The United States "is on the slippery slope to theocratic fascism." "The Catholic Church has been secretly encouraging oral sex for years."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "ought to be tortured." President Bush should be taken out and shot.
Those are a few nutso nuggets from the hosts of Air America Radio, which calls itself the new liberal voice. The fledgling network is carried in New York on WLIB, 1190 AM. With the Iraq torture scandal everywhere, I tuned in, expecting to hear sober policy analysis mixed with glee over President Bush's political pickle.
Instead, I got 10 hours of rancid venom directed at the President, Rumsfeld, Rush Limbaugh, the Catholic Church and anyone else the hosts felt like slamming. If you're a card-carrying lib who likes crude sex jokes and a cartoonish echo chamber, Air America is for you.
Take one host's linking the talk of "pulling out" the troops with the claim that "that's what the Catholic Church says about premarital sex." Ha, ha.
The network aims to give Dems a media organization to counter Limbaugh and others on the right who dominate talk radio. (What, National Public Radio and The New York Times aren't enough?)
The signing of comedian and best-selling author Al Franken gave Air America a liberal drawing card. But if his three-hour show on Monday was typical, he could sink the ship instead of saving it.
Two attempts at humor were offensive. In his "oy, oy show," set to Israeli music, a sidekick reads news reports - in this case, the murder of the Russian-backed president of Chechnya. Franken's role is to pipe up with a lighthearted "oy, oy, oy." Yep, nothing tickles the ribs like assassination.
Franken also imitated a priest giving Communion, saying "Body of Christ" when an imagined pedophile priest was in line but "not for you" when pro-choice politicians came up.
The church was a day-long obsession, as was Limbaugh. He is an "awful man," "a pig" and "a Nazi."
Color me confused. If Franken & Co. hate the pill-popping Limbaugh so much, why imitate his tarpit tone? Sounds like Limbaugh has simply driven them nuts.
Missing was the tension that comes from honest debate. Only Franken had guests voicing even slight distance from the party line, which is that John Kerry is perfect except he should attack Bush more.
The queen of venom, Randi Rhodes, followed Franken in the host slot. Her imitation of a cracker military type telling a soldier to "insert this fluorescent light bulb into that man's buttocks" was revolting. She compared U.S. prisons in Iraq to the "Nazi gulag" and said, "The day I say thank you to Rumsfeld is the same day I'll say thank you to the 12 people who raped me."
Rock bottom came when she compared Bush and his family to the Corleones in the "Godfather" saga. "Like Fredo, somebody ought to take him out fishing and phuw," she said, imitating the sound of gunfire.
During a day of torture by radio, I heard ads for Hewlett-Packard, Greyhound and, especially, General Motors. I asked GM why it appeared in such shows.
Ryndee Carney, GM's manager of marketing communications, said the ads were wrongly picked up from an earlier deal with WLIB. She said the station was ordered to "cease and desist" yesterday, and added: "GM will not advertise on any Air America affiliates."
Originally published on May 12, 2004