Friday, April 11, 2008

Randi Rhodes Kisses Air America G'Bye

So it finally happened. Air America host Randi Rhodes has quit the liberal radio station. This bombshell happened a week after Rhodes was suspended for calling Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro "f*cking whores" during a stand up comedy routine in San Francisco. Air America Media released a statement Thursday saying Rhodes informed them Wednesday night that she was severing ties with the network and going over to their key competitor--Nova M Radio. My thoughts...

When Air America Radio first began in March of 2004, it was a welcome bit of relief from the right-wing dogma that dominated the mainstream airwaves. The SNL veteran Al Franken was a big draw, as were morning shows featuring stand up comedian Mark Maron. Even pop culture figures like Chuck D and Janeane Garafalo had their own shows. Then there was Randi Rhodes, who was in a class all by herself. In the past few years the station has seen a few shifts in management, and the loss of more than a few hosts. By the time the most recent owner, Mark Green, stepped onto the scene, alot of things had changed.

Al Franken, left to run a senate campaign. Mark Maron and his popular morning show was canned. Mike Malloy--the most radical leftist on the station--was canned, and was picked up by the Phoenix based Nova M Radio. Janene Garafalo ended up leaving because she couldn't deal with the management, which she saw as stifling. Sam Seder, her co-star and quite popular, ended up being bounced from a daily show to a Sunday only time slot. His show was replaced with this guy named Lionel (a move AA listeners seemed to detest en masse) upon the most recent management shift. And now the person who was undoubtedly one of the biggest draws for AA has left for Nova M.

Hmmm. Not the best of signs.

As a person who subscribes to AA (for now) and podcasts Randi Rhodes, my relationship with her show has always been love/hate. Randi pulls no punches. She says what she wants and what she believes, even when I may think it seems quite wrong. She's intense, arrogant, is prone to yell her points and is not above treating even her admiring fans with condescension. Her on air onslaught of Ralph Nader on her first show was, imho, rude to the point of uncalled for. On more than one occassion I've turned her off or tuned her out for a week or so, because her abrasive style gets to me. And sometimes there was more commentary on her personal life than politics, and I really had little interest with what she and her friend Wendy Williams--yes, the black radio gossip diva--talked about while sipping mojitos.

That being said, Randi has the rare talent of being able to deliver a verbal ass whooping to Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and the whole right wing crew with seeming ease. Conservatives who called into her show with their marching orders and talking points were *handled* the way you want to see em' handled. Randi probably helped publicize books like Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" more than anyone I know--except perhaps Amy Goodman. During Katrina, she was the *only* media personality I heard (a white woman at that) who asserted that the wild rumors of mass rape, mayhem and "birth of a nation" phobia that dominated the news narrative was bullsh*t---for which she was derided, but eventually vindicated. And she has vocally and strongly opposed the Iraq War and the Bush regime in general since day ONE.

Odd thing is, Randi used to chastise anyone--to the point of yelling--who tried to bash one Democratic presidential candidate over another. Because she said her friend Bill Clinton had told her, "fall in love during the primaries--but fall in line for the election." She'd point out that no matter who it was you wanted to win the primary, when it came to a Dem vs the GOP in the national election, u voted for the Dem because the GOP was a nightmare of an alternative. Then during the TX/Ohio primaries, something in Randi began to shift. I think it was the same sense of disgust everyone had with the 3AM phone call ads, the seeming race-baiting, etc. By the time all was said and done, Randi Rhodes, who had defended the Clintons for near two decades, did a 180.

She never came out and said she voted for Obama previously. But she basically pointed out that due to the math, Hillary could not win. And therefore her staying in the campaign was a selfish act that would only result in the destruction of the Democratic Party, and possibly allow the GOP to win come Nov. She began to see the Clintons as downright dangerous and subversive, and claimed she would no longer hold back on revealing all the dirt she knew about them. It was like Malcolm after he found out about Elijah's "marital indescretions." When Clinton threw a kitchen sink at Obama, Randi threw two or three back, encouraging her audience to go out immediatley and work to ensure Obama's victory. Her common mantra as opposed to "fall in love in the primary" became, "you can't marry that woman!" When it came to the Clintons, Randi had become Air America's Jeremiah Wright.

Alot of her fans who were Clinton supporters didn't take kindly to this, and called her out repeatedly. Randi "handled" them as well as she did the conservatives. As I listened to all of this, a part of me enjoyed it...for a while. Then it began to get really vitrolic. I'm no Clinton fan, but some of Randi's comments made *me* wince. So when I first heard about the "f*ckin whore" statement she made with regards to Clinton during a comedy sketch, I wasn't so surprised.

I personally think that was overboard. There are alot of ways to be critical of Clinton and her surrogates without going in that direction. As a person whose pegged as an Obama supporter, I don't really think that helps her (or Obama's) cause. On the other hand, she didn't make these comments on-air. She made them during a comedy stand up routine, that AA claims they were in part supporting. The free speech area here gets really murky, as it brings up issues of censorship and how much any company can intrude into one's life outside of one's primary job. Yet I can understand AAs case, even if I don't know if suspension--which eventually led to Randi to quit--was the best course of action.

Oh well, NOVA M radio I'm sure is gleeful at this catch. As for the future of Air America Radio, I'm not too sure...

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