Telling Tales: Radio Talker’s New Book Reveals Cable News Secrets

By Chris Ariens 

Philadelphia radio talk show host and perennial cable news guest Michael Smerconish has written a new book about his life as a professional talker. In Morning Drive: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking Smerconish argues the cable TV news presents a too-simple and ultimately unrealistic, “liberal or conservative” view of the world.

And this morning on Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz, Smerconish revealed some personal anecdotes about his talk show experiences involving Glenn Beck, David Gregory, Larry King and a Fox News program – experiences that may well affect future bookings.

More after the jump…


• About an experience with David Gregory who last year hosted an MSNBC show called “Race for the White House:”

Kurtz: You also went on MSNBC’s “Hardball” to talk about your support for Obama in the presidential race and got a note from David Gregory. He was disappointed. What happened there?

Smerconish: In that circumstance, I had appeared, as I continue to, on a variety of MSNBC programs. I had a relationship with Chris Matthews for years and I’d been appearing regularly on “Hardball” and David’s program. David let it be known he wished i had come on his program and not on “Hardball” to make it clear how I viewed the presidential race.

Kurtz: And you were then canceled from David’s program?

Smerconish: I did not come back until after David had given up the program and David Shuster was the host. All of a sudden, my invitations were more forthcoming.

• About an experience with a Fox News booker:

Kurtz: Let’s talk about cable news and the way the booking process works. This is fascinating. You have e-mails from a producer who works for Neil Cavuto and his Fox News program. The first e-mail is last April, just about a year ago. And I love your rather brief response. You write back, ‘thanks for the clarity. I am not your man.’ Then you get a second e-mail from this same producer. How common is that in cable news you only get to appear if you’re willing to take a predetermined, precooked, prepackaged position?

Smerconish: Well, I think it’s very common. It’s exactly what I was just describing. It’s this mentality that says only good television is television which pits one individual against another and there’s a fight that ensues. I just don’t believe that.

• About subbing for Glenn Beck on the radio:

Kurtz: Going to back Obama in the primaries, you were filling in on Glenn Beck’s radio show and said you hesitated to declare your support for Obama. Why was that?

Smerconish: I was on his watch. He’d given me the courtesy to guest host his nationally syndicated radio program and it was just at the time Hillary was still doing battle with Barack, the Pennsylvania primary was looming and I was making my views known in Philadelphia to my listeners and I thought, geez, why not? Why should I hold back? This is how I feel about the race. As you well know, I point out in the book Glenn has always been very good to me but I was never again asked to come back and host the radio program.

• About a booking on Larry King:

Smerconish: After I go through the whole pre-interview last spring and I write about this, in the final discussion the producer said, ‘well, we’ll be calling you ‘conservative radio host and John McCain supporter,” and I said, ‘Well, I’m not supporting McCain and I’m not that much of a conservative. A whole negotiation ensued because they were flummoxed into how to introduce me.