Talk Hosts Told To Bite Tongues Over Anti-Gay Political Spots
December 29, 2009 at 7:45 AM (PT)
Cheap-shot political radio advertising has come into play during the ILLINOIS Republican Senatorial primary. ROBERT FEDER reports that a political ad alleging that candidate MARK KIRK is gay has prompted TRIBUNE Talk WGN-A/CHICAGO management to demand that its air talent "not to react on the air" to it.
A Federal law and FCC regulations prohibits stations from editing or censoring political candidates’ advertising -- unless it contains obscenity or violates a felony statute allows the spots --paid for by "perennial candidate ANDY MARTIN" -- to air as is.
The spot claims that there's "a solid rumor that KIRK is a homosexual," which has been denounced by KIRK’s campaign. KIRK holds a strong lead in the polls for the FEB. 2 primary.
In a preemptive memo to WGN hosts and producers last week, WGN -A APD DAN ZAMPILLO distributed the following in-house memo: "A station cannot selectively disclaim political advertising that it does not agree with ... Both as a general matter and specifically with regard to the MARTIN spots, please do not react to political commercials on our air, or take calls that do the same thing. You can of course discuss candidates, elections, political advertising and political issues as you always do, but do not react to a commercial you hear on-air one way or another."
WGN hosts, however, did take the opportunity to "discuss" the issue. Last MONDAY morning. STEVE COCHRAN, who filled in for morning host GREG JARRETT, interviewed CHICAGO TRIBUNE political writer RICK PEARSON with news anchor ANDREA DARLAS. Referring to the mudslinging, COCHRAN noted, "The great comedian RON WHITE, one of America’s great philosophers, may have said it best: ‘You can't fix stupid." ”
MARTIN’s anti-KIRK commercial was also heard on CBS RADIO News WBBM-A/CHICAGO and Citadel talk WLS-A.