steyn also seemed delighted at the pronunciation of “Uighur”, the name for Chinese Muslims, some of whom were just transfered from Gitmo to Bermuda:

"I’ve got Uighur fever now, haven’t I?  I can’t get it out of my head."

As usual, the stenographers at Media Matters’ “Limbaugh Wire” didn’t find Steyn’s jokes very funny. (Yes, someone really does get paid to listen to Rush Limbaugh’s show and transcribe it, adding generous doses of disbelief, contextual tone deafness and faux outrage.)

(Speaking of MediaMatters, Michael Savage issued a fatwa against them on Tuesday. (Audio.)

* When Rush Limbaugh returned to the “Golden EIB microphone” on Thursday, he didn’t sound very rested, but was more worked up than ever about the President’s proposed retooling of America’s health care system. He came up with a new campaign of sorts, a take off on Obama’s famous “Yes, We Can” slogan:

The answer’s no.  The answer’s no.  And we ought to be damn proud to say we’re the "party of no" or the "country of no" or what have you.  Meanwhile Iranians are nuking up and North Koreans are nuking up and Obama doesn’t give a rat’s rear end about it.  We have real problems that face us and they’re not the ones he’s dealing with.  He’s inventing and creating new problems with his so-called solutions.  The answer is no.


* Former Clinton advosor Dick Morris made the talk radio rounds this week, promoting his new book Catastrophe. He warned about the upcoming return of the Fairness Doctrine under the guise of something called “localism," all in an attempt to censor and silence conservative talk radio.

According to Morris, individuals like Al Sharpton will be picked to sit on local boards and fine (conservative) talk radio shows that violate licensing requirements and other arbitrary regulations – “with those fines going to support NPR”.

Morris may not be my favorite person, but his insights into creeping censorship of American talk radio are worth heeding. A recent article by Morris spells out the nuts and bolts better than almost anything I’ve read:

Arbitron is the company tasked with rating radio listenership. The equivalent of the Neilson television ratings, its measurements of audience share are revered like Scripture by station managers, owners, and advertisers. Traditionally, Arbitron relied on hand written diaries. Since the diaries were based on memory, they were often faulty. So Arbitron availed itself of new technology in launching its Portable People Meter (PPM) – a cell phone sized unit the listener wears on his or her belt which automatically notes what station they are tuning in and when they switch or stop.

The PPM measurements concluded that hip hop, urban rock, and minority-oriented radio stations reached fewer listeners and for shorter periods of time than the diaries had indicated. It found that talk radio had a larger listenership.

The left saw an ideological bias at work and the states of New York and New Jersey sued Arbitron alleging discrimination…

Pretty easy to see where that’s going…

* Glenn Beck asked his producer to play some “romantic Barry White music” while he read choice selections from Mark Sanford’s cringe inducing private emails to his mistress. I found that pretty tacky, and, yes, mean-spirited. But then, as he tends to do, Beck redeemed himself the next day by saying on air:

“I don’t even know what to do with the Michael Jackson thing except to say this: I’m glad he’s dead because I believe he’s glad he’s dead.”

Beck also did a long bit about his upcoming 4th of July party, which he’s planning to make as annoying as possible to his liberal neighbors. His riff can’t be excerpted without ruining it, so here it is (transcript). Note: guns are involved…

Beck continues to fascinate liberal media critics, with Media Bistro serving up video of Beck’s FOX News TV show, in which he illustrated ACORN’s involvement in the housing meltdown — using a Barbie doll house.

Time‘s James Poniewozik adds: "…there’s a part of me that has to respect Beck for at least being willing to own his nuttiness."

(Kathy Shaidle runs FiveFeetOfFury.com, now in its ninth year. As well, she runs a Conservative Talk Radio site, and can tell you how to record your favorite talk radio shows so you’ll never miss them again.)

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