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Host says anti-Pentagon words cost him deal

Radio talker Schultz insists Defense official scuttled AFN distribution
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Officially, it's been American Forces Radio for decades, but the broad-spectrum survey of U.S. radio offered to service personnel throughout the world is still almost universally known as Armed Forces Radio, and officials have pretty much given up trying to change all that.

But not, apparently, when it comes to changing content.  The producers of "The Ed Schultz Show," a leftward-leaning talk program, say the program was to be carried on Armed Forces Radio starting yesterday.  Then the very morning of the scheduled debut, the deal was called off.

The deal was called off just after Schultz had criticized the Pentagon, specifically the teleconference between the president and troops in Iraq last week, specifically the the priming and coaching by the Pentagon's Allison Barber.

"My focus is on how horrible this Allison woman was yesterday," Schultz said on his radio show last week. "You know, I understand corporations, and how they want to communicate with the public, and they don't want to screw this thing up.  I mean, this could affect sales, it could affect how people view us.  It could have a long-term effect.

"So I really think that, first of all, maybe they just didn't think it was a big deal, and it was OK for the American people to know that this was going to be staged," he said.

Schultz joined MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Tuesday's 'Countdown' to discuss the issue and why he thinks he is being kept off of American Forces radio.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

KEITH OLBERMANN: So who exactly wound up telling you that your show was not going to be on AFN?

ED SCHULTZ:  Well, you know, that's what floored us.  We got a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Allison Barber.  So we were kind of interested in the fact that it went all the way to the top.  She didn't turn it over to an underling.  And beyond that, she didn't call the syndicators, she didn't call the owners, she called the producer, who probably wasn't going to challenge her.

And it was quite an interesting wakeup call at 6:00 in the morning.

OLBERMANN:  She had a big week. The Pentagon has a different version of this, as you know.  Another spokesman told "The Washington Post" that your criticism of Ms. Barber, "has nothing to do with this," that the chief of the radio division for the Armed Forces Network jumped the gun when he confirmed that the show would be broadcast on AFN starting yesterday.  I'm gathering you think there's a different explanation, though.

SCHULTZ:  I don't think there's any question about it.  If I was in their position, I'd blame it on an overzealous employee as well, because that's what they've got a habit of doing.

I find it hard to believe that Allison Barber just all of a sudden rolled out of bed on Monday morning and was so concerned about our audience on "The Ed Schultz Show" that they just thought they'd drop the bomb then.

It just doesn't match up.  Their comment about the fact that somebody got out ahead of the story certainly doesn't match up with the e-mail that we got of confirmation back on September 29.  And since that day, I have been promoting heavily on the program that we're going to start on Armed Forces Radio Network on October 17.

But they just happened to call me the day the show was going to start, and also after I had criticized, like everybody else in the media, this staged conversation with the troops.  It just doesn't wash.  It's got some people in Washington pretty concerned about how this came down.

OLBERMANN:  Now, I was just going to bring that up, that it's not just a question of rehearsals, it's a question of whether or not they rehearse these things well.  And one thing of late from this administration, their political stagecraft used to be perfect.  And now everybody they face, they turn into Albert Pujols.  The cancellation of your show from Armed Forces turns out to be of interest to some in Congress, is that right?

SCHULTZ:  There's no question about it.  This goes back several years, where they've been trying to get some balance on the radio, because right now, all they do is carry is conservative voices when it comes to talk shows.  And I know that there are a number of people in the Senate that have put my name out there, say, Look, this show's growing.  Why can't we get at least a little bit of time of "The Ed Schultz Show" on there?

Senator Harkin was out in front of it, along with Senator Stabenow and also Senator Dorgan, and others. But the fact is, is, they only carry conservative voices.  I am not a dissenting voice.  I am in favor of veteran's benefits.  I am in favor of more pay for the military and having the proper equipment and taking care of the veterans and all the medical care.  These are key issues.  And also the recruiting situation that the military is in right now.

So I don't like it when I'm called a dissenting voice.  That's not the case at all.  There's a lot of Democrats who are serving in Iraq right now, and in Afghanistan, that have got their fannies on the line for this country.  And they ought to have the opportunity to listen to something other than Rush Limbaugh, who's toting the company line for the Bush administration.