Some conservative radio talk-show hosts in Seattle are disputing the contention of fellow talker Brian Maloney, who claims he was fired by CBS-affiliate KIRO because of critical comments about network news anchor Dan Rather.
“I believe there is a corporate bias in America against conservatives and a bias in the media at large,” Boze told WND. “But when conservatives cry wolf and pretend to be martyrs when they’re not, it does a disservice.”
Amid widespread criticism from the media, Rather and CBS News President Andrew Heyward issued statements yesterday saying they no longer will defend the authenticity of documents used in a Sept. 8 “60 Minutes II” report that raised questions about President Bush’s National Guard service.
Boze’s station, KTTH, has a conservative format, featuring hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Medved and Michael Savage, who each have been sharply critical of Rather’s handling of the CBS story KIRO has a more ideologically diverse lineup, although many critics, including Maloney, insist it leans to the left.
But KTTH is owned by the same company that manages KIRO, Pennsylvania-based Entercom.
Boze said that connection gives him insight into the situation at KIRO, while Maloney, in an interview with WND, contends it explains why Boze is “parroting the management’s line” that the firing had nothing to do with Rather but largely was because of a scheduling conflict with NFL football broadcasts.
Boze argues KIRO weekday host Dori Monson and fill-in Peter Weissbach have been “quite critical of Rather on shows with a much larger audience” but have not been fired.
“They have had no pressure to stop criticizing either,” Boze said. “I know because I asked them.”
Weissbach told WND he was on the air last week four days with KIRO and one day for KTTH, and on both stations he called for Rather to be fired.
“Maloney is just making this stuff up,” charged Weissbach, who worked with him when both had a daily show at Seattle’s rival conservative talk-show station, KVI.
In a statement issued Saturday, Maloney said he believed he was fired the day before because he stated on his Sept. 12 show Rather “should either retire or be forced out.”
Boze noted KIRO station manager Ken Berry also manages KTTH.
“We’ve hammered Rather for weeks and have had no pressure to quit,” Boze said.
“Ken Berry has personalities as far to the left as Mike Webb and as controversial on the right as Michael Savage,” Boze added. “In short, he is not the silencing type.”
Weissbach agreed, asking, “If Ken Berry is so biased against conservatives, why would he have launched KTTH?”
Maloney responded, asserting Berry did not “develop” KTTH.
“It was created at the corporate level to compete with KVI,” he said. “It is an ABC affiliate. KTTH is mostly syndicated and in the building nobody pays attention to KTTH’s programming. They simply don’t listen to it, so they don’t care what is said there. KIRO is different; they do pay close attention.”
Could Berry have been pressured by CBS? Weissbach insists CBS would need KIRO – as one of the most powerful stations in the country in terms of reach – more than KIRO would need CBS.
But Maloney told WND he stands by the contention he was fired because of his Rather comments and believes KIRO changed its stance over the weekend when his situation became a national story.
According to the fired host, an Associated Press reporter came to him Saturday after having talked to Berry and said, “By the way, Ken Berry is not denying your allegations.”
The AP story said: “Berry initially declined to comment.”
“If Berry had just flat out said” there is nothing to the charge, it probably would not have become a national story, Maloney told WND.
But Maloney thinks that when the story grew Sunday, the station went into “panic mode” and “suddenly, it’s a mundane scheduling issue.”
“I know the company, and they don’t have a history of firing people because of scheduling conflicts,” said Maloney, who had been with KIRO since 2001. “They would be more likely to leave you in limbo and schedule you in after the conflicts are over.”
Berry’s statement said, “The primary reason Brian Maloney’s show was canceled is because KIRO’s broadcasts of the Seattle Seahawks football games significantly reduces our Sunday talk lineup, and we felt the remaining time slots would be better filled by other hosts.”
Boze said the fact that Berry had no initial comment is not shocking in a “lawyer-happy world.”
Maloney said he researched the scheduling conflicts and found only eight preemptions, “so it’s no reason to fire me.”
Responding to Boze’s contention that other KIRO hosts also critized Rather, Maloney insisted they are in a different situation.
Monson, he said, is a full-time weekday host “who is locked into a safe and secure employment contract with a high-profile agent that really spells out he gets to mouth off basically, and I don’t have that.
“And that, I think, is why I was picked on.”
Weissbach, Maloney said, is an occasional fill-in host who does not work for the station.
Berry did not reply to a message asking for a response to Maloney’s comments to WND.
Maloney said he is scheduled to talk about his situation on the Fox News Channel’s “Fox News Live” today and claims KIRO rejected the cable network’s request to have a representative defend the station.
A morning host at KTTH, Mike Siegel, questioned Maloney’s contention about the firing on his show yesterday.
Maloney said Siegel and Boze simply are “loyal to the manager who fired me.”
“I am defending my boss,” Boze acknowledged. “But was I asked to defend my boss? Definitely not.”
No smoking gun
Maloney said he never has claimed to have had a smoking gun to prove why he was fired, but “what I’ve said from the beginning is, it’s my strong contention.”
“I had moved in a different direction than what they wanted,” he explained, “and the trigger was the comments about Dan Rather.”
The former host said he believes Berry needed a justification for the firing that he could take to the other managers, “and this was most certainly it; no question.”
Maloney said he sees a consistent pattern at KIRO favoring hosts who agree with Berry’s political persuasion, pointing to a couple of recent examples.
In March, he said, left-wing host Mike Webb was not punished for floating the idea that President Bush could be executed for war crimes, and veteran host Dave Ross was allowed to remain on the air even after announcing he would become a Democratic challenger for a vacant seat in Congress.
Maloney described Berry as “an extreme-left partisan from San Francisco who openly encouraged newsroom staffers to support [Democratic presidential candidate] Howard Dean last year.
“He wears his politics on his sleeve,” Maloney said.
Maloney dismisses the contention of critics that he is framing this story to advance his career.
“Any prediction that this is a rocket ride to fame are premature and may be really off base,” he said.
He argued that while some managers might look favorably on his outspokenness at a station such as KIRO, his career also could be threatened by being labeled as a “trouble maker.”
He described KIRO as an “old-fashioned, stuffy, liberal station, “which made it very challenging for me.”
“But I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “It was such an incredible challenge to survive. People thought I was nuts to work there. But I told them, you don’t know the half of it. It would knock your socks off in terms of the political bias.”
Maloney’s broadcast career began in 1993 when he was working on a political campaign in Santa Cruz, Calif. Following several years at KSCO in California’s Central Coast region, he went on to Reno’s KOH-AM and then came to Seattle’s KVI before landing at KIRO. In his early years, he became known as the “Radio Equalizer” because, “my show was one of the few places giving balance to the local news stories of the day. The name is silly but it kind of stuck.”