Accuracy in Media

A scandal involving the liberal Air America radio network has been brewing right under the noses of the mainstream media, and they’ve barely taken notice. Perhaps they’re afraid that their “Great Liberal Hope” on the air may be crashing and burning.

Remember that Air America was last year’s effort to find a liberal Rush Limbaugh, and to help the Democrats regain power. It was meant to help the left regain its rightful place atop the media culture, and to help John Kerry become president. Launched in March of last year, Air America programming is now carried either all or in part on 69 stations and XM Satellite radio. It is a ratings disaster, with its star, Al Franken, trailing Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly by a large margin, even in liberal New York City. And after a bumpy start, it has gone further downhill.

The scandal involves loans totaling $875,000 from the Bronx, New York-based Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club, one of the country’s top social-services organizations, to Air America and Evan Montvel Cohen, 39, who was both CEO and co-founder of Progress Media Inc., the original corporate parent company of Air America, and development director of the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club. According to Jeanette Graves, the president of the club’s executive committee, Cohen had initially impressed the committee by putting on a very successful fundraiser for the organization, which in 2003 received $3.7 million in government grants and more than half a million in government contracts.

As a result, when Cohen requested loans to help out Air America, the committee approved two loans totaling $167,000. In addition, according to what Ms. Graves told the New York Sun, the organization lent Air America another $213,000 “authorized with a rubber stamp of her signature on a document she said she never saw.” And more recently, she added, there was a wire transfer of at least $400,000 from the Gloria Wise Club to Air America without her knowledge. In addition, the executive director of Gloria Wise, Charles Rosen, loaned Mr. Cohen an additional $35,000 of the club’s money, because Cohen said it was for chemotherapy he needed to treat his brain cancer, from which he said he was recovered, and to help his dad, who he said was gravely ill.

In May of 2004, ownership of Air America was transferred from Progress Media to Piquant LLC, which issued a statement last month saying that it had no legal obligation to pay off Progress’s debt, but to preserve Air America’s good name, they would fully reimburse the Gloria Wise Club. The network has reportedly paid $50,000 into an escrow account controlled by the network’s lawyer, and is waiting for directions from the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI).

The matter is now being investigated by the DOI and New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The DOI announced in June that it was suspending about $10 million worth of grants and contracts to the Gloria Wise Club, since its top officials had approved “significant inappropriate transactions and falsified documents that were submitted to various city agencies.” Jeanette Graves told the New York Sun that thanks to contracts and funds obtained from other sources, all of the social programs, which serve 20,000 kids, elderly residents and people with disabilities, are running fine at this point.

Stories about this scandal have appeared in the New York Post, the Daily News and the Washington Times, WorldNetDaily, NewsMax and several blogs. The New York Sun had the most thorough recounting of the details of the transactions.

But the silence by the left speaks volumes. Where is the righteous indignation from Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman of the New York Times? The Times belatedly ran one story on the investigation, and the Washington Post carried one AP story. Why no reports on NBC, CBS or ABC?

Deborah Simmons, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Times, tells the inspiring story of Gloria Brown Wise, “the first woman to participate in the early days of the lunch-counter sit-ins,” later to come back to New York where she began her charitable work leading to the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club. She wonders about the silence from Julian Bond, the Congressional Black Caucus, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Simmons eloquently writes that “somebody of consequence ought to be speaking up on behalf of the Boys and Girls Clubs?After all, there is far more at stake than the sullying of some lefty media organ.”



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