Now there's a rebuttal to that book. It's called "The Right Frequency: The Story of the Talk Radio Giants Who Shook Up the Political and Media Establishment." Author Fred Lucas chronicles conservative talk-radio stars over the decades, reminding us how they kept the American idea alive. (A disclaimer: Lucas works during the day as the White House correspondent for CNSNews.com, a division of the Media Research Center, which I lead.)
Lucas travels back to the early days of radio history, describing, for example, how Fulton Lewis predicted to Mike Wallace in the 1950s that the Republican Party could be a majority party if they would only let the conservatives run it, instead of the wishy-washy, me-too moderates.
But it's really fun to remember how liberals have failed to find their anti-Limbaugh. In the 1990s, ABC Radio tried to make a star out of Texas Agricultural Commissioner Jim Hightower, thinking they could sell ultra-liberalism if it sounded folksy enough. He bombed. They tried to sell Mario Cuomo as a radio host, although he was far too pompous for the regular folks. He lectured a libertarian caller: "What if you have a plague? Floods? You'd just let everybody drown?" He bombed. They tried former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder. Bomb.
In 2004, the media elite went gaga over the anticipated ascent of Al Franken and the Air America network into Limbaugh's orbit. The New York Times and Washington Post each promoted their debut on the front pages and in cover stories in their Sunday magazines. Newsweek published a three-page spread featuring Franken in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier. Time only gave it a page, with the headline "America Needs Air America." None of it worked.
At the outset, Air America was sold as a "tremendous business opportunity" with a "hole in the market you could drive a truck through." In the end, Air America later fell right through that hole in the market into bankruptcy and liquidation.
It's rather funny. The left regularly augment the puny power of liberal radio hosts by promoting them on TV, from Sharpton and Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow in the evenings on MSNBC to live morning shows with Bill Press and Stephanie Miller on Al Gore's tiny-ratings channel Current TV. None is threatening the right. We're asked to "Lean Forward" in MSNBC promos, and Current TV promos expect us to believe their big "weapon" on their talk programs is "the truth." Try telling that to Press or Miller as they celebrate character assassinations against Republicans.
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