Guests: Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Harrison
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
Al Franken, he‘s become the mascot for liberals fighting back.
AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The radical right wing of the Republican Party has taken over not just the White House.
ANNOUNCER: Now he‘s front and center in the radio wars. Al Franken is with us for the hour.
FRANKEN: Hello. I‘m Stuart Smalley.
ANNOUNCER: From SNL stooge...
BILL O‘REILLY, HOST OF “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”: Vicious.
ANNOUNCER: ...to Bill O‘Reilly gadfly...
FRANKEN: They are lying, lying without shame, lying with impunity.
ANNOUNCER: ...to Air America.
Tonight, Al Franken urges the nation to tune left.
Plus, can liberal radio work? How conservatives captured the airwaves. Franken faces the competition.
Out of harm‘s way. Held for four days by an armed kidnapper, missing college student Audrey Seiler turns up, alive and well. Tonight, the end of her terrifying ordeal.
From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: And good evening, everybody.
Move over, Rush Limbaugh. Al Franken wants to be the new sheriff in town.
For years, liberals have been trying to figure out how to get their voices on talk radio. Conservatives have had a stranglehold on the market, led by Limbaugh, who‘s heard on more than 600 stations.
Well, today, liberals launched their own radio network, called Air America. It‘s really small. Only five radio stations in the country are carrying it, but it‘s got star power.
Former “Saturday Night Live” writer, author, comedian, Al Franken, hosts his own three-hour show called “The O‘Franken Factor.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: Folks, you and I know that the radical right wing of the Republican Party has taken over not just the White House, the Congress, and increasingly the courts, but even and perhaps most insidiously, the air waves.
And we know that they are lying, lying without shame, lying with impunity. Safe in the knowledge that there is no watchdog with a platform large enough to call them on their willful untruths. Someday, we will find that watchdog. Until then, I will have to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: The name of the Franken show is a takeoff on the Fox News Channel show hosted by Bill O‘Reilly, with whom Franken has had a much publicized legal battle last summer over his use of the term fair and balanced in his book entitled “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”
Whatever its impact on the political landscape, the Air America experiment clearly highlights Franken‘s rising profile as a political comic, and some say as a potential candidate himself.
Fresh off his first day on the air, Al Franken is in the studio with us.
NORVILLE: How was day one?
FRANKEN: It was great. We had some great guests. We had Bob Kerrey, from the 9/11 commission, former senator and governor. And he was—it was a great interview. And of course, that‘s maybe the biggest breaking political story now, of course, Condoleezza Rice.
NORVILLE: And when she goes on. And Condi Rice is going to be testifying next week.
FRANKEN: Yes. And we went into some of the contradictions. I mean, she said some things that just aren‘t true.
NORVILLE: Do you think that they left her out to hang for a little while, you know, sort of wondering, do we let her testify? Do we not let her testify?
FRANKEN: The Bush people? NORVILLE: Yes, yes. The administration
FRANKEN: I think they hang themselves out all the time. I mean, they have fought this commission from the very beginning. They fought it. Then they agreed to it. Then they tried to withhold the funding. Then they—they‘ve been...
NORVILLE: There was debate about the extension of time, should it continue on?
FRANKEN: Right, and they haven‘t extended it.
NORVILLE: It still goes through July.
FRANKEN: Yes. And so I mean, there‘s clearly—the implication you get, whether it‘s true or not, and I think it is true, is that they have a lot to hide.
NORVILLE: One of the things about this new show is it gives you three hours a day, five days a week to talk pretty much about anything you want. What made this such an enticing prospect to you? Because you‘re on at the same time as Rush is, and he is the Magilla (ph) out there.
FRANKEN: Yes. First of all, we‘re on at the same time he is, but doing ours drug-free. Or at least we‘re going to try. I don‘t know if it‘s been done.
I guess what happened was when I was researching, when I was writing “Liars and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,” I just got angry. And I—and part of what the book is about is how there is a right wing media in this country.
And the mainstream media, what most people think of as mainstream media, which the right has successfully said has a liberal bias, the mainstream media—asking whether the mainstream media has liberal bias or a conservative bias is like asking if the problem with Al Qaeda is that they use too much oil in their hummus.
The problem with Al Qaeda is, they want to kill us. The problem with the mainstream media is all other kinds of things. It‘s sensationalism. It‘s get it easy, get it fast, do it cheap, sex, all those kind of things.
But there is a right wing media. There is a right wing media. And it‘s Fox and...
NORVILLE: The other side will argue that the reason the conservatives have a place somewhere to have their voice heard was because the liberals had taken over all the media. I mean, there‘s not a network reporter, I think, in America that hasn‘t gotten letters from viewers who say, you left leaning liberal media.
FRANKEN: Yes. Because it gets repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated, and has been since the ‘60s, that the mainstream media is liberal. But if you look at studies, Gore got it much worse from the media than Bush did in 2000.
I mean, look, we didn‘t look at all at Bush‘s military record in 2000.
Now because we‘re at war, we‘re looking at it.
But the fact is that there is this undeniable right wing tilt on talk radio.
NORVILLE: On the radio.
FRANKEN: Certainly on the radio. I mean, it‘s—There‘s no question about it. And so there—I mean, you‘re going to be talking G., G. Gordon Liddy. He‘s my friend, so I get to call him g.
FRANKEN: And they—you know, there was Rush, and to his credit, he went in there.
NORVILLE: Did you call him for advice before you started?
FRANKEN: We tried. I haven‘t gotten...
NORVILLE: Never got through to him?
FRANKEN: We never got back. I mean, Rush, when it was first floated that we were going to do this liberal network, Rush pooh-poohed and said, “I don‘t know why they don‘t come to me. I‘m the one who invented it. Why don‘t they ask me for advice?”
And so we tried and we haven‘t heard back from him. I wanted to—you know, I thought I could—you know, on how he prepares.
FRANKEN: Yes. Get some tips on how to, you know, frame things to mislead people.
NORVILLE: One of the things about your whole thing is, just as you did, using humor. Using humor to engage people on the issues.
FRANKEN: Is that what I did?
NORVILLE: I think it was an attempt. Feeble, though it might have been, but we‘ll give you time to warm up. Where did that come from, that interest in politics? When did you realize that you could use political issues and get people to laugh?
FRANKEN: Well, you know, when I started doing comedy in the ‘60s with Franken and Davis. We—half the stuff we did was Nixon stuff.
And, you know, on “Saturday Night Live,” I did 15 seasons of that show, did a lot of political stuff with guys like Jim Downing and Tom and other people.
NORVILLE: Let‘s take a look. You‘ve got—We‘ve got a clip from one of the skits that you did. You wrote this one, I think, Bush and Dukakis.
FRANKEN: Yes. I wrote this with a couple of other guys, yes.
NORVILLE: And then I want to hear more about political humor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANA GASTEYER, COMEDIAN: You still have 50 seconds left, Mr. Vice President.
DANA CARVEY, COMEDIAN: Well, let me just sum up: on track, stay the course, a thousand points of light, stay the course.
GASTEYER: Governor Dukakis, rebuttal?
JON LOVITZ, COMEDIAN: I can‘t believe I‘m losing to this guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: No matter which side, they do give you good material.
FRANKEN: Well, you see, on “Saturday Night Live,” we studiously avoided having—taking a side, and having a side.
Part of it, I wrote a lot with Jim Downing, who‘s more conservative than I am, so we kept each other honest. But also, we had, you know, 10 cast members, and a lot of writers and a crew. And we just didn‘t feel that it was the job of the show to have a political ax to grind.
So when I left the show finally in ‘95, it was just as the Gingrich revolution was starting, I got angry and wrote “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations.”
NORVILLE: Which did incredibly well at the bookstores.
FRANKEN: It did.
NORVILLE: And what did that tell you, when that book sold as well as it did and got the reaction from the people who embraced your message? What did that tell you?
FRANKEN: It told me that people—there was sort of pent-up irritation, at least and annoyance at this guy and at Gingrich. And Gingrich sort of imploded, and he imploded by—you know, in many ways, he had strengths that Bush doesn‘t have. I mean, he actually was a guy who was curious, and had some ideas.
And now I came out with this book. This book has sold twice as many as the Rush book and continues. I think we‘re in the 32nd week on the bestseller list, at No. 6 or something.
NORVILLE: Why do you think it is that people who lean to the left feel that they don‘t have a voice, that it‘s not just who‘s in the White House, that generally speaking, there‘s no place out there for them to be heard?
I‘m not sure that I agree with that, but there certainly is a lot of people who share that opinion.
FRANKEN: Well, again, I think that the right has successfully created a sort of institution, or institutions, like the Heritage Foundation, and all these foundations.
They did this with money from Scathe (ph) and from Coors and other families, starting after the Goldwater debacle in ‘64. And they did this and slowly built it up.
And I think that we have to some degree been—I don‘t know if it‘s lazy, but we took for granted that America was liberal, you know. And I believe this. I believe—we‘re trying to take back the word liberal. Liberal to me is someone who believes.
NORVILLE: You think it‘s pejorative?
FRANKEN: It has become a pejorative, and we‘re trying to un-pejorativize it.
NORVILLE: So why call it liberal network, when you go out there? I mean, the company, I think, is called Progress Media, and I guess you‘re more progressive than liberal. But liberal is the label that has gotten...
FRANKEN: Well, I call it—I just call it liberal, because I want to take the word back.
Because if you look at polling, like seven percent, seven, s-e-v-e-n, seven percent of Americans think there‘s too much environmental regulation. This administration is dismantling environmental regulation; there‘s no doubt about it. This is a radically conservative, a radical conservative administration.
NORVILLE: And you feel that there‘s no one out there arguing that point successfully?
FRANKEN: I certainly don‘t think there is on radio, and I think every once in a while, there are pundits who are arguing, there are people in magazines arguing. But I—a lot of people listen to the radio, and this is train that we have allowed to become their train, and I don‘t want to see that anymore.
NORVILLE: Well, now you‘ve got your engine out there on the track, too. Let me take a break. When we come back, we‘ll talk more about some of the political figures that you have not shied away from attacking, and also more about the mission of the new radio show.
Al Franken is our guest. We‘ll be back with more in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: We‘re just trying to establish a foothold and to counter all the blather you hear from people like Rush and O‘Hannity and O‘Reilly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL HARTMAN, COMEDIAN (voice-over): “Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley.”
Stuart Smalley is a caring nurturer, a member of several 12-step programs but not a licensed therapist.
FRANKEN: I‘m going to do a terrific show today. And I am going to help people, because I‘m good enough, I‘m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: One of Al Franken‘s more memorable characters from “Saturday Night Live,” the lovable Stuart Smalley. We‘re back now with the host of “The O‘Franken Factor” on the liberal radio network Air America, Al Franken.
Do you ever have to pump yourself up like that? It‘s not easy to step out into the limelight. Do you do, like, a mind game, maybe not as smarmy as Stuart Smalley. But something to get you going?
FRANKEN: Not smarmy. He was vulnerable.
NORVILLE: Doggone it, people liked him.
FRANKEN: Yes, every once in a while, you know. The last couple, last week especially, has been this blitz, this media blitz.
NORVILLE: There has been astonishing amount of publicity. A week ago, it was the cover of “The New York Times Sunday Magazine.”
NORVILLE: I‘ve seen you in most of the major news magazines. There are lots of articles in the paper today.
Does that ratchet up the pressure?
FRANKEN: Kind of, but you know, you get so busy that you really just focus on doing the show.
NORVILLE: And why do you think there‘s so much publicity?
FRANKEN: I think because this is important. I do. I think it‘s important to get, as I say, establish this foothold. I mean, we are in, you said small stations, but we‘re in WLIB in New York, and...
NORVILLE: All big cities.
NORVILLE: But there‘s not a lot.
FRANKEN: And Chicago, L.A. We‘re going to be in San Francisco. We‘re in Portland. We‘re in Minneapolis. We‘re on one of the TV satellites, the Dish Network.
NORVILLE: XM Satellite.
FRANKEN: XM Satellite.
NORVILLE: You‘ve got to know where you are if you‘re going to publicize yourself, Al Franken. You‘ve got to know where your program is being played.
FRANKEN: I know. I was—I got to it, and you knew it. I was depending on you.
NORVILLE: You know, one of the things that you‘ve been very successful at is taking on figures and not being afraid to attack, where you think is appropriate.
NORVILLE: And there was a really dramatic moment last summer, when you and Bill O‘Reilly were both at the book fair, touting your respective new books.
FRANKEN: Yes. We were—basically we were on a panel. This was May 31 of last year. And we were talking to booksellers in Los Angeles. We were on a panel with Molly Ivins, Bill and myself.
And Bill didn‘t like the fact—I was pushing my book. He was pushing his book, “Living with Herpes,” which is a very good book.
NORVILLE: That was not the name of the book.
NORVILLE: Let‘s roll the tape so we can see the confrontation and all the hoopla that came after it. Last May 31 at the book fair.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: We‘re not going to sit for it anymore. We just aren‘t.
O‘REILLY: We‘re supposed to be on here for 15 minutes. This idiot goes 35, OK. All he‘s gotten, six and a half years, is that I misspoke, that I labeled a Polk Award a Peabody. He writes it in his book, he tries to make me out.
FRANKEN: No, no, no, no, no, no.
O‘REILLY: Shut up. You had your 35 minutes. Shut up.
FRANKEN: This isn‘t your show, Bill.
O‘REILLY: This is what this guy does. This is what he does. This is what he does.
FRANKEN: Take control, Pat. Come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Pat was the moderator of the panel.
FRANKEN: Yes. She wasn‘t—She was a little taken aback by what was happening.
NORVILLE: When that was going on, is there one side of your brain that‘s going, man, this is great publicity, this is going to sell a lot of books? Or were you so genuinely incensed at the argument that all you want to do is make your point.
FRANKEN: Well, first of all, he mischaracterized what I said. I mean basically what I said. He had said on numerous occasions, that he at “Inside Edition”—that “Inside Edition” had won two Peabodies. And he would say this whenever he was challenged about “Inside Edition.”
NORVILLE: I know something about this show.
FRANKEN: Yes, yes. I know.
NORVILLE: But one George Polk award, and after—the award was received after Mr. O‘Reilly left the program.
FRANKEN: Yes. For something after he left, for something which was done after he left.
And he would do this as a defense of his tenure at—or at least that‘s what it seemed like. And he would say it over and over again. And then I just looked it up. He kept saying, “We won two Peabodies. We won two Peabodies.” And I couldn‘t believe it. So I looked it up. And they, of course, hadn‘t.
And I called them up, and I said, “Do you realize, you know, you said you won two Peabodies?”
He said, “We did.”
And I said, “Well, you really should check that with the Peabody people.” And then we got into this thing.
And then, after he admitted that, OK, he made this mistake, and another journalist said something about it, and he went after that guy. Now—And I told this story. And he mischaracterized this.
Now what is interesting about this is, he says, “Shut up. You‘ve had your 35 minutes. Now shut up.” I had spoken for 20 minutes. So he can‘t even tell you to shut up without lying.
NORVILLE: But all the hoopla about it.
FRANKEN: Yes. And then he ended up suing me, or Fox ended up suing me.
NORVILLE: For the “Fair and Balanced” in the title of the book.
FRANKEN: Yes, and it was really actually to placate the guy who was in a homicidal rage.
NORVILLE: Ultimately you and your publisher prevailed.
FRANKEN: Yes, because you know, this is something that you should know. In the United States of America, satire is protected speech, even if the object of the satire doesn‘t get it.
And Bill just—Bill doesn‘t have a sense of humor.
NORVILLE: Which means Air America, because so much of what your program and some of your other colleagues‘ programs will be, includes political satire.
NORVILLE: The world is your oyster, in terms of what you can talk about.
FRANKEN: That‘s right.
NORVILLE: And as Al Franken sits here with a big grin on his face, so too is, another Air America talk show host with a big grin on her face, co-host of “The Majority Report,” actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo is with us from the studios where she‘ll be doing her show shortly.
Thank you for being with us.
What is most exciting to you about this new opportunity you have on the radio, Janeane?
JANEANE GAROFALO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, it‘s exciting to be able to sort of participate in the national conversation when it comes to police and media.
Like millions of Americans, it becomes very disheartening to see very strong right-leaning bias in the mainstream media, especially ever since the 2000 election debacle.
And like a growing majority of Americans, it seems like there are a lot of voices left out of the debate when it comes to things like social justice programs, tax legislation, the build-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
So it‘s very exciting to be able to help to give voice to a lot of people that feel alienated and disenfranchised from political climate.
NORVILLE: How are you going to—How are you going to translate what you‘ve done in your comedic routines and some of the other things into a radio program, which is a completely different animal, and other than, you know, when you played a radio host on the movie, you don‘t have experience in that particular area?
GAROFALO: Well, I played a radio veterinarian, a long time ago.
NORVILLE: I‘m not sure how good a prep that is for this.
GAROFALO: To dog and cat owners. But that prepared me not at all, oddly enough. That fictional character didn‘t prepare me at all for this. I thought that would be...
NORVILLE: Darn the luck.
FRANKEN: But watching it helped me.
NORVILLE: Watching it helped you.
GAROFALO: I always watch my work anyway on endless tape that is projected on the ceiling of my apartment.
But I—you know, standup comedy will be very helpful in, you know, in public speaking, but also it‘s not going to be just a show devoted to just complete comedy and satirizing public figures or anything like that.
There will be legitimate discussions with people from different walks of life about politics and media and current events. And there will be, as light or as heavy a tone as the guest wants. I would never have a guest on and disrespect them in any way, you know, to have somebody who wants to come on and talk about something serious, I wouldn‘t continually try to jam jokes in there.
NORVILLE: Right. Right. How do you know, Janeane—and Al, I want to hear the same thing from you—how will you know you‘ve done a good show? When will you know that you‘ve done a broadcast that resonates with the audience out there?
GAROFALO: Well, I guess it would depend on the feedback we get from the listeners on web sites and on other Internet sites or phone calls that we get.
For me personally, I will—I suffer from profound self-loathing, so I would probably never, ever feel that I had done a good job. I would probably always feel a sense of failure to some degree.
FRANKEN: I can feel it in my gut, I mean, I really can. And, you know, we did some things on the show today that I thought were really funny, and if I think they‘re funny, then I think they‘re funny. And that‘s all.
NORVILLE: Laugh and the world laughs with you.
FRANKEN: Yes. I mean, you have to trust your gut, unless you‘re self-loathing. Then you don‘t.
GAROFALO: No. Laugh, and 50 percent of the nation laughs with you.
It depends on where you‘re—how partisan you are.
NORVILLE: There you go. Well, Janeane, I know you‘ve got to go and work on your program, but we‘re going to send you some of the complete Stuart Smalley collection to help you work on that self-loathing issue that you‘ve got.
GAROFALO: Thank you. You‘d think Al would have just given it to me, but thank you.
NORVILLE: Well, he‘s making me pay for it, because he‘s getting some residuals or something on it.
Janeane Garofalo, thanks so much. We wish you well.
Al Franken‘s going to stick around with us. When we come back, we‘re going to talk more about liberal radio and the challenge of finding an audience and fighting the right. Back in just a few moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Coming up, more with Al Franken.
FRANKEN: And we know that they are lying, lying without shame.
ANNOUNCER: Plus, G. Gordon Liddy and the editor of “Talkers” magazine lend their voices to the ambitions of liberal radio. Now that it‘s on the air, will it fly?
DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: When it comes to talk radio, has the left been left out of the conversation? More now on the new liberal radio network that hit the airwaves today, called Air America.
Among its hosts are Lizz Winstead, one of the creators of “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and Public Enemy rapper Chuck D. They host 9 to noon show called “Unfiltered.”
Then Al Franken‘s “O‘Franken Factor” is on from noon to 3, and later in the evening “The Majority Report,” hosted by Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder.
With me again is Al Franken here in the studio. And when it comes to talk radio, there are certainly two sides to every story, and so we‘re also joined this evening by conservative radio host, G. Gordon Liddy. His show is syndicated to 170 markets around the country.
And with us this evening Michael Harrison, the publisher of “Talkers” magazine. It‘s a publication that specializes in talk radio and the television industries.
Thanks so much, all of you, for being here.
I would just like to note, I did the math. Mr. Liddy, your show is on 34 more stations than Mr. Franken‘s show.
FRANKEN: More than 34 times.
NORVILLE: Thirty-four times more stations, yes.
G. GORDON LIDDY, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, first of all, Ms. Norville, complete full disclosure. Al Franken and I are good friends. I have been a guest in his home. We are 180 degrees opposed politically, but we are good friends, and have worked together years ago in television and what have you.
LIDDY: Now, the first thing I want to say is, nobody seems to have gotten it yet, except probably Al, that the name of his new network is Air America, which was a CIA front during the Vietnam War.
FRANKEN: Yes, so are we.
LIDDY: Yes, that‘s it.
Now, the other thing is, if people are expecting that it will succeed
because it‘s the only one out there, then they are doomed to
disappointment, because, as far as liberals‘ networks, are concerned,
you‘ve got ABC, CBS
LIDDY: ...and all the rest of it.
FRANKEN: Oh, baloney.
LIDDY: Well, just think of this, Al; 89 percent of the network anchors, the bureau chiefs and reporters in Washington, D.C., voted for Al Gore; 7 percent voted for George Bush. But here‘s the thing. You are going to succeed.
FRANKEN: You‘re trotting out an old statistic.
LIDDY: You are going to succeed for different reasons. You are going to succeed because you are bright, you are very talented, and you‘re very funny. And people are going to listen to you, and I predict that there‘s going to be a lot of conservatives who will listen to you, because you are going to be very entertaining. So you will succeed, but whether this network will succeed, I don‘t know because it‘s not as if there weren‘t a whole host of other networks doing the same thing.
BLITZER: Let me bring Michael Harrison in on this, because it‘s that last word that Mr. Liddy said, the idea of being entertaining.
There have been a lot of people who have come in to the talk network arena who have been from the leftist point of view, Jim Hightower, Mayor Cuomo. On cable, Phil Donahue was there. They didn‘t use humor. And that is something certainly that Al‘s show is using, as are many of the others. How important is that component?
MICHAEL HARRISON, “TALKERS”: Well, humor is important. Comedy doesn‘t always work. But humor is something else and it works. And Al Franken is a fascinating, colorful guy. And he has every chance of succeeding.
FRANKEN: Gee, I like this guy.
HARRISON: So does Randi Rhodes on the network, who you never hear about, but she‘s not a celebrity, but she‘s a real radio veteran who has succeeded. And I‘ll think she‘ll love it.
Listening to all of this, I have to say, First Amendment is alive and well, and all the publicity that this is generating is great for our industry, so from our standpoint as trade magazine in talk radio, we love it. The thing that bothers me is, it does put out a few myths out there by radio, which is dominated by conservatives, which is not true. There are other liberals in talk radio, perhaps none as celebrated or colorful as Al Franken. And perhaps Al Franken deserves to be the prominent voice of the liberal talk radio community at this point simply by virtue of the fact he has become it.
NORVILLE: But, Michael, who is right? The liberals will say there‘s no place out there for our voices to be heard. The conservatives say, we are barely being heard at all.
NORVILLE: You survey the entire industry.
HARRISON: Everybody is saying the same thing.
NORVILLE: When you look at the percentages of talk programs that are out there, how does it stack up, those with the conservative bent, those with the liberal bent?
FRANKEN: Especially talk to national.
NORVILLE: Yes, national shows.
FRANKEN: National shows.
HARRISON: Clearly, conservatives control conservative talk radio the way baseball players control baseball and not football. There are liberals on the radio. And there are like 5,000 talk show hosts in America, but the real big-timers are conservatives.
Just like during the British invasion, you had the Beatles, and then they tried to make American Beatles. There‘s an album out there, the Four Seasons vs. Beatles, as though the Americans had to answer it. The trends go where the talent lies. And there are some tremendously talented performers in conservative talk radio. Maybe now they are going to be some tremendously talented performers in liberal talk radio. It really comes down to talent and performance. It‘s not about politics.
NORVILLE: But also comes down, too, Michael, to people putting their hands on the radio and turning the dial.
And one of the things, because there has been the domination of, as you just said, the conservative voice on radio, liberals aren‘t used to going to the radio, flipping it on, and hearing something that affirms their point of view.
HARRISON: That‘s not true. It‘s not true.
Half of the audience, almost half of the audience for conservative talk radio are liberals who love to hate the hosts and yell at the radio and send bad e-mail. And, conversely, Al Franken and company, their audience is going to be conservatives who send them terribly nasty e-mails.
FRANKEN: Oh, I hope so.
HARRISON: And yell at the radio.
HARRISON: If you don‘t get conservatives, you are not going to have an audience.
NORVILLE: Gordon Liddy, when you get the callers in on your radio show, how do you see the voices stacking up? Are a lot of them liberals who want to take exception to what you have to say?
LIDDY: I had Al on my show today.
LIDDY: At the same time I was on his show today.
NORVILLE: This is one big love fest.
LIDDY: And I have already heard from my constituents as to why am I sucking up to Hollywood. And I point out, he doesn‘t live in Hollywood. He‘s up there on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
FRANKEN: Yes, your audience isn‘t the brightest sometimes, G.
G. actually was very nice. He called in today and he said that, we are 180 degrees different in politics, but if anyone goes after me, he would kill them.
LIDDY: Slowly and with great pain.
NORVILLE: Great pain.
What do you think, Gordon, what do you think the trick is to engaging the audience? As this new 180 degrees different point of view goes out there on the airwaves, what do they need to know you have learned from experience?
LIDDY: OK, first of all, Al and I have something that‘s very valuable. We both have faces made for radio.
LIDDY: The second thing is that you have to be yourself. You cannot pretend to be anything other than yourself. And if your persona is not an engaging persona, and if the people don‘t believe in you and your genuineness, however you are presenting yourself, it won‘t work. But if it does and you are talented, it will work. And that‘s why I say that Al Franken is going to be successful in radio, and he will be able to be on as long as he wants to be on, because he is very engaging.
FRANKEN: Brilliant man.
LIDDY: He is himself. He‘s good at it.
NORVILLE: Al, you also said that today you wanted to make sure that your listeners had more of a sense of who you were beyond the guy from the “SNL” and the other stuff we have seen more recently.
NORVILLE: You wanted to get some emotion in there. You thought that was important.
FRANKEN: Well, I did. I had an emotional moment, where I called my parents—best friends—my parents are gone—and Walter and Carol Griffin (ph). And Walter fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was a Wellstone Democrat. And we had Ann Coulter locked in our green room today.
NORVILLE: Did you ever let her out?
FRANKEN: It was really Bebe Neuwirth. But, no, we never let her out, and we turned the heat up. But she has said that liberals hate America.
And so I called Walter and Carol. And I have known them 39 years. And Walter fought in the Battle of the Bulge. And I asked him, since you are a Wellstone Democrat, you‘re a liberal, are you ashamed of having fought in the Battle of the Bulge? And Walter said, oh, no. And it was just very emotional for me because where I come from, where my heart is, is, I care about this stuff. I really do.
And we also called my daughter and the principal at her school in the Bronx. My daughter is 23 years old. She teaches first grade in an inner city school in the Bronx. And I just basically had the principal say how great she is. And that was emotional for me, too.
NORVILLE: Well, nice to see a father brag on his daughter.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a break. All of our guests are going to stick around.
NORVILLE: When we come back, we are going to talk more about what it means to connect with the audience, particularly at a time when the FCC is looking so closely at what is being said on the airwaves.
Back in a moment.
NORVILLE: The liberal radio network Air America is soaring high with hopes on its first day, but will America be tuning in?
Back with Al Franken and more in a moment.
NORVILLE: Welcome back. We are continuing with more about today‘s launch of the new liberal radio network Air America.
Here‘s what TV and radio host Bill O‘Reilly host had to say about the launch. He said—quote—“This whole liberal network scheme is just plain stupid. NPR fills that prescription, and they do it very well. These pinheads backing the venture will lose millions of dollars because the propaganda network is simply tedious and tedious, doesn‘t sell.”
Well, for reaction, we turn once again to Al Franken, who started his show called “The O‘Franken Factor” on Air America today. Also with us, conservative radio host G. Gordon Liddy, and Michael Harrison, who is the publisher of “Talkers” magazine, which is sort of the industry bible of all of this.
This is coming on, Al, at a time when the FCC has become so much more vigilant about what can and can‘t be said. I know you don‘t have naked ladies and strippers as part of at least this week‘s lineup.
FRANKEN: Katherine won‘t let me.
NORVILLE: Katherine won‘t let you. Your co-host says no.
NORVILLE: But how does the new climate figure into the notion of stepping out on the airwaves now?
FRANKEN: I don‘t think it affects me. I have had a lot of people saying like, are you going to be able to survive the censorship? And I was on TV for 15 seasons. And I never...
NORVILLE: And you don‘t say that sort of stuff.
FRANKEN: Yes, you don‘t have to. I say it in my private life sometimes, and I am sure G. has as well.
LIDDY: Yes, it‘s nothing that bothers me because I don‘t have that kind of a show.
NORVILLE: But what about the bigger issue, Mr. Liddy?
LIDDY: What about—what is the bigger issue? OK, O‘Reilly is embarrassment to my side. I‘m sorry. What can I say?
LIDDY: But bear in mind that while he does tremendously well on television, Matt Drudge has published numbers in radio, and he just doesn‘t do well in radio.
FRANKEN: He doesn‘t.
LIDDY: And that is just the way it is.
But the point of all this is, Howard Stern, because he is very intelligent and very bright, could change his format tomorrow and succeed. If you choose to do that, well, OK. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. But if you don‘t have to do that. And Al Franken is so talented that he wouldn‘t have to do that, and I have never heard him resort to that sort of thing at all.
NORVILLE: Michael, one of the things about radio, it‘s not like you can just pitch a tent and expect people to come. Just because Air America has had this incredible publicity push, and I have never seen anything like it, that doesn‘t necessarily mean the audience is going to follow. What‘s the secret?
HARRISON: The secret is to sustain that audience, to evolve and to be able to do it minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year to build a sizable audience.
Unlike television or movies or even books, radio success comes over a
long period of time. And I think the biggest challenge facing Al Franken
is to be able to enjoy going into that room six months from now for three
hours talking into the microphone and still feeling fresh and invigorated
by the process.
FRANKEN: Today, after—we did the first show on the network today.
I got out of the studio. They cracked champagne and I said, OK, we got to prepare for tomorrow. We have Hillary Clinton tomorrow.
FRANKEN: And the way I feel like, this is my job. And I enjoyed it today. I enjoyed talking to Bob Kerrey, who was—it was an actual like newsmaker interview. I enjoyed the comedy that we did. I‘m going—after I do the show, I‘m going back and writing.
NORVILLE: And you‘ll be working for tomorrow‘s show.
NORVILLE: You have got a Republican administration in right now.
There‘s an election in November.
FRANKEN: Yes. Yes.
NORVILLE: You‘ve got a great target that‘s easy for you to aim at.
NORVILLE: Come November, if there were a change in the administration, what does that do to the message, the mantra, the venom that will occasionally be spilled on your airwaves?
FRANKEN: Well, from your lips to God‘s ears. Believe me, we are still going to have Tom DeLay, we are still going to have a Republican Congress, probably, and we are still going to have the Rush Limbaughs of the world. And they‘ll be saying...
NORVILLE: Because Limbaugh has remained successful even though his people are in Washington right now.
FRANKEN: Yes. And so you always have the other side to talk about, and you have your own side to talk about. If President Kerry isn‘t doing what we want, we will be talking about that. But mainly...
NORVILLE: One of the things that gets me, and, Mr. Liddy, I would love to hear your comments on this, too, is this notion that there‘s a line, there‘s a line down the middle, and you are either on this side or that side and you are either for us or against us. I don‘t think I come from that land, and I think I speak with a lot of people in saying, I agree with some of what Al says, I agree with some of what you says.
Yet there seems to be no place for those of us who find ourselves in the middle.
LIDDY: Well, if it‘s OK for me to speak on this, we have people calling in constantly who are on my side of the fence, and they are—the Democratic base is united. The Republican base is not. And it‘s because of the business of the greatest increase in entitlements since Lyndon Johnson came from a Republican president. It‘s because of the business of the illegal aliens, the possibility of amnesty and everything.
These things and saying that he would sign if it came to him the extension of the gun ban, those things alienate the people on my side of the fence. And they call in and we talk about it. And I am quite sure that if people on Al‘s side of the fence call in offended because of something that some of their people in government do, he will air it and discuss it.
FRANKEN: I think that the people are calling in, the Republicans that are disillusioned with Bush, should probably stay home.
NORVILLE: Well, we are going to let that be the last word.
The great thing is, there‘s lots of voices out there. There are lots of channels on the selector. And if you punch enough buttons, you will find something that you are going to agree with.
G. Gordon Liddy, thanks for being with us from Washington.
FRANKEN: Thanks, G.
LIDDY: Thanks, Ms. Norville.
NORVILLE: Michael Harrison, thanks so much for being with us.
LIDDY: Good luck, Al.
FRANKEN: Thank you, Michael.
NORVILLE: And, Al Franken, we wish you well. Thanks for being with us on your first day on the air.
FRANKEN: Thank you, Deborah.
NORVILLE: Thank you so much. It was great.
ANNOUNCER: Up next
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is confirmed that the person that we have found is Audrey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Missing coed Audrey Seiler back with her family after a four-day kidnapping ordeal. Where was she and who took her?
When DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: A family‘s prayers have been answered. That University of Wisconsin student, Audrey Seiler, who we told you about last night has been found safe and alive four days after her disappearance. The 20-year-old sophomore was reunited with parents this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE SEILER, MOTHER OF AUDREY: We are just very happy to be reunited with Audrey, and she is happy to be with us. And you can‘t—we just can‘t tell you how good this makes us feel. We are just focusing on being together and holding each other and hugging each other and just reaffirming to each other that we are here for her and she is here for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Audrey disappeared from her apartment early Saturday morning without a coat or any of her personal belongings, and her apartment door was left open.
This surveillance video you see captured her leaving that night. Hundreds of volunteers flooded into Madison, Wisconsin, to help with the search. And the good news this afternoon, Audrey was found alive in a marshy area after a citizen phoned police. The marsh is located less than two miles from where she disappeared. Tonight, Audrey in a local hospital for observation. Doctors say she was dehydrated and that her muscles ached from being confined, but they say she doesn‘t have any life-threatening injuries.
Police are not saying if she was abducted, but they are looking for a suspect who, according to some reports, held Audrey against her will with a knife and gun.
Joining me now from Washington, D.C., former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
Clint, good to see you again.
And last night, we talked about this. I don‘t know that either one of us thought there would be such happy news so soon.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST: No.
This is the way we need to see the cases end. There‘s too many times that you and your colleagues have to report very unfortunate things. And I was just sitting there thinking, 24 hours ago, we were speculating, and tonight, she‘s back with her parents. That‘s a real victory.
NORVILLE: Yes. And it‘s reassuring to know that—sometimes people say we go overboard in publicizing these things, but it was the media attention. Someone saw something that seemed a little funky in that marsh. They called the cops and this young lady was found.
VAN ZANDT: There‘s never enough police officers and FBI agents in this country to look at every road, to search every barn. But there is enough people in this country, after 9/11, who take responsibility. And you know, Deborah, when a child is kidnapped—and I say a child. This woman was 20 years old, but my children are much older than that.
When a young person like this is missing, it‘s all of us feel for that family and all of us want to participate, and that‘s when you see this tremendous sense of community, as people come out and search, looking for this happy resolution.
NORVILLE: What do you think happened? Police are saying nothing. The doctors are saying very little other than she has got muscle ache from being confined, which I presume she must have been bound in some way. What do you suspect happened in this situation?
VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, there was a lot that law enforcement in their most recent press conference didn‘t share with us. There was remarkable lack of information about the suspect, to begin with. If there‘s a 30-year-old, plus or minus, white male wearing a black baseball cap and sweater and pants carrying a gun and knife who has already abducted one woman, you would think we would have more attention directed at him.
And we also see the parents suggesting that Audrey was surprised at how much attention was paid to this. So law enforcement, the parents, doctor, everyone is being very careful, and it sounds like they want to make sure what they have. They know they had a missing person case. Was she abducted, was she kidnapped, what happened, i think that question, the jury is still out on, and that answer still has to come to all of us.
NORVILLE: They are still calling it a missing persons case, which is interesting, not officially a kidnapping, but there is still the odd incident that happened in February where she was knocked unconscious and dragged a couple of blocks away. A connection?
VAN ZANDT: Well to me, as you and I discussed last night, if that happened to her February 1 and then this incident just took place, that‘s lightning striking the same person twice amongst 44,000 students, so it‘s hard to think there‘s not a connection. I would like to talk to the witnesses of both incidents.
NORVILLE: All right, well, we will know more as they share that information with us. Clint Van Zandt, thanks for joining us.
And speaking of information, if you have got any on the suspect in the case, call the Madison, Wisconsin, police. Their number is 608-266-4275.
We‘ll be back.
NORVILLE: We love to hear from you. Send us ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.
And that is our program tonight. I‘m Deborah Norville.
Tomorrow, be sure to join us. It‘s the story of this 11-year-old Muslim girl who has been suspended from school for wearing a scarf to cover her head. The school says it violates the dress code. She says it violates her right to religious freedom. And could it be an election-year issue, the return of the draft card? The military draft could be back by 2005. We‘ll take that up tomorrow night.
Coming up next, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
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