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Rush-haters pounce on phony callers scandal

Posted By Kathy Shaidle On 03/11/2011 @ 12:03 pm In Diversions | Comments Disabled

The mainstream media tried to generate controversy over the revelation that performers were being paid by Premiere Radio Networks to act out scripted “listener calls” with a small number of talk show and drive-time hosts.

Every story implied that callers to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck were actually fake – even though no such evidence exists.

In fact, it is the media’s deliberate misreporting of this non-story that’s the real news.

For example, the once respected TIME magazine’s story was headlined “That Radio Show ‘Listener’ Calling In? He May Be an Actor” (although the story appears in the search engines reading “He’s Probably an Actor,” which is a gross and irresponsible exaggeration.)

The story continues:

“We’ve all been forced to listen to those annoying radio shows – you know, the ones that air during your morning commute instead of actual music – only to hear the hosts field calls from listeners who are constantly complaining about all that’s wrong in their lives.

Most of the time, we can relate – we really can. But now Gawker has discovered that these callers are actually paid voice actors, and their woes are just as fake as their phone personas. What a sham!”

The blanket statement that every caller to talk radio is a paid performer is utterly absurd, but made its way unedited into the TIME report anyway.

And another thing: if those radio shows are so “annoying,” why does the TIME reporter “really relate” to what they’re listening to? Or is basic copyediting for sense and accuracy now too much to expect from a national newsweekly?

Rush Limbaugh

Naturally, Rush Limbaugh was eager to assure listeners that he has never hired actors to call in to his show – because he doesn’t have to. Limbaugh has far more callers a day than he could possibly handle, with some determined listeners trying for years to get through before finally making it past call screener “Snerdley.”

In this intriguing clip, Limbaugh offers a glimpse behind the scenes of how a radio show is really put together, and recalls his early days doing crank calls before FCC rules made them harder to do (FREE audio).

Speaking of pranks, Rush praised young filmmaker James O’Keefe for his latest video expose, which showed a former NPR executive calling tea-party activists “racists” (FREE audio).

Michael Savage

Watching actor Charlie Sheen’s disintegration, Michael Savage asked, “How does someone get to that point?”

Savage pointed out the similarity between the younger Sheen’s public acting-out and his father Martin Sheen’s drug induced “breakdown” in the movie “Apocalypse Now” (FREE audio).

Savage interviewed James O’Keefe, the young activist filmmaker whose latest “sting” caught an NPR executive making career-ending comments about tea partiers on video (FREE audio).

Michael Savage is celebrating his 69th birthday on March 31. He tells supporters that “the best birthday present you can give is a donation to the Savage Legal Defense Fund.”

Mark Levin

Houston radio host Michael Berry sat in for Mark Levin on Monday and mocked his longtime nemesis, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas (FREE audio).

When Levin returned to the microphone, he castigated the Republican House leadership for failing to do enough to stop spending.

“Where are our statesmen?” he asked (FREE audio).

Levin doesn’t share some of his colleagues’ enthusiasm for Donald Trump’s possible presidential run and told listeners that Trump has donated $65,000 more to Democratic candidates than Republican ones.

Sean Hannity

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., joined Hannity to discuss her possible run for president in 2012, telling Sean, “It’s on the table” (FREE audio).

Later in the week, Indiana Congressman Mike Pence told Hannity that, “Right now what we’re trying to do is keep the promise we made with the American people in the Pledge to America and find at least $100 billion in savings off the president’s number. That’s the $61 billion that will get you $100 billion off what the president wanted to spend.”

Laura Ingraham

Rick Santorum joined Laura Ingraham to talk about (among other things) Jeb Bush seeming to “campaign” (in Ingraham’s words) with President Obama (FREE video):

As Peter King’s hearings about radical Islam began in Washington, Brigitte Gabriel talked to Ingraham about the growth of Islamic radicalization across America. Later, Corey Stewart discussed his lawsuit against Janet Napolitano, and in an entertaining segment, communications expert and political analyst Frank Luntz critiqued callers’ ideas for campaign slogans (FREE audio).

Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck was on vacation this week, but he still made news. Christian minister Brannon Howse told WND that Beck is “a pagan, New Age, universalistic Mormon” who may also be an “anti-Christ.”

While his show still has more viewers than many similar programs on cable news, the mainstream media has been gleefully reporting on a recent dip in Beck’s TV ratings. A writer at Salon.com analyzed the reasons for Beck’s falling viewership, musing that “his audience is dwindling because it won an election and now needs a break from caring about politics.”

A reader took a Florida publication to task for a recent editorial cartoon by Daryl Cagle, mocking Glenn Beck’s announcement that he might be losing his eyesight, calling it “extremely tasteless and disgusting.”

And now, from the left side of the dial …

In the wake of the overblown “controversy” over paid callers to radio talk shows, the mainstream media mostly ignored Ed Schultz’s bizarre admission that he – rather than the conservative talkers he so often targets for abuse – used such planted phone calls on his own program!

Brian Maloney, the Radio Equalizer, also reported on Schultz’s declaration that “Democratic Party staffers on Capitol Hill were behind the fakery, phoning in [to Schultz's radio show] from congressional offices!” (FREE audio):

“A reader wonders about the legality of using congressional offices this way,” adds Maloney, who continues, “Schultz repeats the lie about actors calling Rush’s show, of course, even using his own inexplicable disclosure to bash the talk titan. Does any of this make sense? Don’t worry, it doesn’t.”

Maloney wryly adds that Schultz “seems perfectly sober” in the audio clip. Your mileage may vary.


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