Every day feels like a weird week has passed in our current state of virus time. But this week has been a doozy. A week bracketed by the New York Times expose on Trump’s tax evasions, and the President’s hospitalization for Covid. It’s hard enough getting accurate information as it is. Once the media learned Trump tested positive for Covid, it came up against the limits of the nanosecond news cycle. With a heavily controlled narrative, and a slow trickle of updates on the President’s health, major outlets were forced to report any bit of news, no matter how insignificant. The point is to get the people clicking or tuning in to keep coming back. CNN resorted to its old standby: looped footage of Marine One on the White House lawn, the latest in a long line of stand-ins for OJ Simpson in the Ford Bronco, shown on the screen ad infinitum.
A lack of information hasn’t stopped pundits, and it especially hasn’t stopped the usual AM radio talkers from working the jaws overtime to assure us the President is on the mend, in great shape, and all the rest. So let’s take a look at some of conservative radio’s response to the Trump tax story and the Trump Covid diagnosis/hospitalization. This dispatch was written by Jim Rawls, C. Bernieri, and R. Cleffi.
WABC’s Brian Kilmeade featured an interview with former Trump campaign managers Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossey to hype their new book about their master and meal ticket. Kilmeade often has people close to the president on to set the day’s tone. He asked the two how they would go on the offensive over Trump’s taxes. It’s not a journalist’s job to give political operatives a chance to spin things, but talk radio hosts aren’t journalists. Lewandowski claimed the New York Times “just committed a felony” by publishing the information. Interestingly, he took an opposite view of Hilary Clinton’s hacked emails back in 2016. Lewandowski also denied the accuracy of the Times report, but blamed “Biden [who] wrote the tax law,” and declared if the President paid no taxes, “good for him.” Kilmeade also asserted, “we could call it depreciation. And we don’t know what it’s like to be in high-level real estate.”
On Friday, Kilmeade responded to the news of Trump’s diagnosis in an interview with White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who boasted about how great the economy was before it got shuttered by Covid.
Buck Sexton (WOR 710) asked “Who cares about the president’s taxes?” The segment was exactly what the title portends.
On Trump’s Covid diagnosis, Sexton brought on Trump deputy Brian Morgenstern for one of the most “Our Great Leader” routines to be heard in quite a while. Considering that AM talk radio exists to fluff Donald Trump, this says a lot.
Sexton also seized on the news of actor Rick Moranis being punched on the street as a symptom of the decline of NYC caused by the radical left. Because no one ever got punched on the street in New York until Black Lives Matter and Antifa defunded the police.
An interesting ad heard on Sexton’s show: “Helping our Country, One Friend at a Time.” For only $9.95, you can purchase, and anonymously send to left-leaning friends, “a 210-page paperback that’s equivalent to listening to a week’s worth of Conservative Talk Radio.” The idea that a week of conservative radio would convert leftists is as misguided as the notion that conservatives would change their beliefs if only they listened to some Noam Chomsky lectures.
Rudy Giuliani (WABC 770) responded to the Trump tax bombshell by stating “What a garbage article. I can’t even read the whole thing, it’s so long.” Giuliani also played a Bill Maher clip that had the cable host saying Trump and his Supreme Court nominee have a shared opposition to condoms. Giuliani blurted out: “That’s disgusting. And anti-American!” He then went on a tirade about the persecution of Christians in the media, drawing a comparison to Islam, asking,“Can you imagine if someone said those things about a Muslim?” Giuliani regularly blasts Joe Biden’s mental capacity and cognitive health, which should be fair game in an election. Giuliani’s “Chat with the Mayor” show, hardly paints the ex-mayor as a portrait of sound mental fitness. He certainly doesn’t remember his own stance on key issues, or some of his more inflammatory statements.
Responding to Trump testing positive, Giuliani denied media reports that the President is obese. He repeated the standard talk-radio line that Trump never even catches cold (a claim Rush Limbaugh also made) and claimed he has “no comorbidities.” Whoever in the White House who coordinates the daily talking points for these guys might want to lay off the exaggeration a bit.
Giuliani seemed unusually energized, ripping Bill de Blasio for “his ridiculous adherence to a failed ideology of the 19th Century.” He noted that he always had BdB pegged as being in the “submoronic category,” and of the current mayor’s support for the Sandinistas in the 80s, “I would’ve put him on a watchlist.” There is something almost comical in his rants against Biden, the “major, major crook,” and the army of “slip and fall lawyers” sicced on Trump by the deep state.
WABC has cynically monetized the “Back the Blue” campaign, running “WABC Backs the Blue” spots advertising Ramsey Mazda.
WABC’s Sid and Bernie in the Morning is one of those shows that even we have a hard time listening to. The morning Trump’s Covid diagnosis was announced, the two hosts hyped the Prez’s employment figures, noting, “the numbers are really, really good.” Trump getting sick with Covid doesn’t seem to have spurred any reflection from these two; in the same show they referred to mask restrictions as “totalitarianism out of control.”
The Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning show on WOR reacted to the Times Trump tax story by interviewing Sean Spicer. One of the usually obsequious hosts chided Spicer, “You are no longer employed by the president, you don’t have to spin for him”
Bill O’Reilly (WABC 770) did not mention the Times Trump tax piece until the second hour of his show. But then he got down to business. He started hour two with the salvo: “The New York Times is a hate organization.” Then the apologia started, “it’s not a really a story…Trump took every tax advantage he could, I am the CEO of my own corporation, anything it says I can do, I do, the money I save I give to charity, “ he continues, “I pay millions to the government…so you know if I can take a deduction, I take a deduction, I assume that’s what Donald Trump does.” O’Reilly then proceeded to attack the leaker of Trump’s tax info, calling them a criminal. And then the Times again: “I know that the Times had this story and waited till last night to put it out…Debate week.…I also know that they have other stuff on Trump and that they are gonna wait till the weekend before the vote.. BANG!…and put it out…. the Washington Post also, holding stuff back to make Donald Trump look bad.”
After O Reilly came John Batchelor “with his signature.. “Good evening to you” but then he made not a mention of the Times piece during his entire four-hour show.”
Curtis Sliwa is increasingly merging his mayoral campaign with his radio show. More campaign mentions have crept onto the air, and the WABC website is running front-page videos like “Can Curtis Sliwa Trust the NYC Board of Elections?” Sliwa’s campaign on his own Reform Party ticket is still considered a long shot, but a radio host with a perch on one of the strongest signals in the Tri-State Area would seem to have quite an advantage over competitors.
Some other things of interest we’ve heard this past week.
WNYC reporter Beth Fertig filed a piece on the difficulties Latinos have getting political representation in Brentwood, Long Island. Since Brentwood is technically part of the town of Islip, its candidates are forced to run in town-wide elections, making it impossible for them to win (Brentwood makes up over a third of the population of Islip). Fertig delves into the complexities of this, and interviews the disenfranchised and people who enjoy things the way as they currently stand. You can listen at WNYC or read the print version of the story here.
WFMU had station manager Ken Freedman filling in on Tectonic this week. Regular host Mark Hurst really puts in the work on this science/tech program, and it shows. Freedman seemed like he was just doing a last-minute fill-in. Quite a shift from the usual weekly guests who are the top experts on issues of tech and surveillance to an impromptu discussion on the pros and cons of Spotify. Freedman did play some interesting audio, but the show was marred by some annoying callers who derailed things. To his credit, Freedman did take one caller to task when he started talking about how he could never wear a mask. Techtonic is one of the best things on the radio, period; this isn’t the type of show where winging it is an option. Airing a re-run of an older episode might have worked better.
An interesting WFMU show that we’ve been catching weekly is Music of Mind Control. DJ Micah brings listeners an“exploration into the musical output of religious cults, new religious movements, and individuals of a spiritually inspired and divine nature.” That’s a wide brush for the tarring, and some of the spiritually inspired music he plays was made by musicians who have nothing to do with cults (hell, even the actual cults claim they aren’t cults). This week he played selections from an aborted Bill Graham-produced rock opera based on the work of Carlos Castaneda. I have no idea where he finds this stuff, and some of it is quite good.
Quote of the week:
“Slower than a wet turd sliding off a dry rock. You can edit that out.”—“Mike the Barber,” describing the current state of his business during a story on NPR’s Marketplace on the Los Angeles neighborhood of LaMeirt Park, Thursday, 10/1).
Quote of the week, first runner-up:
Heard on Dr. Jeremiah Simmons’s “Turning Point” on “The Mission,” 570 AM: “Christianity is the only religion in the world that sings.” (9/28). Not quite a wet turd on a dry rock, but still Grade-A bullshit.
Quote of the week, second runner-up:
Ben Shapiro (ABC 770) referring to the Biden/Trump debate as an “s-show,” because he’s too squeamish to say “shit show.”
The more things change…
NPR (via WNYC) ran an interesting piece on the 1970 race riot in Augusta, Georgia. The archival footage of Black residents voicing their concerns with their treatment at the hands of the police sounds nearly identical to the grievances of contemporary Black Lives Matter activists. The segment was excerpted from a podcast, Shots in the Back: Exhuming the 1970 Augusta Riot, which we look forward to delving into.
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