January 3, 2003
Randi Rhodes, Liberal Talk Show Host
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Why Isn't Randi Rhodes Syndicated? The Dilemma of a Liberal Talk Show Host.
That's the question the website takebackthemedia.com asks:
Well BuzzFlash.com wanted to find out the answer to this question from Randi Rhodes herself -- and to talk with her about her recent interview with Oliver North, who stormed out of her program.
But before we get to the interview, Randi forwarded some of her recent musings to BuzzFlash.com, which are posted below:
"It's disgusting looking back now at the friends you keep when you are addicted (when you are a news junkie). Brit Hume, Tony Snow, Bill O'Reilly... They are bad men. Very bad men. All they want is to get you into it. I call it "THE LIFE." They're dangerous. They distort your mind. They seem like they care about you getting the news, but really they just want their money and fix of Clinton...
Although... I am Glad that Laura Bush is in the White House... She believes that a child beginning at the very earliest age must be taught (how to respect the servants). What a great job she did with Jenna and the "other one". But by now I think the secret service must be used to those late night runs to the convenience store for beer, rolling papers, and condoms. Not to mention the boyfriend pick ups at the local county jail. But she tips well, though, as a liberal... I must observe that even when you are the progeny of a Patrician Dynasty there is certainly no excuse for not knowing how to hide your boozing...
GEORGE is a completely different matter. Did he really declare our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is finally over? I thought I heard that. I MEAN here is a guy who thinks we should solve California's energy crisis by running an extension cord from Vegas. Guess Exxon's losing too much money on those free coffee refills. The only explanation we've gotten is that Clinton had no energy policy. Well then I guess the DRUNK MONKEYS that pick the daily oil prices have been in a bad mood since Bush came to town...
You now realize why it took his father, his father's friends, the Florida Secretary of State, and the Supreme Court to pull this off. His entire life gives a new meaning to the phrase "assisted living."
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The New York Time posted an article on Wednesday indicating that some leading "un-elected" Democrats were just now realizing that progressives have to fight for control of the media. (See: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/01/politics/01DEMS.html)
Well, if they're looking for a Democratic, progressive, entertaining, intelligent voice on the radio, they should give Randi Rhodes a call. She's waiting to hear from them.
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BUZZFLASH: Randi, recently you interviewed Oliver North on your radio show. He stormed off in the middle of the interview. Why?
RANDI RHODES: Well, you'll have to ask him, but when I brought up Iran Contra and the fact that he had been on trial and convicted for crimes against the U.S., he denied that any of it happened. He said that I did not love the Constitution.
He said I was just another liberal liar actually, so I pointed out that he had been tried and convicted for "Altering and destroying documents, accepting an illegal gratuity, and aiding and abetting in obstruction of Congress". He denied that it ever happened. I had in front of us a copy of Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh's Executive Summary on Iran-Contra as well as a copy of Mr. Walsh's book Firewall, which is a must read for those who need a refresher course on Iran Contra. A conspiracy against Congress. He called Mr. Walsh a liar as well. Just for the record I have spoken to Mr. Walsh often because I have a skulking feeling that history is repeating itself with the reappearance of John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams, and Poindexter, all in heavy government jobs. Mr. Walsh is a proud Republican.
Some will remember that Oliver North's conviction was overturned on appeal because immunized testimony had been used against him. The appeal clearly stated, and Mr. Walsh confirmed, that this in no way had any bearing or effect on Oliver North's factual guilt.
Oliver North amazed me and sickened me.
BUZZFLASH: We're curious, why did you interview Oliver North in the first place? Why did you think he agreed knowing that you're a progressive/democratic talk show host?
RHODES: Oliver North was in town that day to appear at a Christian "Roadshow" featuring Kim Alexis, Meadowlark Lemon, and himself. It was being staged by a Palm Beach socialite named Mark Koch. Oliver North needed to do his daily talk show first. He asked us for use of one of our studios, which my boss gladly provided. In exchange, my boss, knowing that Oliver North and I would be "great radio" asked Mr. North if he would extend a courtesy and appear on my show for one short ten-minute segment. He agreed.
That day in our local newspaper, The Palm Beach Post, there was an article about Mr. Koch and the "Friends for Life" conference and how people would be testifying to Jesus. Mr. Koch, on the other hand, had spent the last two years testifying under oath in a major federal lawsuit filed by the fourth largest steel manufacturer, National Steel Corp. of Mishawaka, Indiana. It was a kickback scheme and National Steel had just won a $36 million judgment against two of Mr. Koch's companies, the family's scrap metal company Marbi and Prelude Pictures of Florida. National Steel claimed that Koch and his mother secretly paid four National Steel employees about $212,000 through their various companies so that they would then buy scrap metal from the Koch family. I thought it was really ironic that these "family values people" had used their families to commit crimes and then turned to the likes of North for "credibility." The hypocrisy was grand and grotesque.
So, out of courtesy, North comes in to my studio at 6 PM . . . expecting either a hack, or another underprepared person, which is fairly typical, but instead he sees the indictment, the conviction, the Executive Summary, the Independent Counsel's autographed copy of Firewall and the Post article.
You know I never got to talk to him about Koch, the Jesus "Roadshow" or "family values." He was enraged that I had a brain, and that I knew Mr. Walsh's materials very, very well. He was steaming and ugly. I felt like I had confronted pure evil. Then, he threw off his headphones and stormed out.
BUZZFLASH: Do you expect to interview other Iran Contra criminals on your show such as Admiral Poindexter of Elliot Abrams?
RHODES: From your mouth to God's ears.
Let's not forget our Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte But, of all the former convicts I would love the most to talk to would be Poindexter. The Office of Total Information Awareness?? How Orwell!
You know what does amaze me? People reference Orwell all the time. 1984. But when I ask them about the "Ministry of Truth" or "Room 101" they get caught. Listen, read the thing. Read THAT book. Not because Orwell was clairvoyant, but because, Poindexter read it, Ashcroft read it, Cheney read it, Karl Rove read it, Condi read it, and they love what totalitarianism does to ordinary people.
So now we have this Office of Total Information Awareness, straight out of Orwell. Just go to the website (http://www.darpa.mil/iao/). Tell me you aren't just a tiny bit freaked by their job description: "Story telling, change detection, truth maintenance." One of my very favorites is "Other aids for human cognition and human reasoning." Holy shit. The press doesn't touch it and it's there on government stationery?
Someone ought to be talking to "other Iran Contra criminals" with big government jobs.
BUZZFLASH: Tell us about your program. How did you come to create a left leaning political radio talk show? How long have you been on the air?
RHODES: I've been doing talk radio for 11 years. I've always been left, always. I just think that a society is more sustainable if the most vulnerable come first. For instance, people always yell at me about affirmative action. They say "well if a man gets a job just because he is black isn't that reverse racism?" I tell them no, it's justice. I explain that I know it hurts that you and he were almost identically qualified, but that his race gave him an extra point in the "set" of factors considered. It hurts because justice is supposed to exact a price. It is just because this man was left out of all considerations precisely because of the color of his skin throughout slavery, share cropping and 81 years of Jim Crow laws. This is righting a wrong and that is justice.
This infuriates some people, and others tell me it takes their breath away and they repeat it at parties, which is good because that is how we become more human and solve our problems.
BUZZFLASH: A lot of "mainstream media" think that there is no audience for progressive shows or outlets. What are your comments?
RHODES: Oh, I am so glad you asked. I am a ratings and revenue queen. Number 1 or 2 in the ratings usually. So what are the "mainstream" talking about? Well, they say Liberals don't make money because no one wants to hear them. Okay, let's think.
First, remember that more Americans are registered or identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans. So here's the dirty little secret of news talk. There are advertisers making huge "buys" on really low rated shows that air nationally. If advertisers only go where the listeners are why do they buy cable news, Oliver North, or Rush Limbaugh who has horrible ratings?
They are buying CONTROL of CONTENT. It's leverage, whether it's radio, cable or network. They control millions of dollars of any company's revenue source. So that if something is said or done to disrupt their global business, they take their advertising elsewhere, or threaten to and then shut down the message.
And, think about this . . . how many products are on TV that you can't even buy? Plastics, computer chips, prescription drugs, soybeans. I mean honestly. This is the story that NEVER gets told. People just think, "Well, if your good enough, you'll have a big audience and that's what advertisers want." "Whose being naïve now Kaye?" I am always number one or two in the market. Rush is somewhere around 21st. I replaced G. Gordon Liddy!
I hope this gets told over and over because it is how they control our news, our Information Awareness. Get it?
BUZZFLASH: Explain the allegations that Rush Limbaugh has stated, that if Clear Channel syndicated your show, he would take his program to another company. Could there be a Democratic or Progressive Rush Limbaugh type personality on the airwaves?
RHODES: Not at Clear Channel.
First, let me tell you where the story came from. I had two meetings with middle managers who both liked me and what I had done for our 'pod'. (At Clear Channel the territories are split up into 'pods'.) In two separate meetings I was told "The Rush story." Additionally, I should never expect to be syndicated by Clear Channel because Rush had said he'd just do what advertisers do. He'd go somewhere else. I was an unknown, he was a known.
I begged for and got (6 months later) a meeting with a senior manager. He told me the "Rush story." So that's where it comes from. Now, when Oliver North was on the air, he stated that Rush was syndicated because Rush was a better talent and got better ratings. (This is insulting because of the fatness of the lie) . . . I then told him that Rush had threatened to take his show elsewhere if I were to be syndicated by Clear Channel. He said "I've heard that but I can't comment." So everyone does seem to know "The Rush Story." (North and Rush are friends).
Control the Content . . . we have business that cannot be disturbed by a questioning public.
BUZZFLASH: Considering your success, there have been accounts that you've been shut out by large corporate owned radio stations and networks. Is that true and could you explain how?
RHODES: I've just begun to go outside the company. It's a slow process. I hope that Democrats will start their own networks seeking out businesses that want to win the hearts and habits of their customers. I hope it will be a free and fair environment in which to work.
Republicans did buy up the media, either through mergers and acquisitions, or through advertisement placement. They got control of the message. They are not letting go. Corporate America likes the arrangement entirely too much.
Democrats must become active on a few fronts. Bring back the Fairness Doctrine for one thing. Two, make sure that we have an organization that makes money, sure, but that gets OUR message out. Over and over and over . . . because it is a message of decency and problem solving. Not war and fear. If people could hear this argument, they'd know it to be true, because eventually they will believe their own eyes and ears.
I can't say this enough to BuzzFlash readers, because I know you're looking for answers.
Ask yourself, why does ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) advertise? Do they want to sell you a soybean? Why does Boeing advertise? Are you gonna' buy aircraft? Aircraft parts? GE the largest defense contractor wants to sell you a light buld and/or a missile? And then there's BASF -- they don't make anything! They just make it better. Uh huh. They're buying CONTENT. Millions and millions of advertising dollars DO affect the message you get. It controls the news that is reported and the news that is NOT.
BUZZFLASH: On an immediate note, what are your listeners saying about Gore not running for the 2002 Presidential election? What are your listeners saying about the race and early favorites?
RHODES: Some listeners are glad that Al Gore pulled out. They are the ones who have been marketed to repeatedly on the message that Al Gore lost the election. We are in Florida, so for the most part, we know what happened to us. 97,000 innocent people were precluded from voting because Katherine Harris gave out phony felon's lists. People were appalled here at the ease of selling the message that Floridians were old and stupid. Palm Beach County is one of the richest counties in this country. People here tend to be sophisticated and intelligent. It was a wake up call for most, even Republicans.
Since most of us did vote for Al Gore, most of us are very disappointed. We wanted that rematch, and I personally love Al Gore because he is brilliant, a wonk like me, but most of all a futurist. He understands where America should be now, where it should be headed and what kind of legislation could make that happen. It's a shame, but I understand. It's the money honey.
Sometimes I wonder if there are two distinct parties anymore. I know that the Bush administration is about as Republican as I am. Seriously, they are not Republicans. They are globalists. I wish more Republicans realized that. The Bush Boys, The Cheneys, The Rumsfelds, well they are as comfortably at home in Riyadh as they are in Crawford or Cheyenne.
Please dear God let there be a Democratic Party . . . and if there is, my early favorite is never mentioned, but it's Senator Bob Graham. He's on the Intelligence Committee, chaired it up until the 108th and knows everything about 9/11. He has integrity, he's smart, compassionate, and craves the truth. Plus, he has an everyman quality that people will feel comfortable with. I think he would be surprised to know that I feel this way about him, but I do. His are presidential qualities you won't see often. I think Bob Graham may be the real thing.
BUZZFLASH: If you had Trent Lott on your program, what would you ask him?
RHODES: Did the White House stab you in the chest because you would have put Warren Rudman on the 9/11 commission? How much did the fact that you got to oversee the makeup of that 9/11 commission have on this sudden discovery that you, in fact, are a racist? Well, maybe slightly more gentile.
BUZZFLASH: How often do you get right wing lunatic callers?
RHODES: Daily, hourly . . . we don't screen the calls. But I will tell you this: they aren't very smart. They can never make an argument. They usually hit and run.
BUZZFLASH: For our readers not in Florida, how did Jeb Bush get re-elected to a 2nd term after all the scandals and hypocrisies he faced?
RHODES: Well, for starters, people don't read the newspapers, and I am the only voice that says things like "Jeb can't account for 3,000 kids in foster care," "Florida has the lowest High School graduation rate in the country," "Jeb was involved in the biggest Medicare Fraud in the history of the United States," "Jeb bankrupted the Broward Savings and Loan."
And then there was the debate . . . Oh my God. Not one question on the horror show that is Florida's Department of Children and Families. Jeb has literally lost and/or can't account for the whereabouts of more than 3,000 kids in his care. He then hired a kook named Jerry Reiger who believes that beating a child until you raise welts is the best way to teach him right from wrong. Tim Russert was the moderator and asked NO question on the topic. It was Jeb's Achilles' heel with white voters. With black voters it was the undoing of affirmative action. No question there either. Black enrollment in higher education in Florida is way down since he abolished it.
I can tell you that Jeb did not win Palm Beach County, the only county in which I'm heard.
BUZZFLASH: What's the broadcast range of your program? How can readers listen to your show on the Internet?
RHODES: It's a big show in a smallish town. I mean Palm Beach County is well known and well visited, but it's not New York, Chicago, or Boston. So it's a local legend. The great new thing is our website (TheRandiRhodesShow.com). It's free and it's got real streaming audio.
We are told that of all Clear Channel sites, mine is accessed more than any other. I do get mail from almost all 50 states, yes, including Texas. It's really great to know people hang in there on their computers for hours. I guess if you really try hard, there's more than one way to get the truth out.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
otherwise noted, all original