On a January 12 special "no-holds-barred" discussion on the ABC-owned Bay Area radio station KSFO, conservative radio host Melanie Morgan read portions of a letter from Media Matters for America President and CEO David Brock, in which Brock implored ABC to stop airing violent rhetoric and racist fearmongering. Morgan then attacked “the hate from David Brock at Media Matters” and warned that she and her co-hosts “would not be intimidated by your thuggish tactics.” One of Morgan's co-hosts, known as Officer Vic, also accused Media Matters of extortion: "[H]ere we have people using the First Amendment ... as a tool or a club. ... [W]hen you start taking financial action, you start going after people's jobs, taking money away from them, using, ostensibly, the First Amendment as the excuse and a tool, then you get into what could be called extortion." Later, when Morgan asserted that Media Matters was “clearly monitoring and taping us right now and will be regurgitating in a slanted and biased manner,” co-host Lee Rodgers replied, “Dave, baby, stick it!” -- presumably referring to David Brock. Rodgers also claimed that Brock's letter was part of an “orchestrated ... left-wing-financed campaign to try to silence any opposing voices,” and Officer Vic* promised that “this will be taken out of context too, you know.”
During the same segment, Rodgers claimed: “I don't believe we've tried to silence anybody.” But earlier in the program, Morgan had read from an email that called her “pathetic” because of a protest Morgan led in 2004 against Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. At the time, Morgan said on CNN: “We're not asking anybody to boycott. We're asking them to communicate with the theater owners to tell them that it's not appreciated.” Additionally, a June 16, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle article noted that Move Forward America, which Morgan chairs, “announc[ed] ... the start of a campaign urging movie theaters to reject the film” before Fahrenheit 9/11 opened. In response to the email, Morgan denied the comparison and said: “No, I simply advocated through our nonprofit organization, Move America Forward, that this movie was filled with lies and deceit and was deliberately trying to undermine the war on terror that we are fighting, where there are young men and women dying every single day." Morgan added that “the confrontation over it increased [Moore's] revenue, and he became far richer than that guy ever deserved to be.”
Media Matters has posted several examples of Morgan's rhetoric, and included Morgan in a petition against “hate merchants” on the airwaves that has garnered more than 33,000 signatures to date. Morgan further claimed that Media Matters “has targeted me frequently and fed other news organizations some of these same out-of-context, old, or just plain lies.”
From the January 12 KSFO broadcast, with co-host Brian Sussman:
MORGAN: Well, here's --
RODGERS**: Not to be judgmental. Certainly not.
MORGAN: -- a criticism that has come to me from, well, nameless again. I guess anybody on the left who wants to criticize doesn't want to use their name, but it was from J-period-nothing in Napa, says, “Melanie, let me get this straight. You went full-out to prevent the viewing of Michael Moore's movie, screaming about how bad it was for America, but now you're screaming 'victim' because people are holding you accountable for your views. This is rich and so pathetic on so many levels. You are not a victim. You say whatever you want, and then you go too far when you claim, 'I'm behind a microphone four hours a day.' ”
OFFICER VIC**: Oh, please. Ugh.
MORGAN: “Poor baby. And I mean 'baby.' Waaaah.” All right --
OFFICER VIC**: Now, in that case, now you didn't stand at the box office and -- and pull receipts and stop people from paying money to see that film.
MORGAN: No, I simply advocated through our nonprofit organization, Move America Forward, that this movie was filled with lies and deceit and was deliberately trying to undermine the war on terror that we are fighting, where there are young men and women dying every single day. I didn't say, “You can't go to the movie.” I said, “We, as conservatives, have a right not to go to your movie, Michael Moore. Fahrenheit 9/11 is not something that we want to particularly look at because it's filled with so much self-loathing.”
OFFICER VIC**: So, Michael Moore's revenue stream wasn't interrupted --
OFFICER VIC**: -- basically.
OFFICER VIC**: In a direct way.
MORGAN: In fact, the confrontation over it increased his revenue and he became far richer than that guy ever deserved to be.
RODGERS: Now, we just got a note here about the media world, the print media world anyway, a known turncoat who's decided that he doesn't like us. Mel, what's the story on this?
MORGAN: All right, here's the story. As we have been doing this live broadcast, a news release has gone out to the rest of the country from a man by the name of David Brock, who is the CEO of Media Matters, which is, by the way, the news organization, quote unquote -- and I use that term loosely -- that has targeted me frequently and fed other news organizations some of these same out-of-context, old or just plain lies in quotes that we are discussing right here on the radio station today. So as we are having this live program, this is the letter that was delivered to Robert Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Company -- and as well as a number of other executives at ABC. “We are writing to urge ABC/Disney to stop airing the violent hate speech and racist fearmongering of right-wing radio talk show host Melanie Morgan and Brian Sussman on KSFO radio in San Francisco.
RODGERS: He left me out.
MORGAN: I know. Your feelings are --
RODGERS: My feelings are wounded. I am grievous wounded.
MORGAN: I know, Lee. ” Morgan, Sussman and their associates" -- there you go. You're in the associates column.
RODGERS: Oh, we're associates.
OFFICER VIC: We're the back room.
MORGAN: -- “have no right to advocate torture and murder on airwaves that are owned by the American people and licensed by ABC/Disney. We wonder why ABC/Disney and its sponsors would want to continue to be associated with such extremist views.” And then they go on to post all of the audio clips that we have just been playing --
RODGERS: The same stuff --
MORGAN: -- the same stuff that's all out of context. “And we are also gravely concerned that ABC/Disney has engaged in what appears to be corporate intimidation in an effort to silence the voices of those Americans who dare to criticize this type of dangerous and un-American rhetoric.” And then it goes on --
RODGERS: I don't believe we've tried to silence anybody. We just told them that material that goes on the air is copyrighted and you don't have a right to use it. Isn't that about the size of it?
MORGAN: Yeah, you know --
OFFICER VIC: That's about it -- that's it. Nobody's ever said, “You stop writing that blog,” to my knowledge, I mean --
MORGAN: None of the talent on this radio station has been involved in the decision to handle the blogger -- and I'm not even going to say his name because he doesn't even deserve it. But this blogger, who has been spreading all this stuff on the Internet, this is -- it's a level of frustration that we have because he has refused to respond to us or to an invitation that we have extended to this blogger to come on this radio station -- as recently as 10 minutes ago, Lee Rodgers and Officer Vic and Brian Sussman sent him an email that indicated that he's more than welcome to call in this special line that he's been given by us to come and criticize us if he so chooses. Now, the thing is that, as we have mentioned, he has been cowering in the shadows of anonymity, and you can't even get a letter to the editor in the San Francisco Chronicle without identifying yourself and giving your phone number and address. Now, we here at KSFO, all of the air talent, we have been reissued guidelines from the company on violent rhetoric, and we've reviewed those rules, and we don't believe we have crossed any single line. Nevertheless, we have looked at these rules, the company's made sure that we see them. But the hate from David Brock at Media Matters continues.
OFFICER VIC: Well, you see how scared he is by the revelation of -- and showing that all these things in context in this very public way. As we're doing it, he's issuing --
MORGAN: I'd like to say a statement to David Brock right now, and I know he's monitoring us.
OFFICER VIC: Be careful.
MORGAN: I nor any of my colleagues have ever tried to get anyone with whom we disagree fired. That's simply below the belt. But I am not going to sit by, and none of the rest of us will sit by while you try to silence our voice by boycotting our advertisers, thereby trying to deprive us of our livelihood. Now, none of us are going to be hungry or destitute if we get fired from our jobs, but that's not the point. The larger point involved here is that we are not going to be intimidated by your thuggish tactics.
OFFICER VIC: And you can't --
RODGERS: But he's a journalist.
MORGAN: Oh. [...] Well, he was a journalist until he flip-flopped, I guess. He was -- all of his material about “troopergate” during the Clinton legacy, or the Clinton era, was accurate --
RODGERS: Oh, that David Brock.
MORGAN: That David Brock.
RODGERS: That David Brock. The one who blew the whistle on Bill Clinton using the highway patrol in Arkansas when he was governor to procure women for him --
RODGERS: -- and he was an arch right-winger, and then all of a sudden, I guess, the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. I don't know.
MORGAN: Perhaps he had an ideological conversion -- who knows, who can say. But what we do know is that he has taken after conservative talk show hosts and those of us on the right because he wants to silence us. Now, my father was a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and he was also, in fact, the general counsel for the state of Colorado for the ACLU while he was alive. And as a liberal -- and a very, very liberal liberal, ultra liberal -- he would be appalled at what is happening today. He believes, as I do, that everybody should have a voice -- everybody; the right and the left.
OFFICER VIC: Well, the Founding Fathers kind of felt that way, too, when the First Amendment was passed, and here we have people using the First Amendment, or trying to using it as a tool or a club to take -- it's one thing, you know, everybody can have -- or stand up in the middle of the town square and say whatever you want -- that's the protection -- but when you start taking financial action, you start going after people's jobs, taking money away from them, using, ostensibly, the First Amendment as the excuse and a tool, then you get into what could be called extortion, what could be called --
MORGAN: Well, there's a whole issue about restraint of free trade, the whole fair use issue -- and, frankly, folks, we're not lawyers, and we weren't involved in the decision. So, if you have a complaint about that, take it to the ABC corporate lawyers and discuss it with them. But what we're trying to do is a job, and we are very impassioned by our job, we have to enjoy doing it every day --
OFFICER VIC: And people seem to like it.
MORGAN: And they do. Brian, you haven't had a word here edgewise; I'm sorry. You're named in that email, too.
SUSSMAN: Yeah, and --
MORGAN: Turn on your microphone, dear.
SUSSMAN: And of course, right off the bat, they talk about the very issues that we've already discussed, with the exception of one -- my advocating the use of torture on the battlefield, which was -- actually, it was a bit. Lee, this particular bit that's gotten me in all sorts of hot water in the blogosphere was actually a scripted bit entitled “Jack Bauer in Baghdad.”
SUSSMAN: OK, it was Jack Bauer --
MORGAN: In reference to 24.
SUSSMAN: -- from the TV show 24, on the field of battle. A bunch of his buddies, a bunch of his fellow soldiers had just been taken hostage by a group of insurgents. He was able to hold one of the insurgents back, and now he realizes time is limited: “All right, where are my buddies? Where did your guys take them? I want to know now.” And he starts out by threatening the guy: “If you don't talk, I'm going to cut off the tip of your little finger. And if you still don't talk, I'm going after your private parts.” So he begins with the tip of the finger, and guess what? The guy talks. The guy talks.
RODGERS: The ticking-clock thing.
SUSSMAN: I mean, this supposedly says I'm advocating the use of torture, and look at this evil man -- it was a bit. It was titled “Jack Bauer in Baghdad.”
OFFICER VIC*: Oh, God.
MORGAN: Yeah, one last thing --
RODGERS: And they didn't bother to explain that, of course.
SUSSMAN: Of course not.
MORGAN: One last thing about Media Matters, who are clearly monitoring and taping us right now and will be regurgitating in a slanted and biased manner --
RODGERS: Good. Dave, baby, stick it! There's my message to him. Thank you.
MORGAN: Yes. This is an organization that is aligned with George Soros and receives funding from MoveOn.org.
RODGERS: Ahhhh. Gee.
MORGAN: That's who David Brock and Media Matters are. So let's just call it like it is.
OFFICER VIC: “Dave Baby Stick It” -- wasn't he a jazz musician from Chicago?
OFFICER VIC: Years ago, I think it was.
RODGERS: This is -- this is all, then, part of an orchestrated, left-wing -- left-wing-financed campaign to try to silence any opposing voices.
MORGAN: And it's ironic that David Brock is the one who came up with that term, “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
RODGERS: Yes, after he had been part of whatever vast right-wing conspiracy there was.
MORGAN: Did you get the secret -- the secret signal today, by the way, Lee? Brian?
OFFICER VIC: From headquarters? From Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy headquarters?
SUSSMAN: Oh, yeah, they always tell us what to say here.
MORGAN: Yeah. We don't know how to think for ourselves.
SUSSMAN: And they always tell us what not to say.
OFFICER VIC*: OK, now this will be taken out of context, too, you know.
SUSSMAN***: That's for sure.
OFFICER VIC*: That little moment will come up somewhere.
Adam D. Serwer is an intern at Media Matters for America.
The original version of this item attributed these statements to Lee Rodgers. The audio was of Officer Vic. [back to item]
**Correction: The original version of this item attributed these statements to Brian Sussman. The audio, in fact, was of Lee Rodgers and Officer Vic. [back to item]