On Thursday, February 18, one minute before the conclusion of his four-hour morning radio show on KSFO in San Francisco, conservative talk show host Lee Rodgers was fired. Rodgers was under contract until July, but it didn't matter. Rodgers wasn't allowed to gracefully say goodbye to his listeners. By the next day, KSFO evening host Brian Sussman had taken over the morning job. Rodgers' forty-plus-year radio broadcasting career is over, at least for now.
While it may sound like just another cupboard-clearing in the cutthroat broadcasting business, the undignified jettisoning of Lee Rodgers is troubling on many levels.
KSFO is a prickle in the liberal paw of the San Francisco bay area. It is a highly-rated conservative news/talk format which has been proudly dealing the left fits, with Rodgers at the morning-drive helm, for decades. Rodgers' curmudgeonly mix of small-government, strong Israel, pro-military, anti-jihad, tax-cutting missives, and his interviews with conservative authors, columnists, and newsmakers, are not meaningfully available on any other station in this liberal California market.
Rodgers' demise was telegraphed about a year ago, when his co-anchor Melanie Morgan was abruptly fired in much the same fashion as Rodgers himself. The morning radio partners are credited with initiating the statewide investigations into the use of cancer-causing MTBE gasoline additive, which leached into underground water supplies in California. Rodgers and Morgan also launched the statewide petition drive to recall Governor Gray Davis from office. Ms. Morgan was a pro-military, anti-radical Islam activist who flew more than once to the troops in Iraq and personally confronted anti-military activists at protests in the Bay area. Both hosts were under constant barrage by liberal bloggers. KSFO's advertisers were pressured to withdraw.
Liberty lost two important voices when Morgan and Rodgers were fired.
By eliminating the two morning hosts and shifting their afternoon/evening host to the morning job, KSFO is increasing its on-air syndicated programming. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and John Batchelor, who are based at Citadel's WABC, are certainly talented, informative talk show hosts with huge nationwide followings. But removing the local announcers who serve their local communities so admirably is a humiliating blow to a market the size of San Francisco. It is a loss of community identity.
The advent of syndicated hosts nationwide causes many local broadcasting jobs to be lost. No exact figures are available.
What is most worrisome for the conservative movement is the unspoken reason behind the KSFO firings: It appears that the station ownership, Citadel Broadcasting, led by CEO Farid Suleiman, may be "bowing" to complaints from liberal activists and Muslim sympathizers. Rodgers would rant about "Mooslims" and radical Islam on his show, and he frequently mentioned that the Council on American Islamic Relations was complaining about his views. He hinted at this in a blog posting on Melanie Morgan's website this week after his termination:
I WILL tell you, in all candor, that thanks to Mr. Suleiman's Citadel management, I could no longer proudly say that the company had never told me what to say or what not to say. There was an obvious cave-in to some ultra-left and pro-Muslim groups, making it unlikely that I would have ever renewed my contract with the company, anyway.
Citadel Broadcasting filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late December last year -- a bizarre, final financial drain-spin for what was once the third-largest radio conglomerate in the country. The company had market capitalization of $2 billion in 2004 but has since plummeted to only $12 million. Farid Suleiman's reign has been controversial, both for his exorbitant salary and bonus in the face of declining revenues and his programming decisions. He also inexplicably began spelling his name "Suleman" in recent years. Other than the fact that he was born in Tanzania and educated in England, details of Suleiman/Suleman's early years or current interests are omitted in bibliographies. Election campaign records show that he donated to Republican John McCain in the last presidential election, but he has donated heavily to Democrats John Kerrey, Charles Schumer, and Christopher Dodd in the past.
Among the many properties Citadel owns is WABC, New York, which is the home base for the syndicated shows of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and others. As Citadel gradually removes major market talent such as Rodgers in favor of syndicated programming, Mr. Suleman forces his broadcast properties to rely more and more on the mothership of syndication for their daily programming. The Citadel bankruptcy is still unwinding, so the full extent of program changes or deletions may not yet be fully realized.
There has been much criticism of and speculation about what Suleiman's corporate mission can possibly be, since it appears to be so self-destructive. Conservative voices in major broadcast markets are being silenced by this Islamic executive of a major broadcast radio network. It may be instructive to look at what is happening in another large media group. World Net Daily has reported extensively that the second-largest ownership stake of Fox Broadcasting's parent, "News Corp," is held by Saudi Muslim activist and billionaire Prince Al-waleed bin Talal, who has ties to terrorist groups.
Prince Ahwaleed [sic[ has been buying his anti Semitic and Muslim way right into American life. Let us review just how generous he is a moment. He purchased a 5.6% stake in News Corp. in 2005, second from the top now. He manipulated Islamic study departments into place by giving $20 million each to Georgetown and Harvard Universities.
Ahwaleed is a man who gave $500,000 to CAIR, Council on American Islamic Relations, and then there is the mother load of $27 million in 2002 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Naturally, he called them "martyrs."
Roth notes that representatives of CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) are being given frequent, unopposed access to Fox news shows since bin Talal's purchase. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case involving funding of the Palestinian Hamas terrorist group, yet it is portrayed as a legitimate, credible entity on Fox News.
Dr. Roth reports that Prince bin Talal himself is very transparent about his attempts to control America with opinion:
"Arabs should focus more on penetrating U.S. public opinion as a means to influencing decision making" rather than boycotting U.S. products. ... Arab news stated "Arab countries can influence U.S. decision making if they unite through economic interest, not political. ...We have to be logical and understand that the U.S. administration is subject to U.S. public opinion."
Read between the lines. More to come on the "freedom" of our airwaves. Hopefully, Rodgers and Morgan will not be silenced for long.
Jane Jamison is publisher of the conservative news/commentary blog, UNCOVERAGE.net.