Atlanta fans of quick-witted Randi Rhodes should be thrilled to know she’s returning to the AM dial on Monday on NewsTalk 1160/WCFO-AM.
She had been on AM 1690 in Atlanta from 2004 to 2006 when Air America attempted to create a liberal counterpoint to the heavily conservative world of talk radio.
Jeff Davis, vice president and general manager of WCFO, runs mostly conservative talk show hosts but after fiery Dr. Laura Schlessinger left in December for Sirius/XM, he decided to try something different.
“From the frying pan,” Davis said, “into the fire. We want someone to stir the pot and bring some balance in a radio market that is woefully lacking in balance. She had a lot of fans when Air America was here.”
She will air from 3 to 5 p.m. between Dennis Miller and Mancow.
Rhodes, a progressive talk show host on 40 stations nationwide, mostly does well in liberal alcoves such as Seattle, Denver, Portland, New York and Los Angeles. WCFO’s signal is strongest inside the perimeter, where Rhodes’ potential listeners are likely to be.
After Air America collapsed and died, Rhodes worked briefly with a small syndicator Nova M but in 2009, big-time syndicator Premiere Radio Networks picked her up.
Premiere, owned by Clear Channel, distributes Glenn Beck, Ryan Seacrest and Rush Limbaugh, among others.
“It was a dream come true,” Rhodes said. She worked with Clear Channel for years in West Palm Beach before Air America and had a side deal with them while she was with Air America. “They said they’d be my safety net in case things blew up,” she said.
Her theory on why Air America failed: it hired people based on ideology, not skill set. And the on-air staff featured people such as Chuck D, Janeane Garofalo, and Al Franken who were not true radio professionals but celebrities. Even rising star Rachel Maddow had her eyes on TV and ended up on MSNBC. Rhodes was one of the few that grew up in radio and truly loves it.
Rhodes is thrilled to be on WCFO because she likes stations that are willing to air on-air personalities with different ideologies. In her mind, the reason why talk radio ratings have slipped off the past year or two is because “it’s become group therapy for the like minded. It’s not supposed to be a love fest. It’s supposed to be fun!”
She wants people who disagree with her to listen. She enjoys callers who listen on XM who battle her because she’s on the same station as Beck. “It makes the show better. It makes me better.”
“All this format purity is doctrinaire,” she added. “You hear the same stuff on a thousand radio stations. What’s the fun of that? Wouldn’t you rather play with the box the toy came in? I’m that box!”
Jon Sinton, an Atlanta-based co-founder of Air America (who she did not blame for Air America’s woes), hired Rhodes in 2004. He said 1160 does not have a grandiose marketing budget so she’ll have to build her audience via word of mouth. “She’s a compulsive truth teller,” he said. “She can’t help herself. Therefore, she’s a thorn in the side of authority,” he said.
He also considers her “preternaturally smart without a lot of academic baggage. And she is passionate but has informed passion.”
On other topics:
Rush Limbaugh: Although she lived in the same town as Limbaugh, she never met him. “He never once came to the station [in West Palm Beach.] He’s different. I have no idea what he’s like. I don’t know him. He at least strikes me as a smart guy as opposed to other guys who don’t even know they’re lying!”
Her current bosses: “I love them! It’s run by women. They’re amazing.”
Egypt: “This uprising came from a bunch of 30 year olds. The right wing is scaring the bejesus out of everyone over the Muslim Brotherhood. They’re just a bunch of old men. [Hosni] Mubarak is an old man. Their day is done. The idea of democracy is bubbling up all over Africa and parts of the Middle East.”
Ronald Reagan: “You look at Reagan as a legislator and he’s not the idol the right has built him into. As a governor, he liberalized abortion. As president, he raised taxes almost every year. Conservatives felt he cut and run after we were attacked in Beirut. I was in the military at the time. I didn’t want to go to Beirut. Reagan couldn’t be a conservative today.”
Health care: “The truth is the individual mandate is a Republican proposal. It always was. It was a compromise so insurance companies could get 32 million new customers. But they now hate it because Obama did it. That’s how polarized we are. If you get sick and have no health insurance, you go to an emergency room. I pay for it through my health insurance premiums. That’s socialized medicine. I want to make sure it’s not socialized. Everyone uses their individual responsibility and insure themselves. That’s a conservaitve idea!”
On a lighter note: Rhodes, whose radio name is in honor of rock star Randy Rhodes, likes Steven Tyler as a judge on “American Idol.”" “I think he’s funny. He’s much more accessible than I thought he’d be. He’s adorable. He has a great sense of humor. He has an issue with cute 15 year olds. That’s a little borderline creepy.”
The new lineup starting Monday:
Don Imus: 6 to 10 a.m.
Laura Ingraham: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (previously, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Dennis Miller : 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (previously, 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.)
Randi Rhodes: 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (new)
Mancow: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (previously, 4 to 7 p.m.)
Lou Dobbs: 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. (previously 2 to 4 p.m.)
Jerry Doyle : 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. (same)
Phil Hendrie: 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. (same)
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog