On 26 September 2016 rumors began circulating that popular conservative political commentator Michael Savage had been fired, replaced by a liberal host, or forcibly removed from the radio airwaves by operatives of Hillary Clinton after he published the following tweets:
I’VE BEEN SABOTAGED ON AIR. TO DESTROY SUPPORT FOR TRUMP. MORE LATER
— Michael Savage (@ASavageNation) September 26, 2016
WABC MAIN PHONE NUMBER 1-212-613-3800 — Michael Savage (@ASavageNation) September 26, 2016
Savage maintained that he had been abruptly cut off the air as he was discussing Hillary Clinton’s alleged health issues and suggested a connection between those events:
I spent 30 minutes talking about Hillary’s health problems; I read you every fact about it. I then read you the pharmacology of Levodopa which is the main drug for Parkinson’s, and right in the middle of that discussion of Levodopa and its side effects, I was cut off across the country.
Pure sabotage. No advance notice from me or my producers. Then ‘ISDN problems’ during my discussion of the side effects of Levodopa, used for treating Parkinson’s. Then the two fill-ins trying to sound informed and clever from WABC who have 40% lower ratings than me, boasting on air during my hours that they conducted a ‘coup’ by taking Savage off the air.
Savage’s popular “The Savage Nation” is a nationally syndicated one broadcast throughout the U.S. by affiliate stations of the Westwood One network. What happened on the day in question was that one of the stations that airs Savage’s program, WABC in New York (which has the largest audience share of any station that carries “The Savage Nation”), opted to preempt his show — apparently without notifying Savage in advance — in favor of “wall to wall” coverage of that day’s first presidential debate provided by local hosts Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby, reporting live from the scene at nearby Hofstra University:
Tune in to @77WABCradio for our wall to wall coverage!! This may be the biggest political event in history & WE will have it all for you! https://t.co/MB4SnwnI3F — Rita Cosby (@RitaCosby) September 26, 2016
— Curtis and Kuby (@curtisandkuby) September 26, 2016
Many Twitter users saw only Savage’s tweets and inferred that the host had been removed from his show and/or punished. Although WABC did not address angry Twitter users, Westwood One published a stream of identical responses explaining Savage’s program had simply been preempted by one station in favor of debate coverage and had immediately returned to the air on that station the following day:
Indeed, the very next day WABC published a tweet promoting Savage’s program, demonstrating that his show hadn’t been pulled by the station for anything other than one day’s special event coverage:
— 77 WABC Radio (@77WABCradio) September 27, 2016
Bart Tessler, Westwood One’s Eexecutive Vice President for News and Talk, issued the following statement about the issue:
WABC decided to go local during afternoon drive Monday to cover the presidential debate at Hofstra, a local as well as a national story. Affiliates are permitted to pre-empt on certain occasions when there’s a big local story. All other affiliates carried The Savage Nation Monday as usual. WABC aired The Savage Nation Tuesday, as usual.
Adding to the confusion was the fact that some kind of technical glitch resulted in a portion of the third hour of Savage’s program being replaced by a repeat of a previous show on the day in question:
One of the national reps for the show … said there were some serious mis-steps. WABC in New York had apparently arranged for two local political pundits to offer commentary on the Trump-Clinton debate, because it was held close by. However, they failed to notify Savage prior to the start of his show. [A]s far as hour three (8-9pm Pacific) we were told technical issues necessitated a re-run.
The Westwood One officials said they were buried with thousands of angry emails and phone calls, not just from WABC listeners, but across the country. According to Westwood One, and this does make sense, the WABC issue was a ‘local’ New York decision that appears to have backfired badly.
In response to our query, a media rep for Westwood One told us that a technical issue briefly necessitated the airing of re-run programming for a few minutes during the third hour of Savage’s program until the problem was resolved.