Maryland Democrats’ war on talk radio

By Les Kinsolving

The Democratic Party’s long war with talk radio has gone into high gear in Maryland.

An Aug. 3 press release of the Maryland Democratic Party is headlined: “DEMOCRATS URGE GOVERNOR EHRLICH TO REPLACE RON SMITH AS HOST OF WBAL RADIO’S ‘STATELINE,'” and it reports:

ANNAPOLIS – After learning that Smith’s wife is now a high-paid employee of the Ehrlich administration, the chair of the Maryland Democratic Party is calling on Gov. Ehrlich to ask WBAL Radio to replace Ron Smith as the host of the governor’s bimonthly radio show “Stateline with the Governor.”

The Baltimore Sun reported today that while the governor is cutting services and state employees, he hired Smith’s wife to head the communications office of the state Department of Juvenile Services. She will earn $79,771 a year.

“Ron Smith is a former newsman and it is completely inappropriate for him to continue to host a radio show with an elected official who employs a member of his family,” said Isiah Leggett, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. “We’re asking Gov. Ehrlich to urge WBAL to remove all doubt or impropriety and replace Ron Smith as host of the governor’s ‘Stateline’ radio program.”

“Many Marylanders look to talk radio for information regarding important state issues. Those listeners deserve credibility and even if they don’t agree, they deserve an honest debate. Put simply, Marylander’s deserve a radio show where it does not appear that the host is unethically influenced by an elected official,” Leggett concluded.

This statement is marked for “IMMEDIATE RELEASE” and “Contact Josh White.” I had a really memorable contact with Josh White on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Mr. White confronted me and threatened to order security police to eject me from the floor because – he said – “You ask weird questions.”

I asked him to name one. He refused. And so, as a talk-show host for WCBM in Baltimore, I suggested he go ahead and call the police.

That my wife Sylvia is well known to Gov. Ehrlich as “The Berkeley Democrat” has not in any way diminished the hospitality of either Gov. Ehrlich or the Christmas press parties of five Republican presidents I have covered as a White House correspondent.

“The B.D.,” as she is known, has occasionally appeared on the air of WCBM without a single Republican demand that I be replaced because I am wed to this outspoken supporter of John Kerry and other Democrats.

As I challenged Maryland Democrat spokesman Josh White to go ahead and call the police and have me evicted from this (allegedly) Democratic Convention because of his unspecified objection to the questions I ask, I was rescued by a longtime friend, the (Democratic) attorney general of Maryland, Joseph Curran, who was seated on row two (and is surely more dedicated to the First Amendment than Josh White).

“Joe, I need a lawyer!” I called. “This man has threatened to have me evicted because I ask questions he doesn’t like – but won’t specify!”

The attorney general called back: “I’ll talk to him!”

But, however grateful I was to be spared, it was only days later that this same Josh White issued a press release demanding that Republican Gov. Ehrlich replace another friend of mine, Ron Smith, on our rival station, because of Ron’s wife.

Ron Smith has issued the following rebuttal to this Democratic Party asininity in Annapolis:

This morning’s Baltimore Sun carries a story about my wife’s new job with the state of Maryland. David Nitkin reported it accurately enough, though the implication is that her job is a political payoff – a position created especially for her at a time of tight budget considerations.

Well, let me offer a husbandly defense of “Mrs. Reason’s” qualifications for such a position, as well as the state’s need for them in the Department of Juvenile Services. As listeners to my show have come to appreciate over the years, June Smith is one smart cookie, and, I might add, a person who has performed a variety of jobs in her career, all of them superbly.

She is already doing the same in her new position. Her impact has been immediate and hugely positive. She knows how to deal with the media and how to get the agency’s story out to the public. That, as I understand it, is the reason Gov. Ehrlich wanted her to work for him.

Did he know her? You bet. Did he know she would be a valuable employee? You bet. Is there anything wrong with that? I don’t think so.

I’ve often said that my wife is the most competent person I know. Many others share that view. She also possesses extraordinary people skills. She didn’t seek this job. The governor sought her. It was a good hire, as they say.

Are we friends of this administration? Yes, and it is hardly a secret. I make no apologies for that friendship and am confident that the state of Maryland will get exceedingly good value from employing my wife. Enough said.

My great friend and WCBM colleague Tom Marr regularly (and accurately) identifies the Baltimore Sun as “The Calvert and Center Street Democrat Club.”

So the Sun reported that Gov. Ehrlich “previously named Tom Marr, a morning host on conservative-leaning WCBM radio, to an unpaid position on the Maryland Aviation Commission.”

But the Sun mentioned nothing about Baltimore’s Channel 11 and its beauteous anchor and reporter, Donna Hamilton – wife of longtime Democratic Party activist and employee David Paulson.

How could the Sun overlook this media entanglement with David the Democrat? Why was the Maryland Democratic Party HQ so tongue-tied about this? Because they are both very hypocritical.

Gov. Ehrlich has – as a frequent guest on my show, WCBM’s Uninhibited Radio Free Maryland – declared: “The Washington Post is not as bad as the Baltimore Sun.”