UPDATE: Randi going to Nova M?
Less than a week since Air America Radio suspended Randi Rhodes, the fate of her show is up in the air. Rumors began circulating Wednesday night that Rhodes was no longer with the network, and that one of her affiliates will continue airing her show regardless.
Air America CEO Charlie Kireker and president Mark Green finally issued a statement Thursday morning:
Last week Air America suspended Randi Rhodes for abusive, obscene language at a recent public appearance in San Francisco which was sponsored by an Air America affiliate station.
Air America Media was informed last night by Ms. Rhodes that she has chosen to terminate her employment with the company. We wish her well and thank her for past services to Air America.
We will soon announce exciting new talent and programming that will accelerate Air America’s growth in the future.
At this time, Rhodes' own website and message board redirects to Air America's site.
Kireker announced her temporary suspension, a first for the network, last week following the release of a YouTube video that featured part of a raunchy monologue delivered by Rhodes at a radio station promotional appearance last month.
The partial video clip showed Rhodes doing a stand-up comedy bit, where she called presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro "f-ing whores." The clip was allegedly circulated by associates of Larry C. Johnson, an ex-CIA employee and former Republican operative who is currently a strong supporter of Clinton and a bitter foe of Clinton's rival, Sen. Barack Obama. The video clip has since been pulled from YouTube.
Michael Hood at blatherWatch quoted a source at the network as saying she would be gone for several weeks. A suspension period of that length seems par for the course in the broadcast industry, as both David Shuster of MSNBC and Dana Jacobson of ESPN returned after two weeks following their own verbal gaffes. Personalities such as Don Imus and Opie and Anthony were suspended, then released outright by CBS Radio following controversial bits aired on each of their shows. The Rhodes appearance was not broadcast.
Since former air personality Al Franken departed the network early last year, Rhodes has been positioned by the network as their highest profile air talent. Air America has especially worked hard at lining up affiliate stations to carry her show. An outright dismissal could be messy for the network, and further upset a rather shaky alliance with radio stations.
But some began speculating that Rhodes could be gone for good. First to speak up was KKGN (960AM), the station that sponsored the promotional appearance on March 22. Whether Rhodes returned to Air America was irrelevant, as Green 960 forced their hand, claiming that she will be back on the air next Monday, Air America or not. According to program director John Scott, "We have been very frustrated the past few days in our efforts to rectify the Randi Rhodes Situation (her suspension by her network, Air America Radio). It is our understanding that today (April 9th) she is no longer an employee of Air America. So we are bringing her back." Green 960 will air her return next Monday (April 14) at 4P PT.
The station also dedicated a page on their site to refute claims made by others around the web. Some claimed that the appearance was an event for Obama. While one Green 960 listener did post the gathering on MyBarackObama.com's event listing, the appearance was strictly a Green 960 event. The station goes further, via a YouTube video.
Rhodes reportedly has been in the process of moving back to West Palm Beach, FL from New York. And her flagship affiliate there, WJNO (1290AM), which, like Green 960, is owned by Clear Channel Communications, has all but confirmed that they will air her show, to be broadcast from their studios. Rhodes has been with WJNO for well over a decade, long before joining Air America, and reportedly has a separate contract with them. The station has been running some of her best-of shows during the past week. Likely, other stations, such as WINZ (940AM) in neighboring Miami, will follow, and rumors point to all of her Clear Channel affiliates following suit.
Fellow Air America host Sam Seder, who had been filling in for Rhodes since her suspension, was skeptical about the rumors. "I'd really be surprised if Air America fired Randi and would be extremely disappointed if that was the case," Seder said in an earlier e-mail to Raw Story. "My understanding was that she was returning from suspension within a day or two."
So, as it appears Rhodes and Air America really have parted ways, where will she wind up? She has ties with Nova M Radio, which is headed by Air America co-founder Sheldon Drobny and currently employs her former producer and confidant John Manzo as CEO. They currently carry two weekday shows, and Rhodes would fit right in, provided Nova M has the resources to add her to the fold. And don't count Jones Radio Networks out either, which carries a nine hour block of progressive talk with Bill Press, Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz. Both networks, according to subscription trade site AllAccess, are in the running.
Don't rule out Premiere, Clear Channel's syndication arm, either. They could conceivably step in, though their 800 lb. gorilla, Rush Limbaugh, has reportedly issued ultimatums in the past demanding that no liberal hosts be syndicated by them. Both Premiere and JRN initially balked at syndicating her back in 2004, but she does currently have a decent lineup of affiliates, including many of the biggest markets.
And so, we will write the next chapter in the Randi Rhodes chapter...
This entry will be continuously updated, so keep checking back.