Bill was “punished” by being forced to take off the week during the holidays (a week that Bill was already taking off), which is by far the least important week of the year and is not even rated. He was reportedly not paid during that week, a reality that I am sure forced Bill to dramatically cut back on amenities at the Persian Palace. As for Jaime White, she was fired just a few weeks later.
As for me, I was suspended for two days. To my knowledge John Kobylt was not punished in any way. I am positive this decision was come to before I was even asked for my side of the story. I am also positive that if the situations were totally reversed and I had been the afternoon host that it would have been John Kobylt who would have been disciplined and not me. For the record, I fully understand that talk radio is just a business like any other and that the rules are different for people based on how much power they are perceived to have. I am a big boy and I get it. However, KFI management pretended (like most media managers they are good at pretending) that this wasn't the basis for their decision.
The moment that I was told I was being suspended I knew that my time at KFI was done. It was now just a matter of when and how it would end. There was simply no way that I could bust my ass for people who would throw me under the bus so swiftly and decisively. I actually left that meeting after telling KFI that I wanted to be fired over this. I knew that both from a moral perspective (what a novel concept!) as well as a career standpoint that getting fired over defending the Iraq war was (with apologies to those who have actually done so in that conflict) a good hill on which to “die.”
It was obvious to KFI management however that this was not a good set of circumstances for them to kill me off. Firing me then would have created a lot of publicity and potentially could have ignited a firestorm that would have highlighted one of their two most important hosts having flipped on the Iraq War just to preserve their ratings.
As for me, Leah Brandon begged me not to get myself fired, partially because she felt that she might also get fired and she badly needed the paycheck. In the end, I decided that out of loyalty to her and a desire not let the forces of evil (John Kobylt) win so easily that I would stay on. To this day it is hard to say if I made the right call, but at least I didn't quit without a hell of a fight.
I was forced to meet with John Kobylt and once again tried to offer the metaphorical olive branch, but John was not interested in accepting it. In retrospect it was obvious that he was (nonsensically) threatened by me and he now saw this as his chance to make sure I posed no danger to him. The concept that he could be so insecure and even remotely fear me when I knew that he was FAR better at KFI's brand of talk radio than I could ever dream of being was baffling to me, but apparently many people came to the same conclusion. In fact, one of the most powerful managers in the business told me directly that he and others in the industry had all come to the same seemingly obvious (at least to them) conclusion.
That seems like such a shame to me because I had zero designs on threatening John Kobylt and, as I have already stated, couldn't have done so even if I wanted to. But I guess the fact that we had the same name, the same basic style/sound, and came from the same area of the country must have freaked him out. It was probably even more troubling for him that I knew that he was a fraud and he knew that I was not. That combined with the reality that John is married to an overweight, badgering wife to whom he is totally beholden, while I was younger, single and dating very attractive women, all probably created a toxic mix that blinded his usually expert abilities to properly analyze a situation.
Despite my willingness to play ball and his (utterly undeserved) reputation for being unafraid to take anyone on, John refused to continue to do the two “teases” per day that we had done without major incident for the past year and a half. This sent a clear message to everyone at the station and to much of the audience that I was no longer an important part of KFI. It also cut off my access to a huge portion of KFI listeners who usually only listen to the radio in the evening by accident. I knew that this would hurt my ratings and I also knew that this was exactly the result John Kobylt was hoping for.
Normally, a decent program director would step in and force John to do the right thing, but Robin was apparently afraid of John. She was also in a weakened position because she was “carrying” her husband who was the failing Program Director of the Clear Channel sports station where he had seemingly gone out of his way to run the station into the ground at enormous expense. Politically Robin made the decision that to keep herself safe she would need to no longer be so closely associated with me. By letting John dictate the promo policy at my expense she was starting that process.
These unambiguous messages also created a great amount of pressure and stress on me and the show's staff. Prior to the altercation with John, the show had been in search of a permanent producer for several months. Partly because the position paid poorly, partly because I handled the circumstances badly, and partly because Robin was totally incompetent at hiring people, we went through a couple of candidates who were clearly not suited for the position.
After the squabble with John, we had a particularly manipulative and devious producer (Lisa Goich) clearly see the handwriting on the wall for the show and brilliantly get herself out of the position all while throwing me under the bus and endearing herself to the boss (for which she would be paid off later, first with the afternoon show on KTLK, and now as part of the show that replaced me on KFI), who now had a profound self interest in washing her hands of me.
At one point I had four people helping me with the show. Now I was left with just one producer who, while very hardworking, had almost no experience and fully acknowledged he was in over his head (he would eventually be fired to make room for the conniving Lisa Goich). A show that was already very difficult to do well now became almost literally impossible to pull off five days a week.
Still, we persevered and, despite the deck being stacked against us, still managed to have some stellar moments (getting national credit for the John Kerry “Stuck in Iraq” story, among others) and somehow survived into 2007.
Just when things had seemingly calmed down, KFI threw me another major curveball. Claiming that at the time of the Kobylt episode I was told we would “revisit” the situation at the beginning of the new year (something I had no clear recollection of), KFI management brought me in and gave me two choices: negotiate my termination, or agree to do the show from a remote location.
It was obvious to me that what was happening was that they felt as if enough time had passed for my termination to not be linked to the altercation with John and not be a significant news story. They were also appearing to try to get me to either quit or violate my contract by being insubordinate (by refusing to go to a remote studio).
This provided me with no viable options. I didn't want to quit but I knew that trying to do the show well from where they wanted me to (a tiny makeshift “studio” at Premiere Radio headquarters in Sherman Oaks) would be totally unworkable. After all, I was living in a crappy Burbank apartment for the SOLE purpose of not having any sort of a commute to work. Now, I was going to be forced to do the show 10 miles away and make the commute through some of the worst traffic in Los Angles. Psychologically this was incredibly demoralizing and would instill in me a fierce anger and resentment on a daily basis.
Not only that, I would be unable to see Leah Brandon when I spoke with her on the air, I would have to communicate with my producer almost totally through e-mail, and I would have to endure the aggravation and ignominy of going from one of the best radio studios in the country, to what was literally little more than a glorified closet that would create numerous technical difficulties (not to mention the embarrassment of having guests like Ann Coulter have to squeeze into the “studio”). I would have to do the rest of my shows at KFI speaking to a wall that was literally two feet from my face (all while far better studios, just feet away from me, went mysteriously unoccupied).
Even though I knew that every single show under these circumstances would be excruciating and that any joy that was left in the job would be sucked right out of it (along with what was left of my soul), I decided that I could not quit. So I chose to endure what was by far the most challenging and personally hideous chapters of my rather erratic career knowing that there was NO hope of turning things around and that the stigma of having been “banished” from the studio would probably hurt my chances of getting another suitable job in the industry, assuming that I even had any interest in doing that (I believe that part of KFI's plan here was to set up a built-in rationale for getting rid of me without having to worry about a lawsuit).
As bad as I expected this next and final phase of my life at KFI to be, the reality was somehow even worse. I spent most of my 40th birthday alone in a closet working for a group of evil people whom I despised. But even worse than that was the fact that under these circumstances it was unthinkable that I would be able to put on a show worthy of my rather high standards. The best I could possible hope to do on any given night was tread water and survive another day, all while knowing that the guillotine would certainly fall on me by the end of the year and perhaps almost any time before that. I know that millions of Americans have a MUCH worse lot in life, but by any measure this situation really sucked.
Things got so absurd that John Kobylt, in a final attempt to bring the level of maturity in this conflict to that of kindergarten, finally stopped even saying my name at the end of his show and leading in to mine. The episode that provoked this insult (that never would have been tolerated by management had I tried it even on my best day) was that I had the gall to very briefly question on the air why John & Ken had mysteriously left out a crucial part of a news article that they had read extensively from about the famous jailed Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean.
The Ramos & Compean saga is emblematic of just how fraudulent and manipulative the John & Ken show is. While not getting into all the gritty details (there are links at www.johnziegler.com where you can do that for yourself), the bottom line of that case is that John & Ken decided that they could use the story to achieve numerous objectives, of which telling the truth was not even close to being on the list.
By cherry picking only the convenient “facts” of the case, they were able to create a continuing soap opera where they were appearing to come to the rescue of two Hispanic (helping combat the claims of racism against them) Border Patrol agents (further establishing their reputation for fighting illegal immigration) while further distancing themselves from an increasingly unpopular President (so they not be perceived as “Kool Aid” drinking “right wing” talk show hosts).
The only “problem” was that a detailed reading of the actual facts (as found by a jury) did not at all support their storyline of the agents being heroes. But in the world of John & Ken the facts are whatever they want them to be (especially now that I am no longer following them at 7 pm).
To their credit, they are masters at getting away with and apparently benefiting from these tactics. They did it with Katrina, the Iraq War, the Dubai Ports deal, Virginia Tech, Wildfires, Mark Foley, John Mark Karr, and numerous other stories that fit their agenda-driven criteria of being vulnerable to their prodigious powers of manipulation as they play on the base instincts and ignorance of their audience. If you listen carefully to the show, John & Ken will actually admit to their phoniness; or at least to John's.
Keeping up the quality of my show under these conditions (no promotion, little production help, the afternoon show working against me, doing the show from a closet, etc.) was almost as tough as keeping up my morale. Not only were the ratings suffering, but I was on such a short leash that I even had been told that I actually needed permission to use station equipment to go cover outside events, which in the past had created some of my best and most memorable shows. On one occasion, I was not only denied permission to use a KFI microphone at an anti-war rally in Hollywood (on a weekend), but I was told that if I used my own recorder that I could not use any of the audio I got on the show.
Can you imagine that? Working for a station that airs Rush Limbaugh I was not allowed to (on my own time!) go to an anti-war rally to get some audio of the protesters sounding like the idiots most of them are. This decision was made by the same Program Director (Berkeley graduate Robin Bertolucci) who also advised me to talk less about the Iraq War because it seemed to be bad for ratings. While there was some strong evidence for the claim that talking about Iraq hurt ratings (heck, just look at the incredible lack of coverage on the cable news networks, especially now that things are going well there), the fact that I would be urged not to talk about the war, and prevented from even attending an anti-war rally, at a place like KFI spoke volumes about the circumstances I was up against (not to mention the general state of support for the war effort).
I fully realize that talk radio must be, at least in part, about getting ratings. However, that shouldn't be ALL it's about. At KFI, despite all their promotional claims to the contrary, pursuit of ratings is pretty much the only motivating force. In fact, Robin once compared what KFI does to being part of a mafia crime family in that you might feel dirty doing some of the things you are called on to do, but in the end you are paid extra for it. For me I guess the pay wasn't enough for me to whore myself out. Bill Handel and John & Ken, partially because they were paid a LOT more than me, obviously have no such issues about selling out (and not just because it seems as if there has never been an endorsement, no matter how silly or out of place, that either of them has ever turned down).
Ken Chiampou is apparently willing to go even further than most when it comes to selling part of himself to pursue and protect ratings. I never met anyone at KFI that did not presume that Ken is a homosexual. While I have obviously never witnessed him in a gay sex act and he never told me he was gay, it is commonly accepted at KFI that he is gay. One time, Robin even told me that she prevented www.LaRadio.com from publishing that Ken was gay by threatening them in some way (Laradio.com has further embarrassed themselves by going out of their way to ignore the revelations on this website, apparently, at least in part because they caved to KFI in that instance.)
That Ken appears to be gay is obviously no big deal (a surprising number of KFI listeners I speak to are already aware of this apparent reality). I honestly couldn't care less. However, the fact that he apparently remains in the closet (a different type than the one from which I was doing my show) on the air is very significant. Ken never says anything that would indicate anything about his sexuality, but often seems to go out of his way to discuss topics where his presumed sexuality would be very relevant to his perspective, and that should matter to KFI listeners.
Frankly, I don't know how anyone can be taken seriously in ANYTHING they say as a talk show host when they are so deceitful about something that is so critical to who they are as a person. I certainly don't know how anyone could seriously claim to be all about courage and truth (as John & Ken promote themselves) and be afraid to reveal something as basic as whether they are gay or straight.
But what is most odd about Ken's sexuality issue is that he seems to go out of his way to put himself into situations where his apparent lack of authenticity in this area can become an issue. When John & Ken were, rather ironically, replaced at KFI in 1999 by the openly-gay duo of Karel and Andrew, they scornfully referred to them as “Siegfried and Roy.” They also seemed to gravitate (almost like Adam & Eve to the forbidden fruit) to the tales of Mark Foley and John Mark Karr.
But no news story exposed this hypocrisy more than their coverage of the Larry Craig bathroom affair. Listen to this clip of John Kobylt alone mocking a closeted gay politician, with his presumably gay and closeted partner on vacation.
When Ken returned their obsession with the Craig story did not subside. Here Ken has to sit by as John refers to homosexuals as “homos” before Ken nervously urges a phone call.
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