It didn’t take long for the signs of failure to emerge after the launch of the new liberal radio network, Air America. Despite scores of sympathetic stories from the liberal media, the network started out on only a few stations and then began losing some of them. It went off the air in Chicago and its Los Angeles affiliate was having signal problems. Plus, some liberals were not impressed. One wrote a column titled, “Air America is a joke.”
A network couldn’t hope for a better send-off. Liberals in the media and across the country were pulling for its success. Former Vice President Al Gore called to congratulate Air America Radio on its launch. But like his endorsement of Howard Dean, whose candidacy went down in flames, Air America started losing affiliates. MultiCultural Broadcasting, which was airing the network on one of its Chicago stations, pulled it off the air, saying that Air America had bounced a check. Air America filed suit, saying its payments were up to date. It claimed that its signal was illegally removed from WTND in Chicago without notice and the locks were changed on the station’s offices to keep network personnel out.
Air America chairman Evan Cohen declared, “MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting’s conduct in this matter has been disgraceful. To shut off a broadcast that listeners rely on without warning and in the middle of discussions is the height of irresponsibility and a slap in the face of the media industry. In addition, it is a clear violation of their contractual obligations, and we are seeking legal remedies against them in court.”
Liberal writer Justin Felux griped that Air America had taken over an outlet in New York, WLIB-1190 AM, which is owned by the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation and served the black community. He quoted a black activist as saying that Air America could not speak to the local community and its needs. “Of course,” said Felux, “most white liberals are too busy bubbling over with joy to give a [darn].” Felux noted that Franken now has his own show on Air America, The O’Franken Factor. He added, “Somehow I doubt black people will be tuning in to hear Al Franken deliver cheesy one-liners about Bill O’Reilly.”
Another activist said the new network was too white. “As far as I’ve heard,” the activist said to the Sacramento Observer, “they’ve got a couple of Whites who just really want to go after Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and all the others. You can’t convince me that that’s going to be something good for Black and Hispanic people.”
Felux, who actually listened to some of the new shows, said one of the programs, called “The Randi Rhodes Show,” featured “a screaming match between Rhodes and Ralph Nader on its inglorious debut. Rhodes informed Nader that?he ‘screwed up the last election.’ Nader tried to maintain his composure and engage in civil discourse, but Rhodes continued screaming at him until he eventually gave up. Over the course of the screaming match, Nader aptly nicknamed the network ‘Hot Air America Radio.'” If some of the liberals are calling it “hot air,” you know the network must be in big trouble.