This week on Ehrlich Radio, Bob Ehrlich took on a new opponent for his grudge match — voters. David Zurawik’s column in the Baltimore Sun sums it up pretty well, so rather than trying to pick out the best parts, I thought I’d just share the whole column.
June 19, 2010
Attack ad, callers upset Ehrlichs’ WBAL show
An O’Malley campaign attack ad and a series of negative callers did an effective job of upsetting the usual tone and rhythm of “The Kendel and Bob Ehrlich Show” Saturday on WBAL radio.
Maryland Democrats failed in their efforts to get WBAL and election officials to take Ehrlich off the weekly airwaves once he started running in earnest for governor. But by buying airtime for attack ads like the “Big Oil Bob” radio spot that aired Saturday during the show, they have found a highly effective way to influence what is discussed on the program.
And while I have no evidence that the negative callers Saturday were in any way part of an organized partisan effort, they certainly were effective in getting under Ehrlich’s skin and seriously disrupting the usual pro-Ehrlich, propagandist flow of the program. In fact, a clearly agitated Ehrlich ordered the show’s producer at one point Saturday to cut one of the callers off altogether — a no-no in the world of responsible talk radio.
Ehlich suggested on-air that he ordered the caller cut off because of “inappropriate” language, but the only language that approached that realm came when the caller suggested that since he was a “voter,” the candidate should be “kissing his butt” rather than arguing with him — presumably to get his vote.
I don’t think saying the word “butt” on talk radio at 10 a.m. is exactly beyond the pale — and I am someone who seriously questioned the propriety of the president of the United States using a cruder term for the same part of the anatomy at 7 a.m. on the “Today” show last week. That is a time of day when children are surely in the same room as the TV. I doubt there were many little kids on a Saturday morning sitting around with their ears glued to “The Kendel and Bob Ehrlich” show to hear what the former governor had to say about how Gov. O’Malley is allegedly driving business out of Maryland.
Callers challenged Ehrlich almost point by point on-air Saturday — as if doing a media fact check, which made me think if it wasn’t organized, it was some very interesting timing.
When Ehrlich essentially said to one caller that unions were not the enemy, the next caller challenged him on his record in office on the issues of unions and big business.
Another caller challenged him on what he meant when he talked about the need for “new leadership.” The caller said Ehrlich was “old leadership.” That sure sounded like a Democratic talking point to me.
I lost track of the references made to the “Big Oil Bob” attack ads as one of the guests, Towson University professor Richard Vatz, explained how the radio spot should effectively be dealt with. As sound and astute as the advice offered by Vatz might be, the ad was still setting the agenda on “The Kendel and Bob Ehrlich Show” Saturday. The simple fact that it was being discussed meant less time for the usual propaganda of ringer Republican guests brought on to sound the same narrative of how fabulous things were in Annapolis when Ehrlich was governor, and how wretched things are now with O’Malley. Once there was a Camelot, but now darkness has settled upon the land … blah, blah, blah. (I heard the ad at 9:59 a.m. Saturday)
It looks to me like this fierce campaign for votes might finally be starting to turn into savvy media warfare. And why shouldn’t it as we get closer to the election and the serious media spending begins?
Some of the best and brightest — and nastiest — political operatives in the world are living 40 miles south of here and looking for new business. Why wouldn’t O’Malley and Ehrlich try to tap into that in their win at all costs battle?
I have to tell you that I think the Democrats are doing better at this game right now, and being on WBAL radio on Saturdays is Little League stuff compared to the level at which such battles are now being waged elsewhere in New Media America.
If the negative calls to the Ehrlichs’ Saturday morning show aren’t part of an organized effort, I’d get them organized by next Saturday if I was running O’Malley’s campaign. Even if WBAL and the Ehrlichs put a team of producers in the studio or control room screening their brains out trying to keep the negative calls off the air, it unsettles even the best professional hosts to know it is going on.
I’m not a professional radio host, but I have been there, and it makes you ask whether the part-time radio show is really worth the grief. Kendel and Bob Ehrlich are not professional hosts either — not by a long shot given Ehrlich’s order to the producer to get rid of the caller he didn’t like Saturday. Irritated, tense and out of synch do not make for a winning radio sound.
I can’t wait to see where this goes. If it goes where I think it is, I will be writing about it in terms of what it says about our ability as a community to have a constructive media conversation about where we want this state to go in the coming months and years.
It’s clear that Bob Ehrlich can’t handle dissent. Whenever anyone disagrees with him he automatically dismisses them as a “plant.” The fact is that Bob Ehrlich is a pawn for Big Oil and when confronted with the truth, as people often do, he shows his true colors and loses his temper.
We’ve catalogued Bob Ehrlich saying some pretty outrageous things in his right-wing shock jock gig on WBAL in the past three years, but this past week the former governor shocked Americans across the country by blasting Gov. O’Malley for visiting our troops.
At first we thought Ehrlich might have just gotten carried away and would change the subject. But then Ehrlich began running a full-scale campaign to attack Governor O’Malley for visiting our men and women in uniform.
Here are the facts: Ehrlich as Governor took trips to China, Israel, the Bahamas, Las Vegas and Philadelphia to watch Princeton play basketball versus Penn. But he has a problem with Martin O’Malley visiting our troops – unbelievable isn’t it?
No wonder WBAL-TV reporter Jayne Miller swiftly dismissed Ehrlich’s comments as “partisan, petty attacks.”
We’ll let Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, a member of the Active and Reserve Components of the United States Army since 1984, have the last word:
“I thought that [Ehrlich's] comments were irresponsible. Also, as a soldier, and I spent 26 years on active duty and in the Reserves, it was an insult to those of us who serve in uniform.
“I was in Iraq from September of ’04 to July of ’05. When I was there, there were a number of delegations, congressional delegations, governors who came and visited. In fact, it was a really exciting day when Congressmen Steny Hoyer and Ben Cardin came to visit, and I saw them in Baghdad. Now they didn’t come to visit Anthony Brown, they came to visit soldiers and sailors airmen and Marines, but I can tell you it was a pretty exciting day to see their faces and to know that they were looking out for our well-being and trying to better understand what we were facing so that the decisions made back here at home are appropriate.”
Travis Tazelaar is Executive Director of the Maryland Democratic Party and a former U.S. Marine.
I wouldn’t normally call Bob Ehrlich silent given his frequent television and radio appearances, but it’s been 5 days since Ehrlich was asked about his possible violation of the FCC’s “Payola Rules” and the public still hasn’t received a straight answer.
However, he did have time to go on his talk radio show on Saturday morning and hurl “snowballs” while the rest of us dealt with “Snowmageddon.” You’d think that his radio show would be the perfect opportunity to clear the air.
When initially questioned about the complaint, Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said that our “allegations didn’t deserve the dignity of a response,” but later admitted he didn’t know whether they had disclosed that Ehrlich had a financial stake before pushing his client’s position.
The bottom line is that Ehrlich needs to answer whether he put his firm’s financial gain ahead of the public trust. If he didn’t violate FCC rules, he needs to tell us that. If he did violate FCC rules, he needs to own up to it.
What is he hiding?
What does he know that he is refusing to share with the people of Maryland?
Are there other instances where he promoted clients over the airwaves without properly disclosing the relationship?
The public deserves to know.