Amid the ongoing public health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, conservative talk radio hosts have helped fuel state-level protests against social distancing restrictions by spreading the message of local organizers and calling on their listeners to attend.
While public support for stay-at-home orders remains strong, protesters have urged governors to reopen state economies — against the advice of health experts. Fox News has worked to raise the profile of these protesters, and various conservative groups “have tapped their networks to drive up turnout.” Nationally syndicated host Rush Limbaugh has also voiced support for these protests.
But local talk radio has been offering a more targeted way to promote specific protests and increase turnout. Local hosts have provided organizers and participants with a platform to give more information about protests and in some cases have even encouraged their audiences to attend.
- On April 21, Virginia host John Fredericks encouraged his audience to attend a protest in Richmond the following day, telling his listeners to “drive there, honk, drive around the capitol, do something.” Fredericks, a noted Trump ally, later interviewed David Britt, a protest organizer.
- Michigan host Steve Gruber promoted the April 15 protest in Lansing multiple times on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts. A Breitbart article featured a video of Gruber at the protest criticizing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Gruber later hosted Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on his show for an interview and told her that protesters were saying, “Wait a second, you’ve gone too far,” in response to Michigan’s coronavirus restrictions, adding, “It’s so galling, Ronna, to see here what’s going on here, from the front row.”
- On April 16, Utah host Kate Dalley gave her audience the time and location of an upcoming protest in St. George and said, “Be there. Honk. I don’t care what you do. … Go down there. Support.” Dalley later posted a livestream of herself at the protest on Facebook.
- Nevada-based host and Newsmax TV personality Wayne Allyn Root is organizing a protest in Las Vegas and has promoted the event on Twitter. Root, who recently suggested alkaline structured silver could kill the coronavirus, claimed on April 21 that the protest would be the “biggest protest event in the history of the Las Vegas strip.”
- Wisconsin host Vicki McKenna interviewed two protest organizers in that state on April 15 and asked them to provide information about the upcoming event. McKenna argued, “It is our constitutional right to assemble and that is what we are asking people to do.” She also said she would post the protest location on Facebook “so people can know about it.”
- On April 16, Minnesota hosts Jon Justice and Drew Lee interviewed Max Rymer about a protest in St. Paul the following day. Rymer, a candidate for RNC committeeman, argued, “We are approaching tyrannical terrority in my opinion and it deserves a moment of pushback.” Justice agreed, saying, “I’m with you 100%,” and that he hoped there would be a large turnout.
- Pennsylvania host Wendy Bell interviewed Matthew Bellis of ReOpen PA, giving him a platform to promote an upcoming protest in Harrisburg. Bell said, “I want you to tell everybody who’s listening how do they get involved.”
- Pennsylvania host Ken Matthews also promoted the same protests in Harrisburg repeatedly on Twitter.
- On April 20, Pennsylvania host Dom Giordano interviewed Steve Barrar, a Republican state representative who witnessed the protests taking place that day in Harrisburg. Before the interview, Giordano said that the protesters “don’t want to live under a king and a king’s henchmen who just make it up as they go along and continue to say it’s all based on science.”
- Organizers of the original Michigan protests have appeared on local radio shows outside the state to promote their work. On April 16, Washington, D.C., program Mornings on the Mall featured an interview with a member of the Michigan Conservative Coalition, Diane Schindlbeck. Co-founder of the group Marian Sheridan was interviewed by Ohio host Bob Frantz the same day. Sheridan explained that she hoped protests would spread to other states, to which Frantz replied, “I hope you’re right.”