Michael Smerconish Changes the Dial and Goes to Sirius | Adweek Michael Smerconish Changes the Dial and Goes to Sirius | Adweek
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Michael Smerconish Says Talk Radio Is Like Pro-Wrestling: Fake

Pols follow the microphones

Photo: Jonathan Timmes


Specs
Who Michael Smerconish
Age 51
New gig Host, Michael Smerconish Program on SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S. channel
Old gig Midday host, WPHT-AM, Philadelphia. Continues as fill-in host on MSNBC’s Hardball, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, author.

Why leave 80 stations and a big audience for sat radio?
Talk radio has changed since I cut my teeth in the business. It’s all about fake fights, the pro wrestling of the new millennium. It’s evolved into something that is too old, too white, too male and too nasty. It’s all about this false, ideological divide that I’m not a part of. This will allow me to deliver a program without regard for the fact that I’m surrounded by people who want to kick the crap out of Obama whether he deserves it or not.

Where did talk radio go wrong?
Conservatives rightfully believed they had no place to go pre-Internet. So they established a beachhead in talk radio. What it’s done is it has taken Washington with it.

Is that why our politics are polarized?
Absolutely. Capitol Hill is taking its direction from people with microphones … entertainers who rely on talking points to stir the pot. Polarized politics rose during the same period that’s seen the rise of the polarized media. They are directly interconnected.

Is there anybody in talk radio or on cable that is doing it right?
Larry David. He really understands what makes people tick.

So what should political talk be?
A more accurate representation of who’s out there. If you landed here from Mars and turned on a radio station or watched cable news, you’d think the world was divided from the left and the right. The single largest growing demographic is not Democrats and not Republicans; they are people like me who say, “I’ve had enough of both of them.”

How do you describe your politics?
Independent. I’m a believer in the death penalty. I believe in a strong defense. I’m a firearm owner. But I’m also pro-choice. I believe we should legalize pot and prostitution.

No wonder you gave Republicans conniptions when you flipped in 2008.
They demand purity. It’s a little creepy, frankly.

P.O.T.U.S. will accept advertising for the first time. How will you lure advertisers when many of them think talk radio is too controversial?
I am paying the price because of what Rush Limbaugh said about the coed from Georgetown [Sandra Fluke]. When it first happened, I said, “This is going to be good for my program.” What I learned is, there is a host of people that said they were done with spoken word generally.

How can you overcome that advertiser perception at SiriusXM?
This channel doesn’t have that brand problem. There are a number of advertisers that are coming over with me from terrestrial radio.

You’ve interviewed several presidents and vice presidents, including Obama seven times. Who did you like best?
Bush 41. I don’t think he gets his just due. If you came into my studio in Philly, there are two presidential portraits hanging there. Bush is one, and Obama is the other.

Anyone you didn’t like?
Jimmy Carter was a bit of a pain in the ass. When I asked him about Alan Dershowitz being unhappy with his book, Carter just exploded on me.

What’s your next book?
It’s a novel about a conflicted talk radio host who, the more he says things with which he personally disagrees, the higher his star rises. So the conflict builds over whether he’ll be true to himself or ride this baby to the end.

Is there anyone you had in mind?
A whole host of people. 

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