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Liberals in Denial About Talk Radio and TV

Cal Thomas | Syndicated columnist | Published: Jan 06, 2003

Liberals in Denial About Talk Radio and TV

That most big media moguls and political liberals are clueless when it comes to the success of conservative talk radio and the Fox News Channel is evident from a comment by General Electric CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt. GE is the parent company of NBC and its offspring, MSNBC. At an employee town meeting last October, Immelt was quoted by The New York Times as saying, "I don't know a lot, necessarily, about the business or industry, but I do know how to kick (rear ends). That's what I do."

The ability to "kick (rear end)" when it comes to attracting viewers is like having a great jump shot when you're playing baseball. It is a skill that does not fit the game.

Some Democrats believe they lost the last election because of conservative dominance on talk radio and the soaring ratings at the Fox News Channel (where I host one show and appear on others). They think the answer to their electoral defeat in the last two elections is finding a liberal version of Rush Limbaugh. This is so laughable that conservatives might want to encourage Democrats to waste time and money on this quixotic dream.

Democratic and liberal ideas about higher taxes, big government, gun control and social issues such as abortion and gay rights are conveyed through the broadcast networks and major newspapers, which editorially endorse them. Still, liberals think they need to compete with conservatives on talk radio to convert more voters to their points of view. The big media sincerely believe they are not biased, despite numerous surveys and best-selling books that prove otherwise.

Leaving ideology aside (which is a major set-aside), the big media should listen to conservatives for their economic well being. No other business thinks it can afford to ignore such a vast demographic. The big media have shown sensitivity to virtually every other group and concern, but not to conservatives. This is why conservatives have taken their eyes and ears elsewhere to newspapers, radio and television outlets that respect and do no mock their beliefs.

Every time liberals have tried to do talk radio or host a TV program on cable, the results have been disastrous. No TV host has done a better job of communicating liberal ideology over the years than Phil Donahue. But his MSNBC show, which was supposed to erode Fox' dominant Bill O'Reilly, is a ratings disaster. In the past, such liberal luminaries as former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and Jim Hightower, who has a radio show based in Texas, have tried going national. All have failed.

Here is the problem. Liberals see conservatives as beneath them. Most conservatives think most liberals dislike America and hate rich people, though many liberals are rich. Liberals are especially uncomfortable with people who worship God and not the state. Most broadcast programming and reporting in big newspapers reflect these biases.

Until recently, the big media got away with this singular ideological perspective because there was little competition. Along came satellite technology and cable, and suddenly the media menu offered more choices. Conservatives began seeing and hearing views that reflected their own without the filter and stereotypes liberals regularly attach to them. They gave their allegiance to the networks and newspapers that included and respected their views.

Here's an analogy that even those in denial can understand. If I own a fast-food establishment and significant numbers of customers tell me that my hamburgers do not taste good, I have two choices. I can make cracks about the inferiority of my customers' taste buds and drive them to the competition, or I can make a better burger and keep them as customers. The big media think they can ignore their conservative "customers" and disparage their views, including the ones about big media. Conservatives no longer have to take it. They have options and they are exercising them.

Let the liberal Democrats fool themselves into believing that getting a foot in the cable or talk radio door will solve their problems. It won't. That's because there are already numerous outlets for the liberal Democratic point of view, and it seems every liberal show host is boring.

Conservatism is optimistic and fun. Liberalism is pessimistic and dour. Even liberals don't watch or listen to liberal talk shows, which ought to tell management that their problem is not about "kicking butt" but about serving up a different product more people will buy.

(Cal Thomas hosts "After Hours" on Fox News Channel Saturdays at 11 p.m. ET. Direct all MAIL for Cal Thomas to: Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 1500, Chicago, Ill. 60611. Readers may also leave e-mail at


Liberals in Denial About Talk Radio and TV