• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

Not long ago, I asked how much influence conservative talk radio had on the election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to “Ted Kennedy’s seat.”

Now a local liberal blogger has answered the question. Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix wrote this week, “Talk radio was huge for Brown. … If you listened to Boston talk radio during the race … you know that this segment of the airwaves was, overwhelmingly, Brown country: a source of hope and good cheer when things looked grim, and a high-volume ally as the Brown juggernaut headed down the home stretch.”

Industry insider Randall Bloomquist added, “Brown also benefited tremendously from his long-time courtship of the radio crowd. Even before the U.S. Senate campaign, then-State Senator Brown would often call local shows unannounced just to share an opinion or bit of news. Conversely, Democrat Martha Coakley’s campaign typically didn’t even bother to return calls from shows they deemed hostile. The result: Hosts who were inclined to disagree with Coakley came to dislike her.”

Clearly, liberals and conservatives have very different attitudes towards talk radio, be they broadcasters or listeners. If you’ve been inspired by the Tea Parties to get involved in a local election campaign, you’ll find this media analysis to be thought provoking.

Rush Limbaugh

“Rush 1, Second City 0″ – that’s one critic’s verdict on the Chicago comedy troupe’s new stage show called “Rush Limbaugh! The Musical,” spoofing assorted conservative pundits.

The Chicago Tribune’s theatre critic understands what makes Rush the No. 1 host in America better than the musical’s creators: “What [the actor playing Limbaugh] hasn’t yet channeled is the man’s outsize charm and charisma. That’s partly because this show keeps dodging the core of Limbaugh: the talker, the microphone, the listeners. It’s all about the relationship, stupid. That’s the man.”

On the air this week, Rush Limbaugh aired highlights of Sarah Palin’s speech to the Tea Party Convention, and compared her to Ronald Reagan, saying, “She knows, like Reagan, that simplicity and optimism is really all that’s needed for America to turn around” (FREE audio).

Rush also issued a stirring call to Republicans to embrace their label as “the Party of No” and reject phony calls for “bipartisanship” (FREE video below).

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called Rush “an idiot” for declaring that the record-breaking blizzard in Washington, D.C., proved “global warming” was a hoax. Unfortunately for RFK, he’d made similar sweeping statements about Capitol snowstorms last year – and was ribbed for his lousy “weather reporting” as the flakes continued to fall.

Glenn Beck

When listeners learned that Albany’s WROW 590 AM had cancelled Glenn Beck’s radio show and switched to an all music format, they reacted like you might expect Beck fans would: They’re planning a protest.

This Saturday, they’ll gather at the station to voice their disappointment. The station insists the decision had nothing to do with politics and that the owner is “as conservative as a person can get.”

Beck has much bigger get-togethers planned, however. This week, he announced a series of “American Revival” meetings talking place later this year, “to get America back to what our Founders intended” (FREE webcam).

On Monday, Beck praised “A Patriot’s History of the United States,” a book that came out back in 2004. Within hours, the book had gone from No. 280,000 at Amazon.com to No. 1, and is still there, as of this morning.

Also on Monday: Beck spent nine minutes goofing on Chris Matthews’ “I forgot Obama was black” comment. Classic radio! (FREE webcam)

Later he grilled so-called “Tea Party” candidate for Texas governor, Debra Medina, about her alleged “9/11 Truther” views, and was clearly startled by her response.

Beck made a new and somewhat unlikely fan this week. Freakonomics co-author and New York Times blogger Stephen J. Dubner was Beck’s guest a few weeks ago and was impressed by Beck’s curiosity about a book he had with him.

Dubner wrote, “This was the only time I’d ever done an interview and even had someone ask about the book I happened to have with me at the time, much less want to read it, and then read some others. I was pretty impressed. Beck has an awful lot of fans, but he has a lot of detractors too – and my sense is that those detractors have miscast him as a know-nothing villain.”

The two men got talking about cars, and Beck offered Dubner a lift in his new “death proof” Mercedes.

Dubner turned the tables and asked Beck “what keeps him up at night.” Yheir recorded conversation became part of the first ever “Freakonomics Radio Podcast” (FREE audio)/

Hugh Hewitt

Since Hewitt spends so much time covering the Beltway, listeners were surprised when he welcomed acclaimed actor Robert Duval on the show Thursday. Duval talked about show business and politics in a wide-ranging interview. His thoughts about former President George W. Bush are particularly intriguing (FREE audio).

A running feature of Hewitt’s show are his attempts to interview “old media” types, who refuse time and again to simply admit their own liberal bias. This week, James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times was in the “hot seat,” and the usual non-interview ensued.

“I had prepared a list of questions for Rainey – who did you vote for, do you own a gun, are you pro-life etc – to center him in the audience’s mind,” Hewitt blogged later. “The list could have taken about two minutes to complete, except Rainey simply refused for the most part to answer, substituting instead filibuster after filibuster, a practice that continued as we got deeper into the conversation. … This conversation is another exhibit in the museum of dead or dying newspapers” (Transcript).

On Thursday night, former President Bill Clinton was hospitalized in order to have two heart stents put in. Hewitt’s regular Thursday guest, Mark Steyn, commented on that, and the rest of the news:

Hugh Hewitt: I think [Joe Biden] saying he’s the father of modern Iraq, Mark Steyn.

Mark Steyn: I guess he’s the George Washington of Iraq. I don’t know whether they do brain stents –

Hewitt: (laughing)

Steyn: But I think it’s about time he went … he’s got hair stents. I like his hair stents. But I think it’s maybe time for him to have a brain stent.

Earlier in the week, Hewitt appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” to argue about Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin with Arianna Huffington, whom Hewitt called, “increasingly silly” (FREE video).

Neal Boortz

Sarah Palin’s Tea Party was the subject of debate at MSNBC as well, when talk radio host Neal Boortz fought with Ed Schultz about her on the air for more than nine minutes. (FREE video).

Boortz also offered a side-by-side comparison between Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme and Social Security that was as informative as it was entertaining. It’s the sort of thing you’ll want to forward to friends.

Dennis Prager

The New York Times reports that receiving food stamps no longer carries a stigma, now that they aren’t called “food stamps” anymore and you get a special “credit card” from the government instead.

Dennis Prager wasn’t thrilled by this, and neither were many of his callers – one of whom works in an inner city grocery store and had some troubling revelations about what shoppers buy with these taxpayer funded subsidies (FREE audio).

This week, Prager debated capital punishment with an academic who vehemently opposes it.

The “Male/Female Hour” asked, “Which sex has more advantages?”

Prager also revealed that the California judge hearing the Prop 8 case is gay, criticized the “Keep your hands off my mama” Super Bowl ad and spoke to Marc Thiessen, author of “Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama is Inviting the Next Attack.”

Dennis Prager’s audio archives are members-only, and are occasionally available for free at the “American Conservative University Podcast.” You can still “TiVo” your favorite talk radio shows, however, whether you’re on a Mac or a PC.

Who is the next Glenn Beck?

It seems premature to ask such a question, since it was only last year that Beck became a conservative media megastar.

Nevertheless, The Daily Beast has posted their picks.

They explain to their mostly liberal readership why talk radio matters: “The numbers remain staggering: Limbaugh reaches 600 stations and around 14 million listeners a week. If you combine his audience with that of Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham (other national conservative stars who have plenty of audience overlap), you’ve got a crowd of 40 million listeners per week, a figure double the online readership of The New York Times per month and larger than the population of California.”

The Daily Beast nominates both left wing and conservative talkers as “the next Glenn Beck,” making for confusing reading at first. Their more realistic choices for the title include Neal Boortz, Jerry Doyle and Mike Gallagher. The article helpfully provides audio samples of their picks, so you can judge for yourself – and maybe discover someone new to listen to.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.