Air America's ever-evolving statements about the controversy have raised more questions than they've answered. After radio industry blogger Brian Maloney (radioequalizer.blogspot.com) called attention to the probe last week, the liberal radio network initially shrugged off corporate responsibility by asserting that its current management, Piquant LLC, "had no involvement whatsoever" with the funds and was "not being investigated." A follow-up statement then revealed that Air America "agreed months ago to fully compensate" Gloria Wise for the loan (despite having "no involvement" with it). Yesterday, Air America host Al Franken acknowledged that Piquant had conducted an internal probe of the matter before the city got involved -- and, according to the city, failed to tell authorities about it.
If a conservative radio network had been entangled in a scam to steal from black children to line the pockets of wealthy white con artists, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would already be staging hunger strikes in protest. But both have hefty political and financial stakes in Air America's success -- and the big mouths aren't about to badmouth their friends.
Air America's flagship New York City station is housed on Park Avenue at WLIB-AM, owned by Inner City Broadcasting. The company shunted aside its black-themed talk format at WLIB to accommodate Air America. In return, Air America made room for a few minority radio hosts and also entered into lucrative lease management agreements with Inner City Broadcasting, which owns and operates 17 radio stations in five markets.
The co-founder of Inner City Broadcasting is New York media mogul Percy Sutton, best known as Malcolm X's lawyer and former Manhattan borough council president. Sutton helped bail Sharpton out after Sharpton was ordered to pay former Dutchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones over the Tawana Brawley race hoax. Sutton also raised and donated money for Sharpton's 2004 presidential bid. Sharpton still broadcasts a Sunday radio show on WLIB. Sutton and Jackson are longtime friends and partners. Sutton served as Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign finance chairman. Jackson has lobbied on Sutton's behalf. Sutton sits on Jackson's Citizenship Education Fund. As original investors, Jackson and his wife reportedly hold more than 23,000 shares in Inner City Broadcasting.
Now you know why there will be no boycotts at Air America headquarters over the possible bilking of poor Bronx children. Race hustlers care about only one color: green.
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