The Carnegie Commission report that gave birth to PBS urged that public broadcasting serve as âa forum for debate and controversyâ and âprovide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheardâ and âhelp us see America whole, in all its diversity.â
So why then is Erich âMancowâ Muller permitted any airtime, much less guest commentaries, on public television station WTTWâs flagship âChicago Tonightâ program? For the sake of those with memory loss problems, letâs review Mullerâs career highlights, shall we? First, of course, we have Mullerâs FCC indecency fines totaling $342,000. Then thereâs the defamation lawsuit brought by local radio personality Steve Dahlâs wife Janet, which was settled for an undisclosed amount. Letâs not forget the other defamation suit brought by former Chicago NFL player Keith Van Horne against Mullerâs earlier radio bosses that was settled for $1.6 million. Not to mention the charges of misogyny and race and gay baiting made by NewCity magazine and many others. Last time we checked, âChicago Tonightâ is under no obligation to be a reform school for repugnant right-wing âshock jocksâ or to cater to the dark side of the 9-12 year old male demographic.
But it gets worse. When contacted, progressive media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reportingâs program director Janine Jackson said, âI was on his show once, sadly. He ran into some trouble with the Fox morning show (âFox and Friendsâ) for a little while for going over the line (yes, even THEY have some sort of line).â The line she is talking about is the one where mere vitriol turns into a possible incitement to murder.
Jackson was referring to an incident detailed in an AP piece by David Bauder wherein Muller called former Fox host Paula Zahn a "knucklehead." Because she's the enemy, he said, "I just want to punch her in the face." Two months later, "Mancow" performed an on-air skit with an actor he said was portraying Zahn. He hit the actor in the face, knocked him down and shouted, "I'll kill you, Paula. We will kill you, Paula."
Media Matters for America, another media monitoring organization, posts clips of âMancowâ in action at its website. One contains highly inflammatory statements aimed at Howard Dean, while another includes Muller expressing his support for a âpro-illegal murder and illegal car thieves" rally.
And from the Dallas Morning News (8/25/03): âThey also laughed it up when regular contributor Erich âMancowâ Muller, a Chicago radio comedian, said that capturing Chemical Ali (the King of Spades) wasn't that big a deal. âWe haven't gotten Jesse Jackass yet,â he said, holding up a fake playing card of the Chicago-based civil rights activist.â
The fact that âMancowâ garnered the second highest ratings in Chicago morning drive radio before his recent firing should come as no surprise - after all, he is merely the product of the trade-restraining and anti-democratic 1996 Telecommunications Act. In much the same way that grossly deformed babies are one effect of Thalidomide, Agent Orange and Depleted Uranium, Mullerâs ilk are the product created by American corporate radioâs Clearchannel-ization, its bottom line pursuit of the lowest common denominator, and the resultant coarsening and polarization of public dialog.
So it looks to the rest of us like "Mancow" is not speaking for any âgroup in the community that may otherwise be unheard.â WTTW should take note: Van Horneâs defamation suit against him makes the point that the station owners were negligent for hiring Muller since they knew of his reputation for outrageous behavior on the air. Erich âMancowâ Muller certainly does not deserve any time on public broadcasting and should be dumped immediately.
Weâll match the warning and small fine the FCC levied against WTTW for airing ads and home shopping against the over two million dollars worth of fines and defamation Muller is tied to any day. In addition to a more diverse corporate media ownership, weâd better hope for and work toward democratically structured and permanently funded public media.
TAKE ACTION! Express your concerns regarding Mr. Muller to âChicago Tonightâ and WTTW station management by clicking here.
Tell âMancowâ to move on.
links: Chicago Sun-Times 07/25/06; Chicago Tribune 07/25/06; Chicago Tribune (07/029/06); Chicago Tribune (07/029/06); Chicago Tribune (0730/06); Daily Herald (07/27/06); the Voice of America says thumbs down on "Mancow" (real audio version here); wikipedia on "Mancow". The "Chicago Tonight" online viewer message board is running about 16 to 3 against "Mancow" - add your comments. You can find the "Carol Marin Watch 2006" blog page here. Other blogs - metblogs, austin mayor, inside radio.
Lively online discussions of this issue are taking place on Chicago Tribune Web logs at Eric Zorn's "Change of Subject" and Steve Johnson's "Hypertext" So after you complain to WTTW using the handy link above (or by writing a letter or by phoning or just yelling really, really, loud), join the online dialog and put in your 2 cts. that way too.
Thanks to FAIR for research assistance.
This entry was posted by Scott Sanders, a co-founder to date of seven Chicago area media and democracy activist groups.
Sanders has worked for long stretches in social science research, in the creation of video documentaries, as a librarian, and also in movie theater management.
You can link to Scott's combined curriculum vitae, timeline, and resume here.
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