The New York Times reported today on the questionable loans that Air America Radio's former director Evan Cohen gave to the network from a New York children's charity.
A spokesman for the charity told the Times that Air America has placed $875,000 in escrow as part of a repayment agreement. Al Franken addressed the subject in detail on his program earlier this week.
This should take the wind out of the sails of the conservative bloggers who have been riding this story for weeks, inflating its importance with grandiose names like "Air Enron." But a quote from Brian Maloney's analysis of Franken's program shows they plan to keep right on rowing:
The Radio Equalizer analyzed this audio in great detail.
After repeated listening ... the laughter seems nervous in nature, coming at odd times. It's used to cover up the particularly touchy aspects of this, toward the end.
This isn't the first time that Maloney's finely tuned hearing has picked up the sound of a conspiracy. In 2004, when his weekly Sunday afternoon radio show was cancelled by Seattle station KIRO because of Seahawks coverage, he claimed the real reason was his on-air criticism of Dan Rather.
-- Rogers Cadenhead
One can only imagine the cacophany from the NYT, the WaPo, and the left blogs if Hannity or Rush did anything similar.
So we have a double standard here - left wing radio steals lots of money from the poor - silence, followed by equivocation.
Do I have this straight? Evan Cohen, "former" Republican operative, makes several claims that turn out false while actually pulling a loot and scoot on Gloria Wise charity via AAR. So somehow this is all AAR's fault?
Right-wing radio steals your soul and makes you stupid. Rush and Hannity spread hate, fear, and the idiot king's hypocrisy. AAR has owned up to the problem, and it is an embarassing situation. But at least the new management has taken steps to correct it. If you want inappropriate chuckles, you need look no further than Dubya describing the death and desruction he is spreading in the Middle East.
The NYT has already made one correction to the article, Rogers. I suspect another one may be coming.
The NYT article quotes Grossman as saying that Air America has already placed the entire $875,000 in an escrow account.
The New York Sun:
Piquant has indicated its intention to pay Gloria Wise the $875,000 in installments, through an attorney-controlled escrow account. The company has not answered the question whether the Gloria Wise funds were absorbed by the radio network or disbursed elsewhere.
The owners of Air America have made an advance initial installment of $50,000 into the escrow account, an amount they say was agreed upon by both parties before they learned of the city investigation.
I wouldn't call it a non-story. AAR first ignored it, then denied responsibility, and now is just getting around to doing something about it. And yes, it is AAR's problem, because dodging it on a technicality is just the kind of thing they freak out about when someone on the right does it. Cohen didn't scam the money for himself, he did it to keep AAR on the air because unlike right-wing radio, it doesn't pay for itself.
That's a big part of AAR's problem - they didn't earn their place in the radio market so they've never had to learn how to be a going concern. And despite mediocre performance, they haven't changed their approach. It's as if they think their particular message is so important they don't need to change their delivery no matter how they do in the ratings.
It's not as if AAR is incapable of producing interesting material featuring coherent liberal thinkers, but they seem to prefer what Rogers doesn't like in conservative bloggers: riding stories forever, inflating their importance and assigning grandiose names to them is their thing, baby, as are conspiracy mongering, name-calling and violating (or is it fulfilling?) Godwin's Law on a regular basis. As Rogers points out, Alan Colmes is living proof you don't have to hate your political enemies to make convincing arguments, but AAR doesn't seem interested in being for things, just against them. That's their right, but it doesn't work in a presidential campaign, and it won't work on the radio.
Cohen didn't just borrow money for his Air America parent company. He also directed some charity money into his personal accounts, if the allegations are true.
You shouldn't gloat prematurely about Air America not proving itself in the market. The network's on 69 stations nationally, and Franken has three million listeners, which per station compares favorably to Rush Limbaugh's 14.75 million on 600 stations. Results are up in some areas and down in others, but all talk radio has been down because this isn't an election year. If the network survives to 2006, I expect it will do well enough for conservatives to be bitter about its existence until at least 2009.
I imagine the stats you quote aren't quite apples-to-apples as the 69 stations are likely to be large markets whereas the 600 are probably mixed large to tiny, but I agree that there's a market for liberal radio. And I'm not gloating, I'd love a good liberal radio show or three, I really would. I can think of a number of liberals who'd be smart, funny and informative on the air, but Air America doesn't have any of them on its payroll.
I just think they can do much better. I'm not terribly impressed by Franken, but at least he's not as awful as Randi Rhodes and Garofalo, who are shrill and defensive in the extreme. They're also far too willing to see conspiracies everywhere and not nearly willing enough to admit when they're wrong. It's kind of sad, because when Garofalo and Marc Maron aren't talking about politics, they're pretty darn funny. Or at least they used to be.
I agree with whoever said the best thing for AAR to do would be to stop being a network and syndicate its best shows, focusing on them and improving them as much as possible. I think that would give the better shows a chance to evolve into something that would appeal across the board.
I can't get over the feeling that I'm being lectured when I listen to AAR, often by people who aren't smart or informed enough to take that tone with anyone. It's off-putting in the extreme, and I'm more willing than most conservatives to hear the message they're peddling. I'm not saying Janeane Garofalo, for example, isn't smart, I'm saying that reading up on one side of an argument doesn't make you an expert. They can do much, much better.
You know, Rogers, I'm entirely sure you could do a better radio show than anything on AAR, in both ratings and quality, because you're smart and funny, you do your homework, and you don't appear to believe that what separates conservatives and liberals is that we're evil and you're good.
In fact, we should do one together. We could call it "CB Radio" and wear shock collars that activated whenever we lied, raised our voices over a certain level or uttered logical fallacies. Wouldn't that be fun?
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