On the Air with Saint Randi Rhodes
Interview by Catherine Komp
Influential, intelligent, quick-witted. Goddess, rock star, saint. Those are just a few of the words fans use to describe Randi Rhodes, the seasoned, sharp-tongued liberal talk radio host whose eponymous daily program went national last year with the launch of Air America Radio. The former Air Force member, waitress, truck driver, and radio DJ built a strong following for her program in Palm Beach, Florida, consistently beating out Rush Limbaugh in the ratings. Returning to her native New York last year, Rhodes is now heard by millions and continues to attract one of the most diverse audiences in broadcasting. Even the vitriol of her detractors — and there are many of those too — is an indication of Rhodes’s growing presence on the airwaves and in the public discourse. The Randi Rhodes Show offers plenty of informed analysis and opinion, complemented by a healthy dose of playfulness and humor. But the program is clearly distinguished by Rhodes’s passion for people, coupled with her strong convictions in holding everyone accountable for their words and actions — politicians, high profile guests, callers, progressives, and fellow goddesses alike.
Clamor: Why do you love radio?
Rhodes: I don’t love radio. It’s the only thing I know how to do. But it is very personal, and I love that I get you all to myself when you are listening.
You’ve been on nationally with Air America for almost a year now. What do you think the Randi Rhodes Show has accomplished?
I think we’ve made people feel sane. Half of the country hadn’t heard their own views represented in media. I hear the “You make me feel sane” comment more than any other. I think we’ve also identified a new market place for the 21st Century. A way to let the entrenched power know that someone was watching now. That the days of propaganda radio were coming to a close and you had better check your facts in the morning, not your talking points. I do love exposing all of their lies and hypocrisy. Their bumper sticker approach to the people of this country. No one able to speak truth to their power. I think they’re feeling it already.
You have such a captivating style and tone, that ranges dramatically throughout your four-hour show, from laughter and singing, to joking and impersonations, to despair and anger, to genuine empathy and love. I’ve even heard you cry on the air. And unlike many hosts who have a carefully crafted “personality,” you seem to just be yourself. Do you think this is one of your strengths and why so many people tune in?
I don’t know any other way, so I can’t really say. There are radio “actors” out there, and they are respected and loved, but for the life of me I don’t understand it. Conservatives all do the same show every day. It’s hard to tell who means what they say, and who is doing it because it is so easy to get your voice out there if you just became part of the Republican echo chamber. I can’t really say why people believe the unbelievable, but some do. Sometimes I think that people accept the conservative crap because if they agree that America is going down a bad road, they may have to actually DO something, and that cuts into their TV time. But I hope that people get that I really care about them and that I have very serious concerns about our country and the troops.
Describe one of your favorite interviews or callers.
Oliver North. He was pure evil, and he lied. I caught him and called him out in under 10 minutes. It was scary because he is an effortless liar. But he walked out in the middle of the segment screaming at me, “I got shot. Did you?” That’s a real leader, don’t ya think? I loved exposing him.
Do you have some radio idols or mentors?
Neil Rogers is a real talent. He’s on in Miami. He’s the Godfather of Entertainment Talk Radio. Also, I love Phil Hendrie. Completely unique and unbelievably funny. I learned a lot from Neil, and I listen to Phil whenever I can.
Clamor readers are well informed about the negative impact of media consolidation on what most Americans read and hear. What do you suggest is an effective course of media activism over the next few years?
Lobby the shit out of Congress. Call, write (keep it brief). Tell them you don’t think that Corporate Ownership of the media — having all the power of the media in basically six people’s hands — is good for this country. Also let the media know that you think they’re too chicken to write hard stories.
Blog, write, or call any show that will let you on. Ask them where the news is. Where are the pictures of our troops? Where are the pictures of the happy Iraqis? Why is there no dialog between the U.S. and the people we “liberated?” Where is the money going? What happened to the stolen oil revenues? Why didn’t we provide the Iraqis security, running water, and electricity? If we had done these things, would the Iraqis [have] supported this insurgency? Ask them if they are better off today [than] they were before we attacked.
Then there’s Afghanistan. Where is Osama Bin Laden? Show us the progress in Afghanistan. Do real hour-long news specials about these two wars we are in.
Otherwise, I guess we’ll start making more movies. Some of the movies that got made like Fahrenheit 9/11 made real inroads with regard to showing people what’s really going on. Some movies were made too quickly and didn’t have the story telling quite down. But we’ll get better at it and make more.
For my part, I must succeed in the ratings. If I do, there will be no denying me more and more access to markets.
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