The word "Thanksgiving" has many meanings. In historical context, the Pilgrims gave thanks for their new home, free of the religious persecution they escaped in Europe. In modern times, it means food. Lots of it. And family get-togethers. And football. And turkey. Lots of turkey.
Here,we're serving up the turkey as well, celebrating the second annual "2008 Turkey Of The Year," devoted to the year's masters of media buffoonery. And what a year it was! Of course, it was all about the election this year, and the zany exploits of many have been covered here throughout the year.
The Turkey nominating committee had a very difficult time narrowing it down this year, and keeping this entry from becoming too long. I was tempted to include various political figures this year, but that would make this thing ridiculously long. But there was so much hilarity on the political landscape that I may write an extra edition devoted to them, perhaps at year's end.
And unlike Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's embarrassing turkey pardon last week, there will be none here. The axe will still fall anyway.
Some of the usual suspects nominated last year make return visits, and there are many new turkeys to choose from. But there can be only one Turkey Of The Year.
And we begin this edition with an update on last year's top contenders...
Bill O'Reilly. Obnoxious. Egotistical. Self-righteous. Loudmouthed. Hypocritical. Yes indeed,no one could ever run out of adjectives to describe this FOX News blowhard.
And we found out this year that this isn't a new thing for the falafel king. Apparently, he's always been an asshole. From 1989 to 1995, O'Reilly hosted a syndicated tabloid news show for CBS called "Inside Edition." And long before he annoyed coworkers at FOX, he was doing it there. Somebody dug up an old outtake, showing O'Reilly blowing his lines and blaming it on the teleprompter guy in a vicious profanity-laced tirade. Fuckin' thing sucks, indeed.
O'Reilly's nasty temper is blatantly obvious to anyone watching. And he often uses his show to bully and wage personal vendettas against his so-called enemies. Chief rival Keith Olbermann on MSNBC had a lot of fun mocking the "Inside Edition" meltdown, and in quick retaliation, O'Reilly (who refuses to even utter the name of his nemesis, let alone challenge him directly) lashed out at Olbermann's boss, Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, parent of the NBC broadcast properties. O'Reilly called Immelt a "despicable human being" who, as the head of a major U.S. defense contractor, bears responsibility for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, since GE had done some low-level business in Iran.
Not being content with that, O'Reilly prodded his own bosses, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and FOX News chairman Roger Ailes, who leaned on NBC boss Jeff Zucker to tell Olbermann to cool it. Zucker told them to get lost. The News Corp-owned New York Post then began publishing hit pieces on Olbermann in their gossip columns. It was war!
Yes, it is true that O'Reilly uses others to do his dirty work. Like his hapless producer, Porter Berry, who attempted some ambush journalism. But pitting this sad sack against a journalistic heavyweight like Bill Moyers -- at a conference for independent journalists no less, is kinda like feeding him to the lions. O'Reilly was hoping at least to get some footage that could be edited in a way to cause Moyers some embarrassment. But Moyers is too smart to take the bait. Anyone who could work for LBJ and live to tell about it has got to have some inner toughness, right? Moyers was very polite and direct toward Berry as he proceeded to verbally turn him into a puddle of goo. Following the encounter, some of the folks at the conference who were taping the so-called 'ambush' then followed Berry all the way to the exit, pestering him about whatit was like to be publicly 'owned' and to work for such a crappy 'news' organization. But give Berry some credit. At least he's willing to engage in humiliating things that O'Reilly doesn't have the balls himself to do.
Though he is likely a coward outside of the safety and security of his studio, O'Reilly occasionally engages in some real world physical combat, to prove his 'toughness' to a rather skeptical public. Last January, O'Reilly got into a small skirmish as he tried to strong-arm Barack Obama's National Trip Director, the 6'8" Marvin Nicholson, in order to get to the candidate at a primary event. Nicholson probably could have folded him into something the size of a briefcase, but he didn't. Naturally, O'Reilly lied about what happened on his show afterward. And he proceeded to pick on another usual target, the
gang at MediaMatters.org.
Sorry Bill-O, but you ain't Geraldo Rivera. And you may not be the 2008 Turkey of the Year, but you are definitely in the running for 2008 Pussy of the Year.
John Gibson. O'Reilly isn't the only FOX News goon worthy of Turkeydom. Whenever FOX needed a talking head to deliver cruel, offensive and bigoted rhetoric (or at the very least more cruel, offensive and bigoted than their other meat puppets could serve up) or to mock those that cannot defend themselves, Gibson could always deliver. Hell, anyone who writes a book claiming that liberals are trying to ban Christmas outright is obviously a few fries short of a happy meal, right?
In January, following the sudden tragic death of actor Heath Ledger, Gibson callously mocked the death of actor Heath Ledger, calling him a "weirdo" with a "serious drug problem" on his FOX-syndicated radio show. He went on to play clips from Ledger's film "Brokeback Mountain," spicing it up with some hostile gay-bating rhetoric. Gibson deservedly caught a bunch of flack for his loud mouth, even though I'm not really sure if he even has any kind of radio audience. He issued a half-hearted apology where he didn't even admit doing anything wrong.
And lending proof to the theory that karma truly does exist, Gibson's TV gig on FOX News Channel got the axe about a month later. And now he's toiling in relative obscurity in his syndicated radio exile, where his show only has a handful of affiliates on really low-rated and underpowered AM stations.
But that isn't all in the world of FOX...
Various FOX News idiots. Last year, I gave a blanket Turkey Of The Year award to the whole sordid cast and crew. Rather than repeat myself, I refrained from doing likewise this year, tempting as it was. However, their collective exploits do deserve some mention. Here are a few highlights:
'Fox and Friends' Brian Kilmeade, who, when referring excitedly to a monkey he adopted from the London Zoo last week, said, "I'm responsible. It's almost like... almost like what Madonna did with that Malawi child."
My own personal favorite incident was back in June, when anchor E.D. Hill reported on the friendly 'fist jab' that Michelle and Barack performed just before his victory speech in St. Paul, Minn. "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently." Hill later issued a semi-apology and explanation for her loose lips.
A few days later, FOX News struck again, this time in an on-screen chryon during a segment featuring Michelle Malkin: "OUTRAGED LIBERALS: STOP PICKING ON OBAMA'S BABY MAMA!" As one Daily Kos blogger pointed out, it was one step away from calling Michalle Obama a 'ho.' Another apology issued soon after.
And wouldn't you know it? As soon as Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska started his trial, he got "the 'D' treatment."
Finally, FOX News hired a new pundit this year, former Bush political henchman Karl Rove. You've probably heard of him. Rove must be slipping, though, as he forgot his own GOP talking points as shown by him describing Barack Obama as "the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by." Yeah, kinda like his old boss.
Hey, I'd like to name the whole gang at FOX "Turkeys of the Year" for yet another year, but turkey donations are down across the country, so I'm going to have to limit it to only one person this time around. Read on...
Really bad Republican pundits. They were all over the cable news shows this year, like flies on feces. You often see them chanting canned talking points like zombies. Many of these people are so beholden to the talking points that they really don't know what they're all about, making it quite difficult when a host actually behaves like a real journalist and calls them on it. You may remember L.A. Radio conservojock Kevin James, who had his ass handed to him on "Hardball." Then there was another guy, an actual Republican congressman named Jack Kingston. While appearing on "Live with Dan Abrams" on MSNBC, he chastised Barack Obama for not wearing his flag pin often enough, playing the oh-so-popular patriotism card made popular by scummy political schemers like Lee Atwater way back when. And boy oh boy, was he making a big deal of it! Only one problem – Abrams noticed Kingston wasn't wearin a flag pin on his lapel either, and he made sure to call him out on it. Even a McCain campaign spokesman, Michael Goldfarb, couldn't dig himself out of bogus talking points. Tsk, tsk. For this year's Thanksgiving, they get a processed canned ham with lots of preservatives.
WHNT-TV. Don Siegelman, Alabama's former Democratic governor, got a raw deal when was wrongly convicted of corruption last year. His plight was documented in many liberal blogs and in the mainstream media, which raised the possibility that he was a victim of political persecution, and the whole ordeal had GOP dirty trickster Karl Rove's greasy fingerprints all over it. The CBS show "60 Minutes" ran a report in February on the Siegelman case. Unfortunately, if you live in northern Alabama, you probably missed it. The local CBS affiliate, WHNT, suddenly experienced mysterious "technical difficulties" that blacked out the entire segment. WHNT issued a half-assed apology, and blamed it on a technical problem with CBS out of New York.
Scott Horton of Harper's magazine, who had written in the past about Siegelman, called CBS News in New York and was told that "There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters."
To their credit, CBS19 was kind enough to show a replay of the segment on their 10PM news. Too bad it was on opposite the final hour of the Oscars on ABC, when nobody would be watching anyway. We'd offer CBS19 some turkey this year, but due to technical difficulties, we are unable to do so.
Pat Robertson. The conversation earlier this year involving the televangelist probably went a little something like this:
"Hey, guess who I was just talking to."
"The Almighty Himself. And you know what he told me?
"He told me who would win the presidential election this November."
"Haven't we heard that before?"
"But I'm telling you. This time is different."
Okay, I'll bite. Who's gonna win?"
"Uhh... I can't tell you. It's kinda between me and the big guy. Besides, that crabby old man on '60 Minutes' might make fun of me."
"No, that other crabby old man."
"Oh, Andy Rooney." Okay, so tell me, who are you supporting in the primaries?"
"Why, Rudy Giuliani, of course."
Ann Coulter. What would a turkey awards celebration be without mention of this vicious pundit? But in a year when things were looking pretty gloomy for Republicans, she morphed from Annthrax Annie into Baghdad Barbie in a June column:
"The man responsible for keeping Americans safe from another terrorist attack on American soil for nearly seven years now will go down in history as one of America's greatest presidents."
"It is unquestionable that Bush has made this country safe by keeping Islamic lunatics pinned down fighting our troops in Iraq."
"With Iraqi deaths at an all-time low, Iraq is safer than Detroit."
And, in the final paragraph:
The sheer repetition of lies about Bush is wearing people down. There is not a liberal in this country worthy of kissing Bush's rear end, but the weakest members of the herd run from Bush. Compared to the lickspittles denying and attacking him, Bush is a moral giant -- if that's not damning with faint praise. John McCain should be so lucky as to be running for Bush's third term. Then he might have a chance.
And in a very recent development, the New York Post reported yesterday that Annthax broke her jaw and it is currently wired shut. Normally, I'd be sympathetic, but considering she's long made her living being 'as nasty as she wanna be,' I'm really not.
No turkey, though, for her this year, just a cold, heaping serving of reality. In liquefied form.
Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Over the course of a year, the Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination went through a grueling series of debates, 21 to be exact. The final one, a Philadelphia showdown between the final two candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, was presented by ABC. One would think the two moderators, Gibson and Stephanopoulos, would take this opportunity to grill the candidates on the important issues Americans really care about. But this debate was less PBS and more TMZ.
The tabloidy first question set the tone, asking if they would join together on a 'dream' ticket. Then it all went downhill from there. The debate devolved into an hour and a half of 'gotcha' bullet points. It was less about the economy, health care, energy, the war in Iraq and terrorism and more about "bitter," Rev. Jeremiah Wright, flag pins, William Ayers, and whatever other stupid non-news distractions swirled around. Granted, moderators are supposed to ask tough questions, and at least CBS' Bob Scheiffer got it right in the final presidential debate the following October. But the performance of Gibson and Stephanopoulos at the ABC debate was roundly criticized. Especially after bloggers and the media found out where Stephanopoulos got some of the questions - from Sean Hannity, who begged him to bring up Wright, Ayers, etc.
Yep, that's our liberal media hard at work.
And while we're talking about insane 'gotcha' politics, we should give ample recognition to...
The 'mock outraged.' You know these people well. They're the modern-day version of the 'politically correct' types from the early 90s that they love to sneer at more than a decade later. Essentially, they're crabby right-wingers who like to feign shock and outrage at stuff the rest of civilized society considers rather meaningless. And they were out in full force this year during the campaign season. OMIGOD!!!
Obama had a crazy preacher!!! Oh yeah? So do you.
OH NO!!! Obama had an acquaintance who was a radical domestic terrorist in the 1960s!!! Oh yeah? Ronald Reagan armed terrorists in the 1980s. And the Bush family has long been friends with the Bin Laden family and the Saudi monarchy – people who actually know the people behind the 9/11 attacks.
All year long, we saw a long line of idiot pundits try to scare us all over the most ridiculous shit that came down the line. All it showed is that Obama is not much different than anyone else in power, and that they sweat over really stupid shit. And they think they can protect us from the real-life threats. Please. No turkey served here. Just a chill pill.
Brian Maloney. One of the biggest 'mock outragers' of all. This guy is such a tool that the turkey award itself should be named after him. As a matter of fact, I think I will. The turkey will from hence forth be known as "Maloney the Turkey." In the four years that the failed radio talker began blogging, he has gone from anti-Air America attack dog to avid Al Franken hater. Then big-time radio talkers like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity discovered him, and as a result, he transformed into a sickening ass-kisser. Radio Equalizer is now basically a shrine to these talk titans who already have over-inflated egos. As a blogger who became an officially-sanctioned propaganda organ for snooty millionaire talk show hosts, he lost what was left of his soul along the way.
But by chance, I happened on his blog once again, after virtually forgetting his very existence. Still the same old nonsense. But with conservatives out of favor in Washington and virtually everywhere else, Maloney has transformed yet again into a pisser and moaner of the highest degree, constantly feigning mock outrage at even the most minuscule of mishaps and any slight thing semi-offensive remark uttered by even the most obscure of liberal media personalities, as if to say, 'ah ha! Gotcha!.' He lets loose on mean-spirited and unhinged rants claiming that all liberals themselves are mean-spirited and 'unhinged.' Uh huh.
Maloney's increasingly ridiculous blog typifies why normal rank-and-file Americans have grown tired of the crybaby conservative movement. Right-wing age has become this year's political correctness, a meme that people are just plain sick and tired of. If the conservative movement has any future, it would be best served moving away from these sniveling wimps as quickly as possible. After all, Ronald Reagan was never a wussy. But alas, no turkey for Maloney this year. Just sour grapes and whine. And whatever he eats for Thanksgiving, let's hope, for his safety and ours, it's with a plastic spork in a rubber room.
Air America Media. People like Maloney have gotten a lot of mileage ripping Air America. Sure, most of it is nonsense, but the fledgling liberal talk media juggernaut is not without their share of unnecessary drama. With 2008, the network saw yet another ownership change. And the new boss, Charlie Kirecker, got off to a really bad start when he decided to play hardball with the network's biggest talent, Randi Rhodes. It started with a live, raunchy promotional appearance by Rhodes for her San Francisco affiliate, KKGN at a local comedy club. When the outspoken host lashed out onstage at Hillary Clinton ("She's a whore") and former vice presidential candidate and FOX News pundit Geraldine Ferraro ("She's a fucking whore"), pro-Hillary and right-wing bloggers went nuts. A video clip was leaked on YouTube . A day or so later, Air America made a big deal of 'suspending' Rhodes. The following week, Rhodes 'left' Air America and quickly landed at rival Nova M Radio.
So, what the heck happened? Turns out there was no suspension. On her first day back on the air, Rhodes accused Air America management of spreading the 'whore' meme in an attempt to gauge the level of her popularity as they were busy hashing out a new contract for the talk show host. A major sticking point between the two parties was the 'opt-out' clause, which would allow for Rhodes to leave at any time and prohibited management from outright firing her. They wanted it removed. In return, they would offer more money. Rhodes was adamant about keeping control of her show, and would not budge. Turns out, the start of the 'suspension' coincided with the final day of her contract.
With Rhodes' departure, Air America had two major holes in their schedule to fill. The morning slot had been vacant since The Young Turks left in January, and now they needed to fill one of their highest profile slots. Over the course of the next month or two, it was a revolving door of guest hosts, some good, some not-so-good, until they finally settled on former WABC talker Ron Kuby.
Now Kuby is a capable air talent, though without Rhodes' fanatical following. And his show was picked up by only a few affiliates, as many progressive talk stations opted to stick with Rhodes. As of now, they still haven't hired anyone for morning drive. And other shows on the Air America schedule (Lionel, "Clout," etc.) are still quite obscure compared to their rivals on other networks. The only bright spots are Thom Hartmann in middays and of course Rachel Maddow, who's had a phenomenal year, not necessarily with her Air America show, but rather as MSNBC's popular new host. Here's hoping Air America's current management, the most secure team they've ever had in almost five years in business, is smart enough not to let either of them go.
The HD Radio Alliance. HD Radio initially came from noble intentions. But the big problem here is the entities behind it just can't seem to figure out what to do with it. It is stagnant. Sure, we hear the ads on radio about this new technology, but the main problem they have is the same one they've always had. Namely, there's hardly any decent products out there on which to hear it. Sure, we'd all love to hear commercial-free eclectic programming on the side channels, and we'd love to hear static-free CD quality music from FM, but until they roll out something besides crappy tabletop radios and a scant few car audio systems and cumbersome converters, it will continue to remain a big tease – something that may sound kinda cool but also something we cannot have. They have quietly been signing up a few automakers to put HD Radio units in cars (as an option), but until it becomes more widespread, easy to use and more portable, HD Radio is looking more and more like a modern day version of the whole AM stereo thing from the 1980s.
Clear Channel San Diego. Last December, after weeks of hemming and hawing, and various protests from listeners, the company blew up the successful, profitable and well-rated liberal talk format on KLSD, flipping it to a sports talk format, the third such one in the market. With the flip came much more overhead, as the station went from one full-time local host (Stacy Taylor) to a handful, creating a mostly live and local daytime lineup. The format flip resulted in the station virtually disappearing from the local ratings chart. But when life deals you lemons, you make lemonade, right? The station did show a slight rise in ratings this summer (albeit still a small fraction of what liberal talk got on the frequency at its peak). Then we discovered how the ratings surge happened. Turns out several Arbitron diaries were sent from the home of the station's morning host. When this was discovered, Clear Channel San Diego wound up with egg on their faces, and said morning host was fired on the spot. A pretty embarrassing beginning for XTRA Sports 1360.
Some of this year's Turkey contenders won't be at this year's awards banquet, instead spending the holiday behind bars...
Evan Montvel Cohen. A reviled character in the early days of Air America, he's the guy who misled his other fellow investors, claiming he had more money than he really did. Actually, he didn't have jack shit, and created a rather ugly controversy by hitting up Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx for a rather sizable amount of change. When this was all uncovered, Cohen was sent back to Guam with his tail between his legs. But Cohen's sleazy tactics didn't end there. In May, he was arrested at Guam's airport on a Hawaii warrant for charges including theft, credit card fraud, forgery, and money laundering. Montvel Cohen is currently facing ten years in prison.
Bernie Ward. Ward was the longtime liberal late night radio host at San Francisco powerhouse KGO. Until it was discovered that he had a rather disturbing hobby – namely collecting child pornography on his computer. He used the Pete Townshend defense, claiming that it was all for a book he was doing on hypocrisy. That obviously didn't wash in court, and as a result, his radio career is over and he's doing seven-plus years in the joint.
Richard Senninger. Known on-air as Rick Wright, Senninger was a budding conservative talk radio host based out of St. Augustine, FL. He also ran an upstart syndication venture, and bought time on various tiny AM stations across the country for his late night weekday show.
He often boasted to affiliates and contractors how profitable his show was, and how he could turn his thirty years in radio and television into self-made radio success. It all sounded too good to be true. It was. Especially when he couldn't pay his bills. After attempting to pass bad checks and other peoples' credit cards to pay his bills, skepticism abounded. In May, Senninger's house of cards came tumbling down when he was arrested in Florida and extradited to Michigan to face larceny charges and bench warrants for unpaid child support. For this con man on Thanksgiving, mock turkey would seem quite adequate.
Elsewhere on the police blotter this year...
Daniel Dean Thompson. This Utah video store owner has been carving out a rather controversial business over the last few years. Basically, he takes Hollywood movies and edits out the naughty bits, removing excessive violence, cuss words, naked titties, etc., and markets them as "clean" videos. Basically, another self-appointed self-righteous moral arbiter defacing art. Gee, can't wait to see that 28 minute purified version of "A Clockwork Orange."
But that will have to wait. Evidently, all that time in the editing room must have driven him crazy. Actually, I believe he was crazy before that. Earlier this year, he and a buddy were arrested for engaging in sexual activity with two 14-year-old girls. No turkey for this scumbag, but he will likely get "three hots n' a cot."
If anyone ever wondered why right-wingers typically crash and burn in the movie business, perhaps Thompson exemplifies the reason. Which leads us to...
Hollywood Republicans. Right-wingers have long bitched and moaned about not being represented adequately in Hollywood. Witness their bitching about the most recent Pixar movie. "Wall-E," which received a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but which various wingnuts described as "leftist propaganda," "a 90-minute lecture on the dangers of over consumption," and "liberal nonsense." Thing is, instead of whining, they should do something about it. Sad thing is, the talent just isn't there. While we on the left can proudly claim the likes of Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Tim Robbins, Robert Redford and countless, countless others, they're stuck with washed-up people like Chuck Norris and Kelsey Grammar. Arnold Schwarzenegger is in politics now and Sylvester Stallone ain't crankin' out the hits like he used to. Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood (an old-school moderate Eisenhower Republican) don't really talk politics much anymore. Even reliable Republican Dennis Hopper jumped ship this year, proudly boasting to the press that he was voting for Obama. If right-wingers want to succeed in an artistic medium such as the entertainment industry, they need to at least make a credible effort. As you'll see from the following examples, they just have no case to whine.
Raphael Shore. Earlier this fall, Shore, a Israeli-Canadian documentarian and right-wing think-tank member, used his so-called organization' to blanket Sunday newspapers across the country with a DVD called 'Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against The West." The film is a scathing attack on Islam, as told by a mediocre filmmaker with an obvious agenda. And one obvious intent was to try to influence the U.S. presidential election. His website at one time even included an endorsement of John McCain. Okay, you say. But what about Michael Moore, Robert Greenwald and countless others do the same thing on the other side? Well, what Shore came up with was quite offensive, very violent, extremely racist and above all, unintentionally hilarious. Instead of the intended effect, scaring people with threats of Islamofacsists who hate America, people across the country were left snickering at silly Anti-American Iranian rap music videos.
David Zucker. This former member of the comedy filmmaking trio known as Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, which made such hits as Airplane!," "Top Secret!" and the "Naked Gun" trilogy has finally made a film devoted to the beliefs he holds as a so-called "9/11 Republican." This year, he attempted to make a honest-to-goodness conservative comedy. Unfortunately, "An American Carol" held the appeal of stale garbage, with the main target being Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," a film issued more than four years earlier. "Carol" has the look and feel of a film that had been sitting in either development hell or on a studio shelf for a long, long time, and when it came out, it had all the humor, excitement and appeal of a five-year-old copy of "The National Review." The result? This low-budget yarn garnered horrible reviews and came and went from theaters very quickly. Somewhere, there is a sharp, witty and funny conservative comedy waiting for someone to write it and film it. I believe it is possible. If it were really good, I would actually want to see it. However, this film is not "An American Carol." Close, but no turkey. He gets stale leftovers.
Ben Stein. I long ago came to the conclusion that if right-wingers so desperately want a monopoly on AM radio, they have every right to fight for it. After all, we've got Hollywood, and the conservative movement has had an even rougher time establishing a foothold there than liberals have in talk radio. Take, for instance "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," created by media pundit, former Nixon staffer, television personality and occasional actor Ben Stein (of "Bueller... Bueller... Bueller..." fame). Now, this hardcore fiscal conservative has solidified his partisan cred by putting out a so-called 'documentary' blasting schools for teaching, of all things, science. Why don't they teach that Jesus rode a dinosaur, fer cryin' out loud! Is our children learning?
Well okay – conservatives suck at the movie business. How about music? Read on...
Mike Meehan. The McCain campaign had a pretty tough time rounding up rally music this year. They were shut out of most of the typical top-tier rock anthems when artists such as Van Halen, Heart, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne and the Foo Fighters demanded that the McCain camp refrain from playing their music at their rallies. The best ones were solidly in the Obama camp. With the lack of A-list rock n' roll talent, McCain took his "Country First" slogan to heart and was reduced to trolling Nashville for the predictable retreads. One-hit wonder John Rich (remember 'Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy?") did write a song specifically for him. Okay, not exactly Bruce Springsteen, but you gotta take what you can get, right?
Perhaps they should have called Meehan, a struggling musician from St. Cloud, Florida who erected three identical billboards earlier in the year that showed an image of the World Trade Center attacks, a message begging people not to vote for Democrats and the address of his website, therepublicansong.com. In essence, Meehan became an even more shameless exploiter of 9/11 than Rudy Giuliani, and basically the creator of what could best be
described as "Free Republic: The Musical."
The music itself? Well, perhaps there's a reason Meehan is still pretty obscure.
So, what's his beef with Democrats anyway? As he told CNN, "I believe 9/11 could have been prevented if we'd had a Republican president at the time." Forget the turkey, let's buy Meehan a clue.
Lee Greenwood. Speaking of bad jingoistic music, if it's an election year and there's a Republican running for president, it's time for this schmaltzy countrified lounge singer to climb out of his Branson hidey-hole. Which he did, as he went on the road for John McCain. And next year, he's doing "Hannityfest" with Charlie Daniels and other cheesy country and Christian pop stars. Though, if President Obama follows through on his pledge to outlaw torture, the so-called 'Freedom Concert' might not happen.
appointed this one-hit wonder to a six year term on the National Council of the Arts. The Council's job is to advise the National Endowment for the Arts on how to spend its money. No turkey for him this year. Just cheese. Lots of it.
So, I guess that leaves talk radio, right? Here we go...
Melanie Morgan. What a year it's been for the San Francisco shrieker. Or what a year it hasn't, I should say. For years, she used and abused the airwaves of Disney-owned talk station KSFO to forward her ridiculous hate-filled rants for the past decade or so. Corporate cutbacks resulted in Morgan getting the axe. In essence, the very corporate system that gave her a microphone to spout her nasty rhetoric jumped back and bit her bony ass. In other words, those that live by the sword shall die by it.
This Thanksgiving, she gets two fake turkey breasts and a helping of instant karma.
Chris Baker and KTLF-FM Minneapolis. KTLK-FM couldn't be any different than the similarly-named progressive talk AM station in Los Angeles. Sure, they're both owned by Clear Channel, but that's where the similarities end. Earlier this year, the struggling 98,000 watt FM station (which at times had even been beaten by tiny 1,000 watt AM progressive talker KTNF in the ratings) shook up its airstaff and cut some overhead. They fired their faithful morning guy, legendary Twin Cities personality John Hines, one of the nicest guys in radio, for the crimes of (a) making too much money and (b) not being a mouth-foaming reactionary nutcase. In his place, Clear Channel brought in Baker, a cheap morning guy and right-wing goofball to boot. In keeping with the old adage of 'you get what you pay for,' what they got was just another obnoxious conservative asshole. Witness this exchange with his co-host, from the week of the Republican Convention in St. Paul:
"So we've been talking about police protection during the upcoming convention when all those stinky protesters are coming. There seems to be a big debate over whether or not police officers will be able to wear helmets, carry shields, use pepper spray and Tasers on this crowd. You know, I'll tell you what works on a crowd like this -- a machine gun, that always works very well." Baker's co-host, "Jordan," agreed: "Mow 'em down, baby!" he added.
At other times, he and his co-host claimed that NBA legend Magic Johnson "faked AIDS," called Obama "a little bitch" and ogled Sarah Palin's cleavage and panty lines.
Where on earth do they find these people?
Bill Cunningham. Back in April, the Cincinnati radio host was tapped by the GOP to warm up the massive crowd of 300 people (gasp!) at a local campaign rally, serving up enough red meat to choke a PETA convention. Big, big mistake. Onstage, Cunningham lashed out at the media, at Hillary Clinton, and called former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as an "ugly old woman," all while the media cameras were rolling. And he called attention to the fact that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. Multiple times. A few in the room cheered on Cunningham, while others stood with jaws dropped.
So, let's see... Blame the media? Check. Misogyny? Check. Xenophobia? Check. Racism? Check. Fear-mongering? Check. The fact that the goofy-looking Cunningham best resembles a human dildo? Double check.
Coming on after Cunningham's insane rants, McCain proceeded to throw said dildo under the Straight Talk Express, even telling the crowd that he'd never even met the guy. Yeah right. In turn, Dildo Man went crying to the so-called 'librul media' about that mean old man who dissed him onstage, and vowed he would support Clinton in the election, claiming that McCain was "too liberal." He also made up a new nickname for the Arizona senator, "John Juan Pablo McCain," an apparent reference to McCain's sponsorship of immigration reform legislation. In case you were wondering what he really felt.
Fast-forward to October. As the McCain juggernaut was looking dead in the water, Cunningham changed his tune, and offered to go out and stump for the beleaguered candidate. No response came from the campaign. The GOP may not be that bright, but obviously they can spot a turkey all the way in Cincinnati.
Sean Hannity. Earlier, I mentioned the 'mock outragers' that currently hold sway over the modern-day conservative movement. And the one person that perhaps best exemplifies this group is none other than Sean Hannity. Hannity is basically a GOP robot, barking the daily talking points with lots of bluster and little humor.
His two shows, one on the radio and one on FOX News, are chock full of the usual lies. And following the election, he has been in rare form. Never mind that Barack Obama has yet to take office – he's already responsible for our current recession. And never mind the whole Brooks Brothers Riot that accompanied the vote recount in Florida in 2000, Al Franken is trying to steal the Senate election in Minnesota by (gasp!) demanding every eligible vote be counted! Pot, meet kettle.
And if Hannity were held to the same standards of lesser employees at FOX, he would be out on the street. A few months back, a production assistant was fired when she told John McCain "I voted for you in the primary, you're going to win." Not too soon after that, Hannity all but admitted to being a surrogate for John McCain. Go figure.
The usually dour Hannity did inadvertently provide some comic relief back in January, when he was involved in one of the funniest episodes of the early primary season, as a horde of angry Ron Paul supporters chased him through the streets of Manchester, NH chanting "FOX News Sucks."
Glenn Beck. Beck almost deserves the Turkey outright for a really strange episode from early this year. As the Iowa Caucuses, the first major event of the primary season, were going on, Beck was gone from his show. Turns out he had been recovering from what he called "a botched surgery." In a bizarre attempt at garnering sympathy, the right-wing radio and TV host publicly released a rambling video from his sickbed, unshaven, drugged up and looking like complete shit, lashing out at the hospital that treated him, which he compared to rat-infested Walter Reed, and how the mistreatment and lack of compassion from hospital staff made him almost "full-fledged suicidal." Let's just say this appearance was downright creepy, and when I initially wrote about it, I was reminded of Vincent D'Onofrio's psychotic Marine grunt in "Full Metal Jacket." Beck never did disclose what exactly the surgery was for, though I'm not sure I really want to know.
But the rest of the year wasn't so bad for Beck. FOX News signed him away from CNN Headline News for tons o' money for his own show on that network. Now if only we could find a way to get rid of his former Headline News colleague Nancy Grace.
Michael Savage. Zillions of electrons could be used to keep track of all the nonsense that comes spewing out of Michael Weiner's mouth. I'd include them all, but I don't want to crash the computer systems of this blog's readers. Here are just a few tidbits:
March 31: "I would round up every member of the ACLU and of the National Lawyers Guild and I'd put them in a prison in Guantánamo and I'd throw the key away"
May 20: Savage aired the Dead Kennedys song "California Über Alles" while discussing Kennedy's diagnosis with a malignant brain tumor.
July 16: Savage claimed that autism is "(a) fraud, a racket." He also said, "I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is.
September 16: Muslim immigrants "are no doubt terrorists, and some of whom are gonna produce children who will become terrorists"
October 10: Accused Obama of running a "corrupt campaign," suggested that white liberals "hate white people," repeated the discredited charge that Obama "won't produce his birth certificate," and asserted "Kenya is going to move to America" if Obama wins the election.
But, alas -- no turkey for this clown. Turkey weiners, maybe.
And so, we have come to the big turkey enchilada. The biggest, fattest turkey of them all. Now, narrowing it all down to one single entity was a tough job in this activity-filled year. And I didn't even cover the political non-media end of the spectrum.
This would have to be one turkey that rose far, far above the others.
The sweeping tide of Democrats in 2008, culminated by the election of President-elect Barack Obama, drives the biggest nail into modern-day neoconservatism. It is very clear that the movement has run its course, and it's time for a new direction.
What began as a movement led by the highly confident and optimistic Ronald Reagan has fizzled out into insecurity, pessimism, name-calling,incompetency and overall immature behavior. And that's just on radio and television.
Turn on AM radio in just about any town and you'll likely run across any of hundreds of right-wing mouthpieces, endlessly chanting the mantra of the white conservative agenda. In addition, they're not too casual about pointing fingers, and are quite quick to chastise liberals as traitors, lunatics, dreamers and just plain evil. Yes, this is what passes for political discourse in America.
In the months and years ahead, perhaps these goofballs will be left in the dust as their audiences age and few of them show little reason to change their ways.
Therefore, the 2008 Turkey of the Year should commemorate this changing tide, and the rapid rise and slow death of wingnut talk radio. And in celebrating it, perhaps its best to go right to the head of the line. The year 2008 marked the 20th anniversary of a significant syndicated talk radio show. But it's not all about the past twenty years. This year has been a noteworthy one for Rush Limbaugh.
Anyone listening to Limbaugh can come to expect to hear a lot of nonsense, right-wing fantasy, racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hypocrisy, all broadcast from a studio in a near-empty office building near his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, One would assume he rarely leaves his home, aside from going to work or scoring drugs from the parking lot of the local Denny's. And with the signing of a new multi-million dollar contract, it's safe to say he's tucked away safely, far removed from that cold, harsh liberal world that exists beyond the subdivision gates. This chubby former disc jockey has essentially become Howard Hughes with a microphone.
Much can be written about the drivel spewed by Limbaugh daily, several for each of the 200 or so days he's been on the air this year. But as I said before, this entry is getting way too long. And in covering his descendants and clones earlier, it would be kind of redundant. We'll at least single out his most noteworthy episode of the year, this one called "Operation Chaos."
In the middle part of the year, he was egging on the heated rivalry between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who he dubbed a "little black man-child," for the Democratic nomination. In August he was hoping for riots to break out at the party's convention in Denver. He dubbed his efforts "Operation Chaos." It got media attention, but on-air bluster is as far as it really got. And soon after claiming that he was "dreaming of riots in Denver and "a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that." Many were offended by Limbaugh's call for riots, including several Colorado politicians and even a few listeners. Limbaugh hurriedly retreated from his previous comments, claiming to one caller, "who wishes for riots?"
Rush Limbaugh, 2008 Turkey of the Year.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The word "Thanksgiving" has many meanings. In historical context, the Pilgrims gave thanks for their new home, free of the religious persecution they escaped in Europe. In modern times, it means food. Lots of it. And family get-togethers. And football. And turkey. Lots of turkey.