1. Rush Limbaugh
REACH: Reagan/Conservative with 22 million-plus listners via 650 radio stations and the Armed Forces Radio Network. He publishes the Limbaugh Letter with 1.000,000 monthly readers and has talk radio’s No. 1 Web site. He’s also the author of two best-selling books.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Himself (with laughs).
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: After a medical procedure, Limbaugh got addicted to prescription painkillers. Though such cases are rarely prosecuted, the Democratic state attorney where Limbaugh lives in Palm Beach County, Fla., strung out the matter for two and a half years, finally settling with Limbaugh and agreeing to drop the charges in April of this year.
WEB SITE: www.rushlimbaugh.com
Limbaugh is more than America’s most widely listened-to talk-radio host ("the most listened-to radio host on the planet," he likes to say). He is also the father of the current era of talk radio, and an influential player on America’s political scene. Before Limbaugh entered national syndication in August 1988, political talk radio was nearly dead and the AM dial was considered history. He revived and revitalized it with a fresh style of humor-laced commentary — or commentary-laced humor — now widely imitated by both conservative and liberal talk hosts.
Limbaugh’s political clout has no equal among radio rivals. The wave of newly elected Republicans, that in 1994 won control of the House of Representatives for the first time in four decades, called themselves the "Dittohead Caucus," using the nickname of Limbaugh fans, and declared Limbaugh to be "an honorary member of Congress." President George H.W. Bush invited Limbaugh to visit the White House and sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom, and the ceremony at Limbaugh’s third wedding was performed by none other than Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Limbaugh’s influence has also been felt through what might be called the Rush Limbaugh School of Broadcasting. Appearances as guest hosts on his show helped launch the national talk-radio career of Sean Hannity, as well as of Michael Medved and Tony Snow.
2. Sean Hannity
REACH: Reagan/Conservative with 12.5 million-plus listeners via 500 radio stations and the Armed Forces Radio Network. His flagship radio station is WABC in New York City. He is co-host of Fox News Channel’s second-highest-rated show, Hannity & Colmes, reaching 2 million viewers, and has written several best-selling books.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Morality.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: While a local host, he told listeners that another on-air person at the station was a lesbian whose child by in-vitro fertilization was a “turkey-baster baby.” Hannity told her on air: “I feel sorry for your child.”
PET PHRASE(S): “You’re a great American.”
WEB SITE: www.hannity.com
Hannity is the fastest-rising star in the history of talk radio. He has attracted the second-largest radio audience in only five years of syndication. But he stood on giant shoulders to get there: The feisty Irish-American was first heard by most Americans during his many appearances as a guest host on Limbaugh’s show.
Sean Patrick Hannity attended New York University and Adelphi University, dropping out of both without a degree. Hard-working and entrepreneurial, in 1982 he established his own successful house-painting business in Rhode Island. He moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., to work in construction.
After a stint at KCSB, the campus radio station at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Hannity astutely bought an ad in a radio industry journal describing himself as “the most talked about college radio host in America.” This won him an on-air job in Huntsville, Ala., which was his steppingstone to a slot in Atlanta.
When Fox News Channel was forming three years later, Roger Ailes picked Hannity to be the conservative half of the show now called Hannity & Colmes. This brought Hannity back to New York City.
Hannity is a talk host with a pugilistic demeanor who polarizes issues into contests between good guys in white hats and bad guys in black. His passion and energy make him a powerful and attractive cheerleader for conservative listeners seeking certitude, emotional catharsis, and a gladiatorial champion for their political beliefs.
Hannity’s radio show began nationwide syndication one day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
3. Michael Savage
REACH: Right winger with 8.25 million-plus listeners on 377 stations. His flagship station is KNEW in San Francisco. He is also the author of more than 20 books, the most recent being The Political Zoo (Nelson Current, 2006).
FAVORITE TOPIC: Borders, language, culture.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: During his short-lived show on MSNBC, when he thought he was off the air, he said to a caller: “Oh, so you’re one of those sodomites. You should only get AIDS and die, you pig …”
PET PHRASE(S): “To the right of Rush and the left of God.”
WEB SITE: www.michaelsavage.com
Savage is the third most-listened-to radio talk host in America. He is individualistic, iconoclastic, and eclectic; a passionate populist who sometimes sounds like a shock jock.
Savage was born Michael Alan Weiner in the Bronx in March 1942, attended public schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in education and sociology from Queens College. In the early 1970s, the then-liberal Weiner traveled with beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, considered becoming a standup comic like Lenny Bruce, and spent years wandering the South Pacific. In 1978, he earned a Ph.D. in epidemiology and nutritional science from the University of California-Berkeley.
By the 1980s he was turning conservative. In 1994, he started working as a fill-in host on San Francisco’s KGO. He was given a weekend show on its conservative “sister station” KSFO, adopted a pseudonym from the last name of legendary South Seas adventurer Charles Savage, and by 1995 became its weekday “drive time” host.
Savage soon topped the local ratings for all adults and became the highest-rated talk host in Northern California. His nationwide show, syndicated by Talk Radio Network in Oregon, launched in January 2000.
In his bio as a columnist at NewsMax.com, Savage writes: “Those who listen to me say they hear a bit of Plato, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Moses, Jesus, and Frankenstein.”
4. Dr. Laura Schlessinger
REACH: Conservative with 7.75 million-plus listeners on approximately 275 stations and XM Satellite Radio. Her column appears in NewsMax magazine and she has written many best-selling books, the most recent of which is Bad Childhood, Good Life.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Protecting women and children.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: After announcing she would host a syndicated TV show, Schlessinger was targeted by gay activists who pressured TV stations not to air her. Several major-market stations relegated her to a late-night time slot or caved in altogether, and the show was canceled a year after launch. Among Schlessinger’s supporters in this controversy was conservative lesbian radio talk host Tammy Bruce.
PET PHRASE(S): “I am my kid’s mom.”
WEB SITE: www.drlaura.com
In our age of moral relativism and political correctness, where everything from sex to high-calorie food has been politicized, Schlessinger is seen as a cultural and political talk host because she — sin of sins — judgmentally asserts that some politically correct behaviors are wrong. Schlessinger is an anchor of firm values in a society morally adrift, and millions tune to her for personal moral rearmament.
Born in Brooklyn in 1947, Schlessinger is the daughter of a nonpracticing Jewish father and an Italian, nonpracticing Roman Catholic mother. She has frankly told her audience that she grew up in an “unloving environment” that continues to influence her inner religious and moral struggles.
Her advice stems from far more than her Columbia University Ph.D. in physiology or her California credential as a marriage and family counselor.
Her wisdom also comes from her own painful mistakes in personal relationships and spiritual seeking. A hypocrite says, “Do what I say, not what I do,” observes Schlessinger, but her lesson for listeners is, “Do what I say, not what I did.”
At its peak, Schlessinger’s syndicated
show, launched in 1994, aired on 471 affiliates and had an audience second
only to Limbaugh’s. Lately, she’s waged a battle for affiliates with Hannity’s
skyrocketing show in the same time slot.
5. Laura Ingraham
REACH: Reagan/Conservative with 5 million-plus listeners via 340 radio stations and both XM and Sirius Satellite Radio. She appears frequently on television talk shows and has written two books.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Liberal hypocrisy.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Jeffrey Hart, faculty adviser to the Dartmouth Review, wrote that Ingraham held “the most extreme anti-homosexual views imaginable” as an undergraduate. A decade later she wrote a compassionate Washington Post article about her gay brother, Curtis.
PET PHRASE(S): “It’s not just a talk show — it’s an addiction.”
WEB SITE: www.lauraingraham.com
Ingraham, like Ann Coulter, is a smart, sharp-tongued, and savvy blonde lawyer who rose to media stardom during the 1994 “Republican Revolution.” She literally became conservatism’s “cover girl,” appearing in a borrowed leopard-skin miniskirt on a 1995 issue of The New York Times Magazine.
Ingraham earned a degree from Dartmouth College, where she and author Dinesh D’Souza, to whom she was briefly engaged to be married, wrote for the conservative Dartmouth Review. She became a speechwriter in the Reagan administration, earned her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Virginia Law School, and served as U.S. Supreme Court law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.
Publisher’s Weekly dismissed Ingraham’s “tone of class resentment” as a “demagogue’s trick.” It never mentioned the long, hard climb she has made to today’s pinnacle of success. Coulter is the daughter of a prosperous lawyer, but Ingraham’s mother worked as a maid to support her family.
Ingraham speaks from her heart when she says of liberal elitists: “They think you’re stupid. They think all freedom-loving Americans are stupid. They think patriotism is stupid. They think church-going is stupid.”
Ingraham is a brilliant, still-rising star whose insider knowledge of government, droll humor, and feisty, fervent conservatism attract more listeners every day to the syndicated radio show she began in 2001. Her goal? Her Web site says she “hopes to become the person her dog, Troy, thinks she is.”
Earlier this year she told listeners that she had undergone surgery for breast cancer and is now in good health.
6. Mike Gallagher
REACH: Reagan/Conservative with 3.75 million-plus listeners via 200 radio stations. He is also a Fox News Channel contributor and author of the book Surrounded by Idiots: Fighting Liberal Lunacy in America (William Morrow, 2005).
FAVORITE TOPIC: Right vs. wrong.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Slaughtered a live steer on the air, then gave its meat to the poor, as an affront to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
PET PHRASE(S): “Let’s go to ‘common sense island.’”
WEB SITE: www.mikeonline.com
“Our country is battling for her very soul, for patriotism, Judeo-Christian morals, and strong families,” writes Gallagher, a talk host in the Hannity style who sees right vs. left as right vs. wrong. “Liberal lunatics have surrounded us with their agenda-driven ideology. It’s time to fight back.”
Born Michael Smelstor in April 1960, Gallagher got his first radio job while a high school student in Dayton, Ohio, at 17. When station management learned his age, they required him to sign an agreement that he’d never disclose it on the air. He moved up to radio jobs in South Carolina becoming host of the Clemson Football Radio Network’s Tiger Tailgate Show, in Albany, N.Y.; and then in New York City at WABC. He started his nationally syndicated show in 1998.
Gallagher frequently commutes between his network’s two studios. One is near Dallas, and the other is in Manhattan’s Empire State Building.
Despite his persuasive powers, he has never managed to convert his liberal wife politically. He married wife Denise when she was a single mom with four sons.
“I’ve always loved the description of talk radio by [Boston radio mainstay] David Brudnoy. He called talk radio ‘the last great neighborhood,’” Gallagher told NewsMax. “We’re like a huge configuration of picket fences in backyards that neighbors use to convey what really matters to them. Sometimes we fight, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we sell each other something — but we’re always shaping ideas and sharing opinions. Now, with the war on terror, uncertain political times, and worldwide turmoil, we need those picket fences and neighbors more than ever.”
7. Neal Boortz
REACH: Libertarian with 3.75 million-plus listeners per week on 200 radio stations. He is the author of three books including the best-selling The Fair Tax Book.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Saying on the air that “any adult not suffering from a mental or physical disability who earns only the minimum wage is a loser” who should not be entitled to take, via government, the fruits of other people’s labor.
PET PHRASE(S): “I’m turning a rather grave personality disorder into a rather good living.”
Boortz, “the talk master,” is America’s most popular Libertarian talk-show host. He advocates smaller government and more individual liberty. At the Libertarian Party national convention in 2004, however, some delegates unsuccessfully petitioned to cancel his scheduled speech because Boortz strongly supports the war against Islamist terrorism and opposes illegal immigration.
Boortz jokingly told NewsMax he does talk radio “because I’m too ugly for TV.”
Boortz, now known as “the mouth of the South,” was born in April 1945 in Bryn Mawr, Pa., into a Marine Corps family. He began doing radio in College Station, Texas, while attending Texas A&M University.
In Atlanta, he worked briefly as a speechwriter for the governor of Georgia and then hosted local shows, combining radio with work as a lawyer after he graduated from a local law school in 1977. In 1992, he became a full-time host on legendary Atlanta station WSB-AM 750. In 1999, Cox Radio, WSB’s owner, began syndicating his highly rated talk show nationwide.
“If Republicans don’t adopt a national
agenda that inspires the American people, they’ll lose the House of Representatives,”
Boortz told NewsMax. “Republicans will win if they promise to pass the
Fair Tax bill to end the income tax and replace it with a national sales
tax. Where this has been on the ballot in Georgia, it’s won 80 percent
of the vote.”
8. Bill O'Reilly
REACH: Middle of the Road/Moderate with 3.25 million-plus listeners via more than 400 radio stations. The O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel is the highest-rated show on cable television, with about 3 million viewers nightly; he is a widely distributed syndicated columnist — his column appears regularly in NewsMax magazine; he publishes www.billoreilly.com and is the best-selling author of several books, including the newly released Culture Warrior (Broadway Books, 2006).
FAVORITE TOPIC: Hypocrisy of establishment elites
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: In 2001, O’Reilly charged that the money actor George Clooney raised during a telethon to benefit 9/11 victims wasn’t reaching the actual victims. When Clooney publicly objected, O’Reilly invited him to come on his show and debate the issue. Clooney refused. O'Reilly charged that Clooney was making a fuss "to get press."
PET PHRASE(S): "about to enter a no-spin zone … where we’re looking out for you."
WEB SITE: www.billoreilly.com
O'Reilly has established himself as one of the nation's top media personalities.
O'Reilly’s influence and power derive from being able to throw a double punch — the most-watched cable TV host and a widely syndicated radio host. His syndicated column is published by over 300 newspapers. Few hosts can claim the reach O’Reilly enjoys across a broad range of media. The veteran journalist spent more than 20 years at ABC, CBS, and Inside Edition and follows old-fashioned journalism rules of eschewing partisanship.
His twist: He covers world events from a working-class populist perspective. He is iconoclastic: opposing the death penalty, addressing global warming as a legitimate concern, and admiring Bobby Kennedy, but has been anti-government, pro-business, and pro-Bush when it comes to the war on terror. Every week he finds occasions to agree with something a prominent Democratic politician has said, although O’Reilly has also remarked that “the Democratic Party has been hijacked by the far left.”
“I don’t want to fit any of those labels” like “conservative or liberal,” O’Reilly has said, “because I believe that the truth doesn’t have labels. When I see corruption, I try to expose it. When I see exploitation, I try to fight it. That’s my political position.” It’s a formula that works well on TV, but talk radio is the bastion of the right.
O’Reilly is sensitive to put-downs and quick to defend his honor. Although lesser hosts like Franken and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann have tried to enhance their own fame by goading him into public feuds, his ratings dominance remains unchallenged.
9. Glenn Beck
REACH: Conservative with 2.75 million-plus listeners via 212 stations plus XM Satellite Radio. His television show on CNN Headline News is seen by as many as half a million viewers. He is author of The Real America: Messages from the Heart and Heartland (Pocket, 2003).
FAVORITE TOPIC: Being reasonable.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: In 2004, Beck called Michael Berg, whose son had been beheaded in Iraq, “despicable” and a “scumbag” because Berg was widely shown by the liberal media accusing President Bush of being responsible for his son’s death.
PET PHRASE(S): “I am a conservative who doesn’t happen to be a Republican.”
WEB SITE: www.glennbeck.com
Although Beck’s relentless good humor can make important topics seem less urgent, he offers a welcome return to an era of civility. His radio program is now the third-most listened-to talk show among adults ages 25 to 54.
When he was 13, Beck won a contest to be a DJ on a Seattle radio station. He did so well he was offered a job hosting Christian radio on Saturday, rock on Sunday, and country on weeknights. After high school, he worked as a Top 40 DJ at stations from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Connecticut and became a local star in Baltimore, Houston, and Phoenix.
“When you have that kind of success that early in life, it’s easy for you to turn into a monster,” Beck now says. “And I did! I was not a good guy.”
By age 30, he felt burned out because of alcoholism, drug addiction, and a sinking marriage. He wondered if he would follow the path of his alcoholic mother, who committed suicide when he was 14. After losing his radio jobs, he was accepted by Yale University as a theology major, but quit after one semester.
Beck says that he kicked drugs and booze in part because his daughter, Mary, born with cerebral palsy, inspired him by learning to walk and run. A Mormon, he now calls himself “a work in progress.”
In January 2002, Clear Channel launched Beck’s national show. It started with 47 affiliates and has more than quadrupled its station list in four years.
Independent-minded Beck is a gentle man who continues to grow as a radio giant. “I hope people feel goodness from my show,” he says, “and accept me for who I am, flaws and all.”
10. Bill Bennett
REACH: Reagan/Conservative with 2.25 million listeners via 135 stations and Sirius Satellite Radio. He also appears widely on television news and talk programs, is a CNN contributor, and is the author of many popular books.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Morality.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: To make a point, he once told a caller that if every African-American baby were aborted, the nation’s crime rate would go down — although of course he was not suggesting such a thing be done. Bennett is a devout Roman Catholic who opposes abortion.
PET PHRASE(S): “Where the most important voice is yours.”
WEB SITE: www.bennettmornings.com
In one of modern history’s most unlikely encounters, Bennett as a young man went on a blind date with blues singer Janis Joplin. What happened?
“A gentleman doesn’t tell,” Bennett says diplomatically.
Joplin would later die of a drug overdose while the chain-smoking Bennett went on to become America’s “drug czar,” leading President George H.W. Bush’s war against illicit drugs. Bennett once said that beheading dope pushers would be “morally plausible.”
Bennett earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Texas and a law degree from Har-vard University. In 1985, then-President Reagan appointed Bennett secretary of education.
Bennett’s radio show, Morning in America, was launched in April 2004. On the air he often exhibits the patience and certitude of a priest.
“The greatest thing about getting up each morning is that I can engage in a conversation with the American people, something I’ve tried to do for as long as I can remember,” Bennett told NewsMax.
“I’d call it ‘listening radio’ more than ‘talk radio,’” Bennett continued. “Americans, and international listeners, too, are smart and informed people, tired of being talked down to, tired of being lectured at [by the mainstream media].”
11. Michael Medved
REACH: Former liberal turned conservative with2.25 million-plus listeners via 189 stations. He has written 10 nonfiction books and is a contributor to USA Today.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Hollywood’s negative influence on our culture.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: After Medved’s review divulged the pro-euthanasia ending of the boxing movie Million Dollar Baby, liberal movie critic Roger Ebert wrote that Medved had become a political commentator and was no longer a film critic. Medved said ticket buyers were being misled by ads that portrayed the movie as a heart-warming boxing story, not a political film that advocated mercy killing.
PET PHRASE(S): “We entertain your brain” with “Your daily dose of debate.”
WEB SITE: www.michaelmedved.com
“I love talk radio because this medium is about ideas and argument,” Medved told NewsMax. Born in Philadelphia in 1948, Medved grew up in San Diego and Los Angeles, then entered Yale University at age 16. At Yale Law School he became friends with Hillary Rodham Clinton.
This bright and intellectual self-described “cultural crusader on politics and culture” has always enjoyed debating politics. Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Franken have been Medved show guests.
He left law school to work for politicians and in 1971 moved to Berkeley, Calif., where he briefly was campaign consultant to radical Democratic Congressman Ron Dellums.
Medved’s 1978 book co-authored with his 15-year-old brother, Harry, The Fifty Worst Films of All Time, won Medved a 12-year job as co-host of the PBS movie show Sneak Previews, seen on 250 TV stations.
In 1980, Medved became a Republican. His criticism of Hollywood brought an invitation to be a substitute host on Limbaugh’s show.
Last year, Medved published a second book
that chronicled his journey from liberal activist to outspoken conservative,
aptly titled Right Turns. The book explains how the talk-show host made
the transition from Vietnam-era protest leader to an advocate for patriotism
and religion. It also discusses Medved’s personal transition from a man-about-town
to a doting husband and father.
12. Larry Elder
REACH: African-American/Libertarian/Republican 2 million-plus listeners on more than 30 stations, and XM and Sirius. His show originates from flagship station KABC in Los Angeles. On national television, Elder has hosted Morals Court and The Larry Elder Show, been featured on 60 Minutes, and appeared as a guest on Oprah and other major programs. Based in Hollywood, he also acts, and played an FBI agent this season on an episode of the Fox drama 24. Elder is an Internet columnist and author of three books.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Taking personal responsibility instead of seeking government help.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Because of Elder’s opposition to government affirmative action programs, an activist group waged a vicious campaign to have him purged from Los Angeles airwaves. Elder, backed by David Horowitz and the American Civil Liberties Union, survived.
PET PHRASE(S): “We’ve got a country to save.”
WEB SITE: www.larryelder.com
Elder is America’s pre-eminent libertarian-conservative African-American radio talk show host. He advocates reducing government by 80 percent, abolishing government public schools, and slashing taxes. He coined the term “Victicrat” to describe those who seek political power by claiming to represent victims of racism or poverty.
Born in April 1952 in Los Angeles, Laurence Allen Elder is the son of a Republican father and liberal Democratic mother. “I learned about politics by hearing them argue at the dinner table,” he said. Elder earned a degree in political science from Brown University in 1974 and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School in 1977. While working at a Cleveland law firm, he became host of local television talk shows on PBS and then Fox. Through these programs he began a mind-opening, life-changing friendship with famed African-American free-market economist Dr. Walter Williams. Elder’s popular radio talk show on KABC in Los Angeles began in 1994. ABC launched his nationwide syndication in 2002. In 2003, Elder — who supports the war against Islamist terrorism — re-registered as a Republican. He now calls himself a “republitarian” and his fans call themselves “Elderados.”
13. Michael Reagan
REACH: Reagan/Conservative with 2 million-plus listeners via more than 200 radio stations, and XM and Sirius. His columns appear on NewsMax.com. He gives many speeches and is a frequent guest on national television shows. He has written several books, including Michael Reagan: On the Outside Looking In (B&H Publishing, 1988; co-authored with Joe Hyams).
FAVORITE TOPIC: His father, former President Reagan.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: None.
PET PHRASE(S): “God bless America.”
WEB SITE: www.reagan.com/
Reagan is the late president’s adopted son, but he has done more to advance the Gipper’s values and legacy than have the president’s biological children. Reagan’s radio show is a forum where Republican voices and conservative values come together.
On the radio and in his books, Reagan has told movingly and with startling candor how he felt isolated as a child in the shadow of busy famous parents. Reagan attended Arizona State University, then carved out his own identity as a record-breaking speedboat racer, game-show host, and, starting in 1992, as one of America’s most popular national radio talk hosts.
Reagan has lived as the son of what many authorities consider the most important president of the last half-century or more, and he brings unique insights and experience to talk radio.
14. G. Gordon Liddy
REACH: Reagan/Conservative with 2 million listeners via more than 150 radio stations, and Sirius and XM. He is author of two novels and three nonfiction books.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Abuses by government.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Urged listeners to take a “head shot” with a gun if unidentified government agents enter their home.
PET PHRASE(S): “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”
WEB SITE: www.liddyshow.us
Liddy was one of the leaders of the 1972 Watergate break-in that led to the resignation of President Nixon. Liddy was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but after serving four and a half years, his sentence was commuted by President Carter.
George Gordon Liddy was born in 1930 in Hoboken, N.J., graduated Jesuit Fordham University in 1952, and served as a U.S. Army artillery officer during the Korean War without seeing combat. He later earned a law degree and went to work for the FBI.
In 1968, Liddy ran Nixon’s presidential campaign in New York’s 28th District and thereafter held several jobs in the Nixon administration before the break in.
Liddy had a recurring role on the TV series
Miami Vice and launched his nationally syndicated radio show in 1993. For
nearly 14 years, he has brought unique insights about government and the
world to more than a million talk-radio listeners.
15. Ed Schultz
REACH: Left wing liberal with almost 2 million listeners via more than 100 radio stations and the Armed Forces Radio Network. Author of the book Straight Talk From the Heartland (Regan Books, 2004).
FAVORITE TOPIC: Workers and the underclass.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Left his radio microphone at a public event to chase down someone who had thrown a beer bottle in his direction.
PET PHRASE(S): “Straight talk from the heartland.”
WEB SITE: www.edschultz.com
Schultz describes himself as a “gun-totin’, red meat-eatin’ lefty” out to slay the “right-wing radio dragon.”
The Democratic Party-aligned nonprofit Democracy Radio picked populist Schultz as its first local left-wing host to be promoted to national radio stardom. This organization’s founder later became an executive at Democratic-aligned Air America Radio.
Born in Virginia in 1954, Schultz attended
Minnesota’s Moorhead State University on a football scholarship. He became
a sportscaster in Fargo, N.D. His passion attracted fans, but his hot-tempered
on-air outbursts cost him jobs. In 2000, his fiancée ran the local
Salvation Army shelter. She converted him from a “moderate” Republican
into a “progressive liberal.” Schultz says he opposes abortion but does
not want Roe v. Wade overturned. He opposes gay marriage but also opposes
a constitutional amendment banning it. He is an avid hunter but advocates
“reasonable” (i.e., more) gun control.
16. Don Imus
REACH: Liberal with 1.5 million listeners via 91 radio stations. His show is simulcast on MSNBC. He is the author of two books.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Autism and protesting thimerosal in vaccines.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: : As featured comic at the 1996 Radio and Television Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., Imus gave the “Speech From Hell,” as it came to be known, for its pointed attacks on elites.
PET PHRASE(S): “Those lying weasels …”
WEB SITE: www.msnbc.msn.com
Imus is the most curmudgeonly of America’s major talk hosts. Although slightly liberal, his sharp tongue slashes Republican and Democratic politicians alike. In 2000, he supported Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush; in 2004, Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry. He angrily denounces Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as “Satan.”
Imus’ unvarnished candor attracts an upscale, urbane audience, which in turn makes big-name pols and savvy writers (or as he calls them, “lying, thieving politicians or liberal weenie pundits”) eager to face his fire as guests. His program is the must-listen-to morning show for movers and shakers.
John Donald Imus Jr., was born in July 1940 in Riverside, Calif. He served as a U.S. Marine from 1957 to 1959, then, after failing at several other jobs, started doing radio at small stations in California and Cleveland as a pioneer “shock jock,” asking women callers if they were “naked.”
In 1971, this enfant terrible was hired
by WNBC to shock listeners in unshockable New York City. From 1982 to 1985
the station added another shocker, Howard Stern, promoting him and Imus
as bad-boy rivals and starting a real rivalry that continues. In 1988,
when WNBC was sold and became WFAN, Imus continued with this new station
and he remains there today. His show was syndicated nationwide in 1996.
REACH: Moderate with 1.25 million-plus listeners via approximately 25 radio stations. For more than six years he has made frequent guest appearances on the Fox News Channel show Fox and Friends. He is the author of the memoir Dad, Dames, Demons and a Dwarf: My Trip Down Freedom Road (2003).
FAVORITE TOPIC: Freedom.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Parked radio station vans to block traffic halfway across the San Francisco Bay Bridge while Mancow got a haircut there days after then-President Clinton did something similar at Los Angeles International Airport, halting its air traffic. Mancow was convicted of a felony for this act and his local radio station paid $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit.
PET PHRASE(S): “Fact or shiznit?”
WEB SITE: www.mancow.com
Can a radio shock jock become too radioactive? The host known as “Mancow” was a star in Chicago, topping all other English-language shows in attracting male morning drive time listeners in last spring’s ratings. But last July, the Chicago flagship station for Mancow’s Morning Madhouse national show suddenly dropped him.
With FCC scrutiny for on-air obscenity increasing, the hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines Mancow had already cost the station may have been one reason for his ouster. As of this writing, no other Chicago station has acquired his program.
Erich Matthew “Mancow” Muller was born in June 1966 in Kansas City, Mo.
As a child he acted in commercials for Lee Jeans and Wal-Mart. After earning a college degree in public relations, he took jobs at small Missouri radio stations. In 1993, he gained national notoriety for blocking the bridge between San Francisco and Oakland.
He moved to Chicago, created his morning madness show, and soon had the highest ratings among 18- to 34-year-olds in the Windy City.
His show features a large cast of characters, adolescent pranks, and a “Drunk Chick Friday” segment in which women in his studio supposedly become progressively intoxicated and rowdy during the show.
The motor-mouthed Mancow became nationally
syndicated in November 2004.
18. Tammy Bruce
REACH: Conservative with 1 million-plus listeners on more than 140 radio stations. She appears on national television talk shows and is the author of three books, including The New American Revolution (Morrow, 2005).
FAVORITE TOPIC: Liberal hypocrisy.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Bruce, a lesbian, took the side of Dr. Laura Schlessinger when gay activist groups were waging a harsh campaign to keep Schlessinger’s TV show off local stations, alleging that she disapproved of homosexual behavior.
PET PHRASE(S): “Common ground, common sense.”
WEB SITE: www.tammybruce.com
Bruce describes herself as “a pro-choice, gun-owning, pro-death penalty, openly gay, voted-for-President-Reagan progressive feminist Democrat” and as “half Italian, half Irish, and half troublemaker.”
Born in Los Angeles in August 1962, Bruce earned a degree in political science from the University of Southern California. In 1990 she became president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) which, she was shocked to learn, operated as a partisan auxiliary of the Democratic Party.
Bruce prohibited the use of tax-exempt NOW facilities for partisan politics and was strongly browbeaten by NOW’s then-national President Molly Yard for taking this principaled stand.
Living with one foot at each end of the
political spectrum, Bruce has both conservative and liberal critics. But
her feisty, courageous, independent-minded approach to issues and her intelligence
and humor have won her a large and loyal audience. “At present,” she has
said, “the biggest threat to individual liberty comes from the political
19. Howard Stern
REACH: Liberal with approximately 1 million listeners on Sirius Satellite Radio and its Internet TV site. He is the best-selling author of two 1995 books, Miss America and his autobiography, Private Parts, which became a movie in 1997 and grossed $60 million.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Sex.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: After Tejano singer Selena was shot to death in March 1995, Stern on the day before her funeral played gunshots over her music and ridiculed it. Public outrage prompted him to make a rare apology in Spanish on his show.
PET PHRASE(S): “Hey now!”
WEB SITE: www.howardstern.com
Stern, the self-proclaimed “king of all media,” is a talk-radio host whose radio show was seen on the cable channel E! until 2005; and a star in a film based on his best-selling autobiography. In 2006, he the moved his program to direct satellite radio and a much smaller audience.
Stern’s big break came in 1982 when he was hired as a shock jock rival to Imus at WNBC in New York City. Two years later, the 6-foot, 5-inch Stern began frequent guest appearances on David Letterman’s NBC television show. A 1985 “Bestiality Dial-A-Date” sketch got Stern fired at NBC, but his nationally syndicated radio show, launched in 1986, soon ranked No. 1 in Los Angeles and New York City. The show was golden, attracting a huge audience of adolescent male listeners sought by advertisers.
After numerous FCC fines for his vulgar behavior, Stern moved his show and its oddball cast of contributors to the new frontier of Sirius Satellite Radio. Although satellite radio appears to be drowning in a flood of red ink Stern still vows never to go back to terrestrial radio.
20. Al Franken
REACH: Far left liberal with almost 1 million listeners via 73 stations and XM Satellite Radio. He is also the author of several best-selling books with long titles.
FAVORITE TOPIC: Lying politicians, especially Republicans.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Apologized for misusing Harvard University’s letterhead to ask sexual questions of President George W. Bush’s administration members.
PET PHRASE(S): “This is the ‘zero spin zone.’”
WEB SITE: www.al-franken.com
Franken, the brightest star of Air America Radio, is the left’s latest failed attempt to create its own Limbaugh, a master of commingling comedy with serious issues. Franken, who shared three Emmys as a comedy writer and performer on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, once wrote a skit for that show that told viewers “The ‘Franken & Davis Show’ is brought to you by the International Communist Party: Sooner or later, you’ll be a communist.”
Born in New York City in May 1951, son of a Republican salesman father and liberal mother, Alan Stuart Franken grew up near Minneapolis where he attended the private Blake School. In 1973, he earned a degree in government from Harvard University. While doing comedy in Los Angeles, he was recruited by SNL.
Franken has promoted himself by writing books that attack Limbaugh and O’Reilly and by publicly goading O’Reilly.
He recently moved his radio show to Minnesota so he could consider a run for U.S. Senate there. As NewsMax has reported, Franken’s Midwest Values Political Action Committee has raised nearly $486,548 for left-liberal candidates, including himself. These PAC contributions came mostly from Hollywood and New York City liberals.
21. Randi Rhodes
REACH: Far left liberal with almost 1 million listeners per week via 73 radio stations, seven of which stream to the Internet. Carried on XM Satellite Radio. She authored The Big Encyclopedia of Republican Hypocrites (Miramax-Weinstein, 2006).
FAVORITE TOPIC: Republicans of any stripe.
MOST CONTROVERSIAL MOMENT: Broadcast a “comedy” bit with gunshots fired at President George W. Bush that prompted a Secret Service investigation.
PET PHRASE(S): “Amazing!”
WEB SITE: www.therandirhodesshow.com/live
Rhodes is the main “hit man” at Air America Radio, the liberal network launched in 2004 as a partisan ally of the Democratic Party. She wears a button that says “NPR [National Public Radio Is Nice, I’m Not.”
In 2004, Rhodes savaged liberal third-party candidate Ralph Nader to help Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry. “You screwed up the last election,” she told Nader, “and now you want to screw up this one, and I’m p****d!”
Born Randi Bueten in Brooklyn in 1959, she left home at 15. After two years in the U.S. Air Force, she hosted local radio shows in Texas, Wisconsin, New York, and Florida, where the Miami Herald described her as “a chain-smoking bottle blonde … [who] is part Joan Rivers, part shock jock Howard Stern, part Saturday Night Live’s ‘Coffee Talk’ lady. But mostly, she’s her rude, crude, loud, brazen, gleefully scatological self.”
Rhodes’ local show is done from the liberal enclave of West Palm Beach where she passionately sided with Democrats in the 2000 Florida ballot controversy and caught the ear of liberals planning Air America Radio, where she signed on for the launch.