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Thursday, May 13, 2010
KKOB's Jim Villanucci: A Right-Wing Radio Talk Show Host as New Mexico's Own Political Kingmaker?
Is a new force on the loose in New Mexico’s political landscape? That’s the question being asked in the wake of KKOB radio talk show host Jim Villanucci’s surprising endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Turner a few weeks ago.
Villanucci is back this week after a 10-day vacation, but on April 29, exactly one hour after he stepped away from the mic, Villanucci sent an email blast announcing his endorsement of Turner in the Republican primary. He wrote:
In my opinion, Doug is our party’s best chance to take back the governor’s office and has my full support and endorsement in this Republican primary.
That email was followed less than two hours later by an email from the Turner campaign trumpeting his shiny new plug:
I am proud to announce that conservative radio host Jim Villanucci endorsed my campaign today to be your next Republican Governor of New Mexico.
As a popular radio host in the Bernalillo metro area, Jim is known as a champion of conservative principles ... Not only did Jim endorse my campaign, he also donated to this fight.
Then there was total silence from the vacationing Villanucci.
When was the last time that a prominent local radio personality formally endorsed, and then campaigned, for a candidate in a party primary? Has it ever happened? Has Bob Clark ever done it? Did Pat Frisch? Larry Ahrens? Chris Jackson? Even the late local TV and radio legend, Gordon Sanders, never went there. He just ran for mayor twice -- after stepping away from the microphone first, of course.
KKOB’s self-acknowledged bias toward the right-side of the political spectrum is nothing new. But what Villanucci did on April 29 seems to have dialed up his campaign involvement big time -- as in up an octave. It's one thing to agree with right-wing callers, no matter how bizarre, but it's another thing altogether to shill for a right-wing candidate outright -- officially.
What's the station’s policy on this? Although KKOB seems content to be perceived as just another amplifier of the propaganda of the day for the right-wing echo chamber, are they A-OK with having their on-air personalities insert themselves directly into Republican primaries to attempt to play the kingmaker?
Curiously, KKOB talkers were vociferous last year in denouncing the merest hint of a suggestion that the federal government should resurrect the Fairness Doctrine -- the FCC policy that used to require licensed broadcasters to present controversial issues of public importance and do so in an honest, equitable and balanced manner. Although right-wing megaphone outfits like to claim they're "fair and balanced," they always seem to fight tooth and nail against anything that would require them to meet reasonable criteria to back up that claim. Apparently their fans don't care.
But what will be the reaction of the other candidates who have been regularly appearing on Villanucci's show, not to mention Bob Clark’s morning slot? Is Bob Clark going to endorse a candidate?
Right-Wing Kingmakers on the National Scene
While a formal endorsement and direct involvement in a party’s intramural contest may be unprecedented in the New Mexico market, it's standard operating procedure for the superstars in the national conservative media firmament.
Last fall, Fox’s Sean Hannity, whose nationally syndicated radio show fills the time slot leading into Villanucci’s, was a powerful factor in the special congressional election in New York, coming out strongly for Tea Party favorite Doug Hoffman against Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava. This year, Hannity is cheerleading for former radio talk show host John Gomez in New York's 2nd congressional district. Gomez managed to get the GOP nod to challenge veteran Democratic Rep. Steve Israel despite having zero political experience.
According to a story this week on Media Matters, Gomez has a "not-so-secret weapon" in Hannity:
Fox News host Sean Hannity ... reportedly promised local leaders that he'd help Gomez by promoting and fundraising for him. This past Saturday, Hannity forwarded a message to his radio show email list urging people to donate to Gomez's campaign. Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle reportedly said that "anytime someone with Sean Hannity's stature vouches for your credibility, it's very significant" and can "absolutely be a game-changer."
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
But the Big Dog when it comes to conservative talkers influencing the internal power dynamics of the Republican Party is El Rushbo himself -- Rush Limbaugh. Indeed, there's been plenty of commentary about the extent of Limbaugh’s influence over the GOP -- so great, according to some, that he's widely acknowledged to be the de facto leader of the party. Just ask David Frum, a conservative commentator and policy wonk who was booted out of his position as a resident fellow at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute for criticizing the influence that Limbaugh and his extremist ilk are having on the GOP.
Remember what happened a couple of months ago when titular RNC head, Michael Steele, had to apologize for questioning Limbaugh’s preeminence?
Villanucci: GOP Clout-Monger?
Limbaugh’s influence at KKOB is undeniable. His 10 AM to 1 PM time slot is the heart of the order in KKOB’s conservative line-up of all-star conservative talkers -- Hannity, Michael Savage and Bill Cunningham (who took over the Matt Drudge slot).
Has this elephantine influence put big ideas into Villanucci’s head? After all, if Limbaugh can make or break candidates, why not Villanucci? Is Villanucci now planning to use his 20 hours of public airtime to become a party kingmaker in the Limbaugh mold?
We'll just have to wait and see.
Click for the complete text (pdf) of Villanucci’s endorsement email.
KKKOB does it again! /snark
Posted by: Proud Democrat | May 13, 2010 3:10:16 PM
Go Barb! Villanucci's show has become a hate fest and he hangs up on anyone who makes sense and disagrees with his extreme views. Now he's outright endorsing a Republican ("our" party)? He should be canned.
Posted by: Sean | May 13, 2010 4:25:36 PM
Doug Turner must be hard up for votes if he welcomes the endorsement of a clownish rage radio host. Doug, I though you had some standards!
Posted by: Doug Is Lost | May 13, 2010 4:50:44 PM
Very good post. Yesterday, Villanucci and his no-nothing buffoon of a partner Billie Cornelius were going on about their latest Obama conspiracy theory -- this time it was something about the Pres having a mysterious Social Security number from Connecticut. It just never ends! They got their wingnut audience all in a lather about that for two freaking hours! (I was at work and forced to listen to it.)
But then some guy calls in and demanded to know "why are you calling me and telling me to vote for Turner?" Jim rather sheepishly replied, "I think he's the best candidate." When the caller tried to discuss it, Jim cut him off, telling him he was off topic -- Obama's Social Security number.
This tells me two things: (1) Jim also must be doing robo calls for the Turner campaign now, and (2) the station may not be entirely enthusiastic about his foray into kingmaking. It's astonishing that the Weh, Martinez, Pete Jr and JAP campaigns haven't been burning up the phone lines in protest. KKOB must be screening out those complaints and that one guy slipped through.
It's just disgraceful. The public's airwaves, unlike print, or the Internet, have inherent limits on accessibility. You can't simply announce that you're setting up a 50,000 watt station next to 770 on the dial. In any one area, only a limited number of frequencies are available. Yet KKOB has the privilege of being the biggest station, granted the most powerful broadcast power in the region. And what does the public get in return for this generous subsidy? Nothing but non-stop Republican talking points and hate talk. Add to that the increasingly vicious race-baiting, which is really on the rise.
I have a choice to change the station, true enough, but why should the state's only 50,000 watt power station be devoted to this crap? All that power is a public subsidy, a taxpayer handout that positions KKOB to command top dollar from its advertisers. Thus, as the top station it can afford to do regular local news and traffic reports. So listeners who want that information become a hostage audience to KKOB's right-wing, racist venom.
It's nothing but corporate welfare used to broadcast political propaganda. Come on. Jim isn't even subtle about it anymore, talking about "our party" all of the time.
No wonder KKOB talkers kicked into overdrive in denouncing a return to the Fairness Doctrine.
The tragedy is that New Mexico, with its tremendous cultural diversity and unique history, is so badly served by this 50,000 watt hate spew. KKOB radio is consciously lighting the fuse that will result in an explosion of unprecedented division in our community -- if not worse. KKOB's sponsors should be ashamed of being associated with such garbage.
Posted by: luis | May 13, 2010 6:04:45 PM
Good points re public airwaves subsidized by us being used for right wing tripe and race baiting. The amount of real news on KKOB is minimal. All it does is force people to tune in because it's the strongest signal. If they want to keep their gift from the public they should be forced to cut out the crap and serve the community.
Villanucci gets a huge salary to sit there and babble with nut cases and cut off anyone who questions the right wing world of black helicopters and boogiemen. We should write in and complain about his endorsing a candidate but the crazy fans would probably drown us out. Any normal person would be ashamed of making money talking to haters and racists every day.
Posted by: Vile Villanucci | May 13, 2010 6:15:57 PM
Villanucci has no shame and neither does KKOB. They pander to the lowest common denominator because smart people don't subject themselves to the idiocy of "talk radio".
Posted by: Joseph | May 14, 2010 11:38:10 AM
Villanucci gets his talking points from Sludge and World Nut Daily. He makes Ahrens look sane and responsible.
It is such a shame that the RepubliCONs have the 50,000 24/7 hate radio in their corner. The sanest part of their lineup is the batcr@p crazy overnight show.
Posted by: PlacitasRoy | May 15, 2010 6:58:37 PM
Jim Villanucci has every right to endorse who ever he sees fit. He did in email form. I have yet to hear him sound biased in the candidate interviews, questions, or otherwise.
And you guys want to go on about conspiracy theories, and the boogie man!
We still live in America, and he is allowed to vote, endorse, volunteer for whoever he wants.
Chill out, drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon and blast Born In The U.S.A.!
Posted by: Levi | May 17, 2010 8:54:19 PM
You haven't heard Villanucci sound biased on the air? What station are you listening to? Conspiracy theories? Where? People are sick of media that use the public airways to push propaganda and hate. Villanucci does that for a living-listen to his call ins.
Posted by: Sick of Haters | May 18, 2010 7:54:27 AM
Am I incorrect in assuming that all of the political links at the top of this website are Democrats? "Those who live in glass houses..." You might want to turn down the outrage.
Posted by: Randy | May 18, 2010 9:58:23 AM
I don't have a public license for the airwaves. Big difference Randy. If you don't understand it, maybe you need to read up.
Posted by: barb | May 18, 2010 10:10:57 AM