In his weekly prime time national taxpayer-supported PBS show on September 12, 2008, left wing icon Bill Moyers targeted talk radio -- and not for the first time. But this time, the first one-third of the hour long program featured an in-depth report, "Rage on the Radio - What happens when America's airwaves fill with hate?" The report focused exclusively on conservative, right of center talk radio.
The report began with a review of a fatal shooting last July in Knoxville, TN, when an unemployed truck driver allegedly entered a Unitarian Universalist Church and began shooting, killing two and wounding six before he was subdued and arrested. According to reports cited by the Moyers program, the perpetrator told the police that he hated liberals and identified the church as a suitable target. Searching the shooter's apartment, police reportedly found conservative books, including one by Michael Savage. The Moyers show then went on to focus on Savage. In 1994, at age 52, Savage transformed himself from Michael Weiner, a Ph.D. researcher and author of over a dozen books on herbal and alternative medicine, into Michael Savage - an uncompromising conservative political talk show host in San Francisco whose insistence that America preserve its "borders, language, and culture" served as the core of his philosophy. Five years after he began broadcasting locally, with ratings success in the left leaning San Francisco market, Savage's show went into national syndication. Today, Savage is the third most listened to talk radio host in the United States (behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity), heard on 400 stations with an audience of 8 million listeners. He has also written four non-fiction political books that have become New York Times best sellers.
The Moyers show on September 12, which mentioned several other conservative hosts in less detail, appeared to suggest that conservatives' including Savage's work may have inspired the Knoxville church shooter.
REVEREND CHRIS BUICE [of the Knoxille church]: People were killed in my sanctuary of my church which should be the holy place, a safe place. People were injured. A man came in here totally dehumanized us. Members of our church were not human to him. Where did he get that? Where did he get that sense that we were not human?
RICK KARR [Moyers show reporter]: Buice admits that no one knows for sure and says that [the shooter] alone, is responsible for the shootings. But he keeps thinking about some books that police found in [the shooter's] apartment, books by popular right-wing talk-radio personalities who berate and denigrate liberals. One of the books police found in [the] apartment was Michael Savage's "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder." In it, Savage calls liberals "the enemy within our country;" "an enemy more dangerous than Hitler;" "traitors" who are "dangerous to your survival" and who "should be placed in a straightjacket". . . Savage accuses liberals of "[tying] the hands of our military."
A number of sound clips from Savage's radio program were then played on the Moyers show, although none of them advocated violence. Other clips by hosts Glenn Beck and Michael Reagan did mention "shooting" and "killing."
Adding an international, and completely irrelevant, spin, Reverend Buice even suggested that talk radio might inspire genocide.
REVEREND CHRIS BUICE: If you look at the history of like situations like in Rwanda in 1994, the talk radio [in Rwanda] was a big part of leading to the conditions that created a genocide.
The transcript of the talk radio segment on Bill Moyers Journal goes on for over 3,000 words. The PBS transcript of the entire show is here. The remainder of the program was mostly a skeptical and highly critical analysis of Gov. Sarah Palin's selection as Sen. John McCain's Vice Presidential running mate. Completely absent from the Moyers show talk radio segment was any reporting on left wing talk radio show hosts' frequent advocacy of violence - what Michelle Malkin has termed "assassination chic."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "ought to be tortured." President Bush should be taken out and shot.
Those are a few nutso nuggets from the hosts of Air America Radio, which calls itself the new liberal voice....
Rock bottom came when... Randi Rhodes, the queen of venom... compared Bush and his family to the Corleones in the "Godfather" saga. "Like Fredo, somebody ought to take him out fishing and phuw," she said, imitating the sound of gunfire.
On April 27, 2005, WorldNet Daily reported "Federal officials are reportedly reviewing a skit [by Randi Rhodes] broadcast on the liberal Air America network that featured an apparent gunshot warning to President Bush."
Moyers did not see fit to mention any of this in his talk radio-hate report.
Contacted for comment on the Moyers program and his being featured so prominently in it, Michael Savage had this to say:
We live in a democracy where people are free to speak their mind. If the pimp for [President Jimmy] Carter's anti-Semitism and socialism criticized me so be it. I did not watch it because he is a has-been without any following. Let others decide if they want censorship to control free-speech. Note which side of the aisle wants to stop conservative talk: Nancy Pelosi, Moyers and that gang. What do they have to hide?
Peter Barry Chowka is a writer and investigative journalist who writes about politics, health care, and the media. His Web site is chowka.com.