Terence Smith talks to liberal political comedian Al Franken about the success and domination of conservative media hosts and the future for liberal radio programs.
The NewsHour Media Unit is funded by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts
TERENCE SMITH: All right, this is an interview with Richard
Nixon in his apartment in New York. Very good.
AL FRANKEN: There we go. "I agree that I'm doing
an interview and that you can use it."
TERENCE SMITH: We're asking Al Franken to do his impressions.
AL FRANKEN: Exactly.
TERENCE SMITH: In 2000, the Court split right down the
middle. In fact, more people voted for Al Gore than voted --
AL FRANKEN: Right.
TERENCE SMITH: -- for, for George W. Bush.
AL FRANKEN: Five hundred and forty thousand more.
TERENCE SMITH: And yet all the conservative -- or the
biggest and most successful radio talk show hosts are clearly conservative.
AL FRANKEN: Right.
TERENCE SMITH: Why?
|The 'Rush' impact on talk radio|
AL FRANKEN: Well, I think because Rush, to his credit, went in there first and did it first and found, got, and created this audience and saved AM radio, or at least that's what he says.
And then some others followed suit, Gordon Liddy and Oliver North. And I've been busily investigating, with other people, how to best do, do liberal radio.
And, it seems like the lay of the land now on talk radio is to put
a liberal show after Rush Limbaugh is like putting, you know, classic
rock after hip-hop. I mean, that's not quite the right analogy. But
it's not the right format. So people aren't going to, like, listen to
Rush and then listen to me. So, we are trying to create a liberal network.
I think there's a lot of theories that people have said that I don't think are necessarily correct. They say that, you know, to respond to talk radio, people respond to talk radio because you can say things that are politically incorrect, that you're sitting alone in your car and it's okay to hear things that aren't okay to agree with in polite society.
So you can get your Michael Savages, who's basically a sort of anti-immigrant, anti-gay, slightly racist, I think, that -- and that conservatives tend to think more black-and-white, and I think that is true, and that liberals seem to see more the gray areas and things. And I think that, that actually, you know, conservatives would say that.
And conservatives, you know, are looking for ammunition; conservatives' audiences are looking for ammunition, and liberal audiences look for information.
So a liberal audience may turn to NPR, which I don't think is a liberal show, or network, any more than The NewsHour is a liberal show because it's on PBS. But they want information. So, like, when after, on Sept. 11th, NPR had more foreign correspondents than any news organization in the United States.
And there's a reason for that. They deliver the news.
And so there's no comparison between NPR and the propaganda that you
hear from Rush or from Sean Hannity, the news movement conservatives
that are just laying out, slathering out the disinformation and the
lies, as I discuss in my book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:
A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Perhaps you've heard of it?
TERENCE SMITH: You mention that the format wouldn't work,
or it'd be disjointed for the listener to have a Rush Limbaugh one hour
and an Al Franken the next hour. And yet there are some shows, like
Hannity & Colmes, that are structured with a conservative voice
and a more liberal voice.
AL FRANKEN: Yeah.
TERENCE SMITH: So that seems to work.
|The controversy over fair and balanced news|
| AL FRANKEN: Well, that's
not a radio show, that's a TV show. And that's their sorry excuse for
a fair and balanced left-right show.
You have a conservative right-wing propagandist in Sean Hannity, and you have a moderate mild-mannered, I'll call him, liberal on the other side. But Colmes isn't allowed to argue with Hannity.
I had this discussion with Alan (Colmes) at the White
House Correspondents Dinner, where Hannity, during the war in Iraq,
during the first -- you know, during the part that President Bush said
the war was over, on the carrier -- during that, he was saying that
Democrats were criticizing the president -- that was very, very mild
criticism, like of his diplomatic efforts -- and that he couldn't believe
they were undermining the commander-in-chief while our men and women
were in harm's way.
Well, I (Lexus) Nexused what Hannity was saying during
the war in Kosovo. And he was saying far worse, a hundred times worse
stuff about Clinton. He was saying Clinton didn't have the moral authority
for this war, that he wasn't following the generals' orders. He at one
point said we were running out of ammunition. Now, how much is that
undermining the commander-in-chief while our men and women are in harm's
So I went to Alan (Colmes) and I said, you know, I told
him this and he said, Oh, that's interesting. And I said, Interesting?
You know, Nexis it. And he said, Oh, yeah, I could. You can Nexis your
own show, can't you? And he said, Yeah. I said, Well, you're going to
use it, right? And he said, No, well, that's not our format. I said,
Not your format? He said, Yeah, um, we, ah, we don't argue with each
other, we just argue with the guest. And I said, Oh, come on; Hannity
lies on your show all the time, like, he'll say 90 million Americans
are getting an $1,100 tax cut. And they just aren't. And Alan said,
Oh, I've responded to that. And I said, Yeah, I've seen it; five minutes
later you say, actually that's an average and not the typical family.
But then the next day, he'll say it again. And can't you at least (Nexus
it)? Well, that's not our format, you know, he said. And I said, Can't
you at least talk to him after the show and say don't say that anymore?
He said, Well, that's not really -- and I said, The format of your relationship?
Yeah, I get it.
So, this is Fox. That's fair and balanced, which is put on this right-wing thug and this milquetoast moderate, and don't let the moderate, who doesn't lie -- I mean, Alan tries to make good arguments, but to me, it's laying down, it's being used. He's their -- I don't know, I've never heard this word on The NewsHour -- but he is their bitch.
|Challenging the views of conservative pundits|
TERENCE SMITH: Going back to radio, is there something
inherent in the format -- I'm thinking of what you were talking about
(earlier), about the guy driving in his car -- listening and perhaps
reacting to what he's hearing in the privacy of his own car.
AL FRANKEN: Right.
TERENCE SMITH: Is there something about the format of
talk radio that lends itself to the hard and fast conclusionary views
that you say predominate on the right --
AL FRANKEN: Mm-hm.
TERENCE SMITH: -- rather than the more nuanced notions
on the left?
AL FRANKEN: No, I don't think so. I think that to get visceral, emotional reactions, it's yes. But I think for people to listen, no. I mean, people listen to NPR.
And what I want -- when and if I do a show, I think I'm
going to have to, like, invent something. I don't think I'm reinventing
the wheel; I think I'm inventing -- I'm going to have to invent how
to do a show that appeals to -- well, hopefully, it will appeal to everyone
-- but that (the show) makes our case, that answers back.
And that's what my book does. I mean, I am tired of hearing the right tell, tell us that we, that liberals aren't patriotic. You know, I'm going on my fourth USO (United Service Organization) tour this Christmas. I'm going to Iraq and to Afghanistan.
And I'm just sick of it.
And I've been carrying this (statement) around today,
because this just made me furious. I don't know if you've got enough
time for this, but if The NewsHour has anything, it has time.
Okay, this (statement) -- Britt Hume said this, not on talk radio, but on Fox.
He said this on August, 26 (2003): "Two hundred seventy-seven
U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that, statistically
speaking, U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes
in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California, which is
roughly the same geographical size. The most recent statistics indicate
that California has more than 2,300 homicides each year, which means
about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, our U.S. troops have been in
Iraq for 160 days, which means that they are incurring about 1.7 deaths,
including illness and accidents, each day."
Now, what he's saying is it's safer to be a soldier in Iraq than to be a citizen of California.
He forgets to say that there are 32 million people living
in California. And when I go to Iraq, I think I want to read this. You
know, I want to -- this is a funny piece of material. This is going
to be funny to them, these soldiers in Iraq who are getting killed day
by day. And as a comedian, I really hate using someone else's material
without crediting them, so I will credit Britt Hume.
And I'm sure they will love hearing that. But this is
what the right does every day. I mean, that is a distortion of epic
TERENCE SMITH: And yet, it was the right, as you describe
them, Fox, who did you an enormous favor with your book coming out of
attacking it and even filing suit.
AL FRANKEN: Yes. It was the dumbest lawsuit perhaps -- I mean, it, it, they were literally laughed out of court. You know, usually when people say "literally" laughed out of court, what they really mean is "figuratively" laughed out of court. They were literally laughed out of court.
The New York Times reporter who went to the hearing --
I didn't go to the hearing -- said that it was wall-to-wall laughter.
They had no idea. I mean, the reason they sued me was because of, they
had a commentator who was in the middle, going through a infantile rage
and made them sue me. And --
TERENCE SMITH: Bill O'Reilly...
AL FRANKEN: Bill O'Reilly. Okay, I'll say his name.
And O'Reilly made (Fox News Channel chief executive Roger)
Ailes do this suit. Ailes had to know that they were going to look stupid,
but I think he really underestimated how incredibly stupid they're going
to look. I mean --
TERENCE SMITH: But it's been a boon for you. You should
be very grateful.
AL FRANKEN: Funny story. I was reading, you know the book
The Tipping Point? I'm in Italy, I'm reading The Tipping Point, I start
falling asleep thinking "must think of tipping point for book,
must think of..."
The next moment, next conscious moment is someone else in the house coming in and going, Al, you're being sued by Fox. And I said, Good!
And it was -- it's amazing -- and, and actually, the suit
itself just corroborates everything I write in my book. It's sort of
like, Thank you, case closed; you guys are not fair and balanced.
And by the way, the, the judge said that it was very unlikely that their trademark "fair and balanced" is valid. So Joe Conason (a columnist for the New York Observer and salon.com) -- who's a friend of mine -- told me the judge said their case was wholly without merit legally and factually. And Joe Conason called me up said we may have their new slogan: "Fox News Channel, Wholly Without Merit."
|Creating an alternative liberal radio network|
TERENCE SMITH: Let's talk a little about what you're thinking
of doing in the way of a liberal alternative. First of all, are you
going to do it?
AL FRANKEN: Right now, I think I am.
TERENCE SMITH: What do you think you'll do?
AL FRANKEN: Well, I think what I'll do is, first of all,
do a lot of what I do in the book, which is follow the right very closely.
I think that I will use sound bites, a lot of them -- of theirs. Probably
every day we'll use O'Reilly's sound bite from the book expo we were
at, so I think every day I'll have on a cart, "Shut up! Shut up!"
So if I have a caller I don't like, I can just do that. I think that
we will -- I probably will have a co-host, who is someone I have in
mind. I think that --
TERENCE SMITH: Of what political persuasion?
AL FRANKEN: Oh, you know, sort of liberal.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay.
AL FRANKEN: You know. I'm not that left-wing. I mean,
but I'm a liberal and I'm not going to stand for this baloney that's
coming from the right. I just won't stand for it anymore.
TERENCE SMITH: One characteristic of talk radio from the
conservative side is there's a sort of angry tone, and they're on the
AL FRANKEN: Yeah.
TERENCE SMITH: Rush, whether he is or is not in fact angry,
is giving you the outrage of the day.
AL FRANKEN: Right.
TERENCE SMITH: Or the outrage of the hour.
AL FRANKEN: Yeah.
TERENCE SMITH: And talking about this person or that person
and what an idiot they are.
AL FRANKEN: Right.
TERENCE SMITH: Is that a kind of essential commodity in
talk radio? Do you have to do the same thing from the left?
AL FRANKEN: Well, I get angry, so probably there will be some of that. You know, there is -- I mean -- I found early in life that righteous indignation is a little off-putting, and so I try to couch it with humor.
So I think that, you know, I've been doing comedy pretty much all my life, so I think I've developed some shots or some licks over the years. And I will -- that's another part of the show. I will have comedy, I mean, like, with a capital "C," and produced comedy. And it'll be hard.
I mean, we're going to be doing three hours a day, probably,
and this will be the hardest -- as hard as I've ever worked. I can't
say the hardest; on Saturday Night Live I worked incredibly hard; I
worked incredibly hard on this last book. So --
TERENCE SMITH: But the key is that it be funny.
AL FRANKEN: Yeah. Yeah. The key is that not everything
has to be funny. In my book, I do a chapter on the Wellstone memorial
and how it was distorted by the right, and especially by someone like
Rush, who went on the next day and said, "I am disgusted, I'm dismayed.
There was no memorializing, my friends, none. None whatsoever. Where
was the grief?"
Well, you know, I was at the memorial. There was plenty
memorializing. There was plenty grief. The right lied and lied about
that, and that became the story, and there were moments in that memorial
that reasonable people of good will would have been offended by, because
Rick Kahn, the best friend of Paul Wellstone, said the best thing, you
know, best thing for Paul's memory is to win this election. And that
was inappropriate. But it was a four-hour memorial, and it was a beautiful
memorial. And there was plenty of memorializing and there was plenty
of grief. And there was not 20,000 people booing anybody.
And the right kept saying -- you know, Christopher Caldwell
for the Weekly Standard, writing for the editors, said that "20,000
people booed a succession of" and then he named a number of senators
and stuff. I called Caldwell while researching this book --he did not
see the memorial.
TERENCE SMITH: Mm-hm.
AL FRANKEN: This is what the right does. And it's wrong. And it has to be answered. And when you talk about anger, I can get angry.
And these guys are bullies. And O'Reilly is a bully. And
my dad taught me, you stand up to a bully. And O'Reilly with me was
like, it was like he's beating up kids on the playground, on this lawsuit,
and then I come over and punch him in the nose and he "runs to
the teacher and wants to sue, sue them. Sue them!"
TERENCE SMITH: What lessons do you draw --
AL FRANKEN: By the way, that was Jonathan Alter who had
that -- that was his analogy. I just thought I'd throw it in. And we
have to cut away to you and then come to me saying --
TERENCE SMITH: [Laughs.] What do you draw from the failure
of other liberal talk show hosts who've tried and not been a success?
Jim Hightower is one. Mario Cuomo is another.
What went wrong with them, or what lessons can you draw
from it if you're going to try it yourself?
AL FRANKEN: Those two are always cited. Mario did a show a week.
You can't build a show doing a show a week. So that just
doesn't count. I love Mario. He's not funny, I mean, you know. Hightower,
it's a whole different story, but I think that Hightower suffered partly
from this thing of there's no place for liberals to go, because if you're
on a talk radio format, you're coming after a conservative and the audience
just isn't going to switch over there.
I also think there's a difference between me and Hightower. I think that there's a difference between every talk show host.
There's Limbaugh, who's successful because he's talented
at what he does, and so there's just a difference between personalities.
But that's it. That's all they ever point to are Hightower and Cuomo,
and Cuomo did one show a week.
TERENCE SMITH: Do you think you're going to have trouble
getting the clearances, getting such a format carried on enough stations
to get the sort of nationwide impact that you need to have to compete
on a level playing field?
AL FRANKEN: That's the big question. That's the big question.
TERENCE SMITH: Let me even refine it.
AL FRANKEN: Okay.
TERENCE SMITH: Are the owners and managers who control
the radio networks in this country, themselves conservative in the main?
Are they looking for that message, or is it, as others have argued,
strictly a bottom-line ratings and revenue consideration?
AL FRANKEN: I think it's probably strictly bottom line,
but I'm sure there are some station owners who are so conservative and
so principled in their -- ha -- politics that they wouldn't want to
have a liberal on, and I, you know, that's their right. But there's
no doubt about it that, just like most publishers of newspapers are
conservative, you know, publishers were 3-to-1 for Bush, of newspapers,
during the 2000 race. Editors were 2-to-1 for Bush. Yeah, the owners
of the means of dissemination of information tend to be more conservative.
But I do think that if you can -- I think there is still enough room
to find places to get, to get the message out.
TERENCE SMITH: What was the message when there was criticism
of the Dixie Chicks in the early days of the war for their criticism
of the president and the war? What was your view when --
AL FRANKEN: Clear Channel.
TERENCE SMITH: -- when Clear Channel and others actively
promoted pro-war rallies in support of the administration? I mean, isn't
that taking a position? Isn't that reflecting a point of view?
AL FRANKEN: That was extremely bad and dangerous. Clear Channel, they denied that it came from the top, but Clear Channel owns four times as many stations as any other conglomerate.
And they also own the biggest touring company, promotional
touring, so that artists were afraid to talk out because of what --they
intimidated people -- with what they did with the Dixie Chicks. So there
were artists who wanted to talk out against the war who wouldn't, because
their livelihood would be gone.
And this is a very, this is an FTC issue. I mean, I talked
to [FCC Chairman] Michael Powell at the White House Correspondents Dinner,
and I said why would you want to do what you're doing? And, you know,
he gave his reasons, and he said, like, We have to. And I brought this
up about the Dixie Chicks, and he said, Well, that's an FTC issue.
But, but there is this vertical integration that's going
on, where if an artist wants air play and wants to tour, they better
not piss off -- I'm sorry. If an artist -- If --
TERENCE SMITH: I think we can live with that. Anyway...
AL FRANKEN: Yeah. If an artist wants to get air play and
wants to tour, they better not anger the management of Clear Channel,
which, by the way, is run by (Tom) Hicks, who bought the Texas Rangers
from Bush, and who also was given the pension money to manage of the
Texas education system and funneled an incredible amount of that money
into people who supported Bush.
So this is, this is crony capitalism and this is very
TERENCE SMITH: And do you believe that people such as
those -- let's say Clear Channel -- run conservative talk show hosts
because they want to promulgate a conservative view -- or because they
want to make a profit?
AL FRANKEN: I think it doesn't hold. You know? I mean,
I think it doesn't hold that, that they're, they're conservative.
TERENCE SMITH: Yeah.
AL FRANKEN: So we're fighting a very -- what we're trying
to do is pretty ambitious. But you know what? Sometimes you've got to
try to do that.
TERENCE SMITH: Yeah. You know, there used to be something
called the "Fairness Doctrine."
AL FRANKEN: Yeah.
TERENCE SMITH: But I put it in the past tense.
AL FRANKEN: Yeah.
TERENCE SMITH: Should there be a Fairness Doctrine; should
there be an equal time provision?
AL FRANKEN: No, I don't think so. I think it was just unwieldy and, you know. I mean, it sort of assumes that there's two sides to issues, and there aren't. I mean, obviously, the right thinks there's two sides to an issue. I mean, this is what the whole point of The NewsHour is -- to do an hour and to, to have stories that last 10, 15, 20 minutes, where you get into the complexity of things and you see that there aren't just two sides...
And the right hates complexity. And the liberals love
complexity. No, we don't love it, but I mean, we understand that life
isn't black and white all the time ... What was the question?
TERENCE SMITH: Well, I mean, it relates to, and I could
carry it forward to -- who you listen to? Do you listen to anybody,
any talk show --
AL FRANKEN: I don't listen to --
TERENCE SMITH: -- on the radio right now?
AL FRANKEN: You know, I listen to NPR when I listen to
the radio, but I don't listen to the radio that much. You know, I listen
to Garrison Keillor, I listen to Prairie Home Companion. I would like
to be -- you know, I don't drive -- I live in Manhattan, so I tend to
listen to the radio in the car and I don't drive here. I don't own a
car. Although I guess I do now. My, that's complicated!
But, my son's going off to college and we own a car now,
the family does. Don't put that in, the insurance people don't like
TERENCE SMITH: Yeah. Among the conservatives?
AL FRANKEN: I'm sorry. But, I listen to NPR, and I'll
tell you why. I want to hear, you know, like, what's going on in Kandahar
now. You know, I want to actually, like, know if warlords have taken
over, if the Talibans have taken -- where they're strong. I don't want
to hear the latest thing about Tom Daschle being treasonous. So that's
why I listen (to NPR). I want information, not ammunition.
TERENCE SMITH: What about G. Gordon Liddy as a talk show
AL FRANKEN: See, here I have a problem, because I'm a friend of G's. That's how well I know him, I get to call him G. So G did -- I did a sitcom called Lateline, and G was, like, the most often-used guest on it. And he's hilarious.
And so I have this -- at first grudging -- admiration
for G, and now I just like him. And I just did an hour interview on
his radio show to promote my book, and all he did was say how funny
it was and then talk about the angry e-mail he got from his listeners.
TERENCE SMITH: And he hasn't stubbed a cigarette out in
your hand yet...
AL FRANKEN: No, nor has he done it on his own hand. If
you look in my bathroom, I have a Nixon bathroom here in the house,
and hanging on the wall is the -- what was it, it's not clemency that
he was given, it was the -- his sentence was commuted by Jimmy Carter,
and he gave me a color Xerox of his commutation of his sentence.
TERENCE SMITH: It's a treasure.
AL FRANKEN: Yeah. It's a treasure.
TERENCE SMITH: Anyway, finally, just assuming this show
does begin --
AL FRANKEN: Yes.
TERENCE SMITH: Do you have a start date?
AL FRANKEN: I think it would probably be in January sometime.
TERENCE SMITH: What should people expect when they tune
AL FRANKEN: I think they should expect some commentary, some ridicule, some comedy, more ridicule, maybe interviews with people who you don't hear all the time about, oh, say, things like how Bush is lying on whatever he's lying about that day or that week, the environment or, you know, weapons of mass destruction or whatever the lie is, whatever that week's big lie is.
And then some more, then probably a little analysis of
what we've been hearing from Rush and what we've been hearing from O'Reilly
and what we've been hearing from Hannity. And then maybe a little music.
I'm quite -- I have a beautiful voice.
TERENCE SMITH: And what kind of an audience do you think
you can develop?
AL FRANKEN: Huge. Huge, massive -- huge audience.
TERENCE SMITH: Would you like to specify or define "huge"?
AL FRANKEN: Well, I think that there's a big audience out there for this. I mean, if you look at this slew of best-sellers that are either out or coming out -- mine in particular, but also Joe Conason's Big Lies. And Hightower does have a book on the best-seller list. Molly Ivins will be on the best-seller (list).. There's a hunger right now for people to hear the other side.
I mean, part of the point of my book is that the mainstream media does not have a liberal bias or a conservative bias. They have all other kinds of biases.
They have biases toward sensationalism, biases toward
-- pack mentality, getting it quick rather than getting it right. Cheap.
Covering it cheap, so it's easier to get two pundits to talk about something
that they've just -- you know, an intern got them -- something off Nexus
-- and now they're an expert on school vouchers. Instead of actually
doing like you guys do, a story on school vouchers.
To ask whether the mainstream media has a conservative or liberal bias is like asking whether al-Qaida uses too much oil in their hummus. It's -- I think they might use too much oil in their hummus -- but it's the wrong question.
The question is why do they want to kill us..
So, asking whether the mainstream media has a conservative or liberal bias is like asking whether al-Qaida uses too much oil in their hummus. It's the wrong question. You know, the problem with al-Qaida is they want to kill us. The problem with the mainstream media is all these other biases.
But there is a right-wing media, and they are Fox News
and talk radio and the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Washington
Times and these books by people like Ann Coulter and, you know, and
Regnery and all those books.
TERENCE SMITH: In fact, it appears to be a growth industry.
AL FRANKEN: Yeah, because, you know, now all these publishers are getting these conservative imprints because they know that they can't lose, because all these conservatives have bulk buys.
If you look by Ann Coulter on the best-seller list, there's always that dagger next to her. And that means that somebody, some right-wing sugar daddy is buying her books to put her on the list to prove that we're winning in the marketplace of ideas. And it's actually going into Richard Mellon Scaife's wood-chipper! You know, I talked to his gardener.
I talked to Richard Mellon Scaife's gardener, and he went,
like, "Yeah, (conservative commentator and author) Mona Charen,
her stuff is very good for the rose garden, and (conservative commentator
and author) Ann Coulter, she's -- we use her for the lemon tree, very
pretty and possible to eat."
TERENCE SMITH: We were talking before about Sean Hannity
and Alan Colmes --
AL FRANKEN: Yes.
TERENCE SMITH: -- and the show they do on television.
They also do, of course, they each have their own talk radio -- Right.
AL FRANKEN: And yet Hannity has a huge audience and Colmes,
the purported liberal, has a very small audience. Yes.
TERENCE SMITH: What's the story?
AL FRANKEN: Well, there's "purported" as part
of the problem. First of all, Hannity, in a lot of places, inherited
the, what I call the Suddenly Susan spot, which is Suddenly Susan came
right after Seinfeld. So he's got the post-Rush spot, so -- you know,
it falls off 50 percent, but he's still the second-most popular talk
show host in America. And his strength is that he's just a bull dog
who will just grab that bone of -- you know, that he'll just do the
bidding of the nut-case right and of the administration. And his, you
know, dogged loyalty is sort of his biggest strength.
Colmes is just not sort of like a -- I've been on his
show once -- as I say, he's a nice guy. He's not a strong personality,
he's not someone who's going to -- liberals are not going to get real
excited about listening to Alan Colmes.
TERENCE SMITH: But use your key phrase there: "strong
personality." So to succeed on talk radio, do you have to break
AL FRANKEN: I don't think breaking crockery and strong
personality are the same thing.
TERENCE SMITH: Okay. You distinguish them.
AL FRANKEN: Yeah. I mean, listen, demogogues throughout
history have broken crockery. So Father Coughlin, could I have gone
toe-to-toe with him and beaten him? Probably not. You know, I'm not
going to get more, I'm not going to come close to Rush's audience until,
you know, my second or third month.
TERENCE SMITH: [Laughs.]
AL FRANKEN: No, I mean, there is such a thing as demagoguery,
and I think that they are guilty of it. And I --
TERENCE SMITH: And evidently, by your definition, demagoguery
AL FRANKEN: Demagoguery sells. And therefore radio stations will put it on. But that doesn't mean that you can't do something else and also make it sell.
You know, when I look at an Ann Coulter or I look at a
Rush or I look at a Sean Hannity, I think to myself, What kind of self-image
do you have? Why do you choose to do this for a living? What does Ann
Coulter say, like, when she takes something totally out of context that
someone writes and -- I opened up "Treason: Liberal Treachery from
the Cold War to the War on Terrorism" and I said to my assistant,
I'll bet you I can find a lie. My wife went and put some lipstick on
because we were going to dinner; I said I can find a lie before my wife
gets the lipstick on. Turned to page 226, I think it was, just at random.
She said that Tom Friedman said that all the jihadist terrorist acts
were the fault of -- and I quote -- she says "of fundamentalists
of all stripes." Or something like that.
Well, I said, okay, saw her end note, went to the end note, and asked my assistant, find that -- where Tom Friedman said that. What Tom Friedman had said that was in regard to -- he had had this funny idea that people should be forced to fly naked so that you couldn't hide box cutters and stuff like that. And he said, "And no fundamentalists of any stripe" or the thing she said, "would fly nude." And they had nothing to do with each other. And she put "and I quote" and all this stuff.
What kind of person says to themselves, That's what I'm
going to do for a living? That's what I'm going to do for a living,
I'm going to mislead people. I'm going to lie.
And I've decided to do for a living, I'm going to try to do for a living is fight back, is answer that. And not let them do this -- not let them bully people. And not let them say the liberals hate America. Because we love America. And we love America enough to be honest.
It really pisses me off, as you can tell.
TERENCE SMITH: It does, and it better.
AL FRANKEN: Yeah.
TERENCE SMITH: It better, because, you know -- why are
you getting involved in it?
AL FRANKEN: Beats the shit out of me.
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