Archive for April 2013

Clarence Manion: Bridge to Goldwater’s Movement

April 27, 2013

(The following is an excerpt from The Right Frequency.)

Clarence Manion, the retired dean of the Notre Dame School of Law, became one of the most thoughtful conservatives from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. While Fulton Lewis Jr. was the more excitable and more remembered for his radio program, Manion had a philosophy fairly in tune with modern conservatism. The “Manion Forum” began broadcasting in 1954 and continued until his death in 1979. It had a national audience, but was not a profitable venture, as he purchased airtime, raised money for the efforts and did not have a salary. He didn’t even apply for non-profit status out of fear the Internal Revenue Service might harass him for his content.
“Today’s major radio talk shows are ongoing infomercials for political parties, but it hasn’t always been that way,” his son Christopher Manion wrote in 2009. “The ’Manion Forum,’ a national radio show founded by my father in 1954, took bipartisan aim at whoever was in power—Republican or Democrat—on the basis of solid conservative principles.”

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Early on Manion, a lifelong Democrat, was a huge supporter of FDR and the New Deal, even writing a book endorsing the agenda in 1939. But when FDR began moving toward interventionist policies, Manion joined the America First Committee and began to rally against interventionism and big government.
He retired as the dean at Notre Dame to work full time for Senator Robert Taft’s presidential campaign. After Taft fell short of his bid for the Republican nomination in 1952, Manion would head the “Democrats for Eisenhower” organization. President Dwight D. Eisenhower named him as the chairman of a commission to study how to return to states the power that the federal government had taken away under the Roosevelt and Truman administration. It was “a task taken seriously by Dad but, in short order, not by Eisenhower,” his son wrote. What caused Manion’s ouster from the administration was his public support for the Bricker Amendment, named for Ohio Senator John Bricker. The proposal sought to eliminate “executive compacts”—such as those made by FDR and Truman with Soviet leader Stalin—if the agreements lacked congressional approval. When Manion did not back away from his support of something the administration opposed, Eisenhower fired him. So he returned to Indiana and began broadcasting the weekly 15-minute program from his home.
The “Manion Forum” was an early victim of the Fairness Doctrine, when in 1957, the Mutual network feared Manion’s comments on a strike in the Midwest would prompt union demands for equal time. As a pre-emptive measure, they dropped his program.
In other cases, stations warned that in addition to paying for his own time, he would have to pay the cost of the other side’s time for balance.
He stopped doing business with these stations.
Manion still maintained a national audience that heard him express his anti-communist views, criticize the Earl Warren court, and lambast the amount of deficit spending the government was
doing even under a Republican administration. He caused an uproar when he called Social Security a “ponzi scheme.” He decried the cost of Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. He also spoke up for America’s religious traditions. In 1957, Senator Barry Goldwater got welcomed national exposure as a guest on the show.

Manion talked Goldwater into writing a book that the he thought should be titled a “Conscience of a Conservative.” The book was ghost written by L. Brent Bozell II. But the publishing
industry was not receptive, so Manion founded Victor Publishing Company, and the book launched Goldwater’s forward to the 1964 Republican presidential nomination and influenced the politics for generations.
“Clarence Manion was very important to the conservative movement. His weekly program was very well read and carried on many stations,” said Lee Edwards of the Heritage Foundation. “The transcripts of his broadcasts were then reproduced and distributed widely in the conservative movement. It was always regarded as a mark of your standing if you were a guest on the Manion Forum. He was a major player.”
Other guests on the show included General Douglas MacArthur, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Harry Byrd Sr., Henry Regnery, and Stan Evans, all key players in the rise of the conservative
movement. Though Manion was on the executive board of the John Birch Society—a group eventually shunned by the conservative movement—Manion would remain a significant voice in the mainstream conservative movement until his death. Though his show did not have the ratings, bombast exposure, or even make money, it did carry forward a purist conservative message in a well reasoned sober way that was important in America’s gradual shift to the right.

To read more, click here to order a copy of The Right Frequency.


Glenn Beck: Commentator and Guru

April 27, 2013

(The following is an excerpt from The Right Frequency)

Thus far, Beck has been a marketing genius, and a political one for that matter. He writes at least two books per year, has multiple websites, one magazine, and for the last two years has led rallies in Washington and Jerusalem. He is an activist and a corporation.
As reflected on in the first chapter, Beck is perhaps closest to Rush in terms of reach and influence through multi-faceted means. Limbaugh by comparison has a popular political “Limbaugh Letter,” a paid online element to his radio show, and hasn’t written a book in almost two decades. Beck, the third most listened to talker on 400 stations, still gets barely half as many listeners as Limbaugh for his radio show. The way in which the two are very different is that Rush has repeatedly said his success is not based on who wins elections or what legislation gets passed, only in rare instances encouraging listeners to call their congressmen and demand something. While Limbaugh used to hit the public speaking circuit regularly, he has never established a large scale rallies such as Beck’s “Restoring Honor” and “Restoring Courage” events. Maybe it could be said that Limbaugh cast a more looming presence over the conservative movement, but Beck works harder at it.

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Otherwise, they have enough in common, a love for radio at a young age, both started out playing top 40 music, they had messy personal lives of which they both cleaned up, and have most of the same enemies.
They also have the same syndicate.
Perhaps Beck’s strongest marketing point to stations and to Premiere, a division of Clear Channel, is that he attracts a younger audience, even as talk radio generally attracts an older audience of 40 or over. For a genre that has an overwhelming older male audience, Beck also attracts more females as a percentage of his audience than other hosts.
Beck’s influence over the conservative movement might have waned marginally since losing his 5 p.m. show on Fox News. The 2 million he reached on TV is not even half of the 9 million he teaches on the radio. “I guess I’m too stupid to self-edit, so I tell people exactly the way I feel,’’ Beck said. ’’I truly believe radio is the most powerful medium there is. It’s really treated so many times as a bastard child of other mediums. It is the most effective medium, when it’s done right, because it reaches right into the listeners and connects with them on a one-on-one level.’’
Nothing seems to be really stopping Beck’s success, success that is even more pronounced when considering his personal story. Beck grew up in rural Mount Vernon, Washington. Tragedy hit his life at age 13 when his mother committed suicide, events that might have led to problems he would have in his young adult life.
It was his mother who helped shape his interest in radio when she gave him a collection of shows that were produced in the Great Depression. Beck, as a child, would imitate the voices he heard on the recordings, and record himself. As a teenager, he got his first radio job when he won a contest to be a deejay for a local AM station.
Beck later got a job, at the age of 15, at a Seattle FM station, where he would take a bus to every Friday after school, and broadcast through the weekend. Beck did not go to college and instead was determined to have fame in the radio business, ideally in New York City. He got jobs in Louisville, Kentucky; Houston, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; and Washington D.C. It was paying off. By age 21, he was earning $70,000.929 Beck was mostly a liberal during his days as a deejay, once saying,
“I wasn’t just pro-choice, I was pro-everything, until I started taking everything off the table and began looking at things and asking if this view was consistent with that view.”
He began moving to the right during the Reagan years, or at least becoming more patriotic during his deejay show, such as expressing support for the U.S. bombing of Libya in 1986.931 But shifting right on the political spectrum did not keep him away from alcohol and marijuana.
By his mid-20s he was making $300,000, and said he was “a scumbag alcoholic with money and modicum of fame?” He recalled to The Washington Post that when he worked at a Baltimore station, he fired someone for bringing him the wrong pen as one example of how he had become insufferable.
He had a string of failed morning radio programs. His first marriage failed. After working in some of the biggest markets, he ended up taking a job at a Connecticut radio station.
He said he realized he needed to change after he had too much to drink and blacked out while reading his daughters a bedtime story. When he awoke, they asked him to finish, but he did not remember starting.
So he joined Alcoholics Anonymous. When Joe Lieberman first ran for U.S. Senate in 1988, he and Beck became friends. Lieberman wrote a recommendation letter for Beck to enter Yale divinity school. Beck started the program but did not finish.
Beck’s second wife, Tania, agreed to get married on the condition that they find a religion. They converted to Mormonism together. He was motivated to take his radio career in a more meaningful direction than the top 40. After the Connecticut contract expired, Beck in 2000 got a political talk show in Tampa, Florida. It turned out to be the perfect state to be in after the electoral mess of the presidential race between Bush and Gore. Beck was able to reach the number one spot locally.
His national syndication was modest at first.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the beginning of the war on terror, demand for more talk radio programming increased. In 2002, he went into national syndication with just 47 stations. His stated mission was to make listeners “feel goodness from my show and accept me for who I am, flaws and all.”937 Beck moved his operation to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the Glenn Beck Program was being carried 150 stations by 2004, and later to New York. The radio program syndicated through Premiere, reached 400 stations.

Immigration Reform and Talk Radio

April 27, 2013

Will the fate of immigration reform be in the hands of talk radio even as popular Republicans are stepping forward to support it?

Last month, the Republican National Committee released an “autopsy” for the party that called for, among other things, supporting immigration reform. Likewise last month, Tea Party favorite and likely 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul expressed support for a process to provide legal status to illegal immigrants. Another likely 2016 GOP hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio previously announced support for immigration reform and is the key member of the Gang of Eight.

But in 2007, talk radio sounded the amnesty alarm. Conservative hosts were blamed (or credited) with derailing a bipartisan measure supported by Republican President Bush and congressional Democrats. Fred V. Lucas writes about this in The Right Frequency: The Story of the Talk Radio Giants Who Shook Up the Political and Media Establishment (History Publishing Co.).

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After the defeat of the 2007 immigration bill, prominent Republican Sen. Trent Lott famously griped, “talk radio is running America.” Many Democrats, feeling the medium was too powerful, demanded a return to the Fairness Doctrine.

“The last time an immigration bill had a real chance, talk radio spoke in near uniformity against the bill,” Lucas said. “It looks like it will be much different this time. Certainly there is no lockstep consensus. Sean Hannity – with the second highest ratings of any host – says he evolved on a so-called ‘pathway to citizenship.’ Other hosts still insist it’s ‘amnesty.’ Many conservative talkers are just avoiding the topic altogether, or barely addressing it, perhaps waiting to see how it shakes out.”

“Rush Limbaugh for example has pointed out that surveys show reform is not the top concern of Hispanic voters, so there is no guarantee this will pick up Republican votes as the RNC and some politicians seem believe,” Lucas continued. “That said, Limbaugh isn’t as adamant about the matter as he was in the past.”

After Trent Lott’s assertion, Limbaugh defiantly posed on the cover of his newsletter under the words, “I run America.”

The Right Frequency details how most American talk hosts including Limbaugh, Hannity, Mark Levin and Glenn Beck called on their listeners to call Capitol Hill in opposition to “amnesty.” Listeners obliged, melting the phone lines of their Senators and Representatives and succeeded in stopping the bill backed by leadership in both parties.

However, not everyone thought it was a good idea. The Right Frequency tells of one conservative host who believes his colleagues were short sighted and that Barack Obama would have lost the 2008 election had some version of immigration bill passed.

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for and a contributing editor for Townhall Magazine.

To read more, click here to order a copy of The Right Frequency.

Rev. Carl McIntire: Crushed by the Fairness Doctrine

April 27, 2013

(The following is an excerpt from The Right Frequency.)
The Rev. Carl McIntire was a conservative Christian broadcaster
that held views outside mainstream of even conservative Christianity and to the right of most of the conservative movement.
Nevertheless, he had a strong following, as he was carried on 600 stations, mostly in the South and Midwest.
He is also an example of how the Fairness Doctrine could be used as a weapon by political opponents to destroy what had been a successful program called the “Twentieth Century Reformation Hour,” which began airing in March 1955. The show’s name derived from his belief that too many churches had become overly liberal.

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That criticism was lobbed at all the mainline Protestant denominations as leaning toward communism; but he also lambasted the Roman Catholic Church as “fascist,” the Southern Baptist Convention as “soggy compromisers” and even the Rev. Billy Graham “a cover for the apostates.”
“We found a way we could reach the public under the liberty we have in our Constitution. I found we could not get our story before
the public through the networks, and the press was generally blocked against us,” McIntire said. He said most Americans were “prisoners of the liberal media” and believed using small radio stations across the country to reach people, “we could get on and talk about those matter in a free exercise of religion and reach millions of people.”
While he managed to alienate plenty of Christians, his primary audience, he still had influence over a broad audience. That was evident from his ability to get 14,000 people marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to demand U.S. victory in Vietnam—counter to the usual protests of the day, as the reverend declared, “We are going to keep this country from falling to the communists.” He also could prompt people to send money, raising $50,000 for his church over the air and $6,000 for Israel during the Six Day War.
He weighed in mostly on political issues of a moral nature, such as opposing gambling, sex education, and even expressed his opposition to fluoridation of water. His program included a colleague named Charles Richter, known to listeners as “Amen Charlie,” because often when McIntire would make a point, he would pause to ask “Isn’t that right, Charlie?” Charlie would respond, “Amen. You’re right, Dr. McIntire!”
McIntire picketed meetings of the World Council of Churches to protest appearances in the United States of religious leaders from the Soviet Union who he said were KGB agents. “These are agents of the Communist government, folks!” It prompted mostly eye rolls. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, new information surfaced. Christianity Today’s Richard J. Mouw wrote: “I did not take this kind of thing very seriously. Like the ecumenical leaders McIntire was criticizing, I dismissed his accusations as fanatical rantings. We have learned a lot about Soviet Communism since those days. Things were much worse than many of us wanted to admit at the time. We also know now that many of those Russian Orthodox leaders were indeed conscious agents of their Marxist government. On this subject at least, Carl McIntire was issuing some legitimate warnings.”
By the late 1960s, McIntire’s troubles with the FCC began when civic and religious groups the reverend had been flailing away at complained to the commission about WXUR in Media, Pa., owned by McIntire’s Faith Theological Seminary under the corporate name Brandywine Main Line Radio Inc. One clergyman denounced the station for its “highly racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Negro, anti-Roman Catholic” sentiments. McIntire indeed had powerful enemies. The National Council of Churches and the Urban League joined forces in their complaints to the FCC. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives actually passed a resolution calling for the FCC to investigate WXUR and McIntire.
The FCC determined in 1970 that the station had consistently violated the Fairness Doctrine and would not consider the stations license renewal. McIntire was particularly shocked when FCC Chairman Dean Burch, the former Goldwater campaign aid appointed by Nixon, voted against his station. McIntire suspected it had something to do with his commentaries against Nixon’s efforts to get out of Vietnam and denunciation of Nixon for opening trade with China. He would later comment without proof it was an operation by White House Counsel Charles Colson. “It was just another one of those dirty tricks from the Watergate gang. That fellow Colson [was] the one to deliver the message to Burch to close us down.”
WRIB in Providence, R.I. told McIntire he must not mention any more names if he is to continue broadcasting. WMEN in Tallahassee, Fla. just cancelled his program simply saying they “were afraid to do anything to offend the FCC.” Dozens of other stations would cancel, citing the same reluctance to upset the government. McIntire waged a two-year legal battle with the FCC, which had revoked the station’s license. The battle that ended on September 25, 1972 when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. upheld the FCC’s ruling. Appeals Court Judge Edward A Tamm wrote in the court’s opinion, “At best, Brandywine’s record is indicative of a lack of regard for fairness principles; at worst, it shows an utter disdain for Commission rulings and ignores its own responsibilities as a broadcaster and it’s representation to the Commission.”
However, in the dissenting opinion, Chief Judge David A. Bazelon expressed grave concerns about the use of federal power. “In silencing WXUR, the Commission has dealt a death blow to the licensee’s freedom of speech and press. Furthermore, it has denied the listening public access to the expression of many controversial views. … In the context of broadcasting today, our democratic reliance on a truly informed American public is threatened if the overall effect of the Fairness Doctrine is the very censorship of a controversy which it was promulgated to overcome.” Even those who thought McIntire repulsive found it troubling that a small radio station could be snuffed out with a federal order. Senator Sam Ervin, a North Carolina Democrat, said, “When all the legal mumbo jumbo is clear away, the fact remains that the FCC chose to apply highly technical rules to this single station, having been forced by outside political pressure to do so.”
After the case, more than 200 stations dropped McIntire’s program. The program continued until his death in 2002 at age 95, but in a steady decline.220 He was heard on only one station in Camden, N.J.
“I was muffled by the Fairness Doctrine. I was crushed by it,” the radio preacher said.
McIntire’s daughter Marianna Clark said after his death that her father “never criticized anyone else’s theological or political opinions without offering them [a chance] to come on his station and reply, but no one would come on to discuss it or debate with him … the liberal groups that were opposing his conservative views ganged up and went to the FCC and said this radio station is not abiding by the fairness doctrine. It was a devastating thing that the FCC did in taking away this man’s religious freedom and his freedom of speech.”