Wednesday, February 1, 2017


If you were working in public broadcasting in the mid 1990s, you’ve heard of David Horowitz. He was the guru of the Republican effort to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Horowitz was the author of Sen. Bob Dole’s “Big Bird” speech that caused chills at the 1993 Public Radio Conference in Washington, DC. Now he is back, courtesy of President Donald Trump and the man who has been called “Trump’s Brain,” Steve Bannon.

As you probably know, Bannon is/was the publisher of Breitbart News Network [link], the alt-right center of “alternative facts.” One of Breitbart’s primary thinkers and writers is David Horowitz.

How close are Horowitz and Steve Bannon? In November just after the election Horowitz wrote an op-ed titled “Steve Bannon: Civil Rights Hero” [link] for the Breitbart site:

“I can’t say enough about Donald Trump and his general, Steve Bannon.When the history of the 21st Century civil rights movement is written Steve Bannon’s name will have a special place in its pantheon of heroes.”

What many people don’t know about Horowitz is that some of his angst against CPB was caused by his own failure to become a successful public radio program host.


In May 1992, KCRW GM Ruth Hirschman (who later changed her name to Ruth Seymour) offered Horowitz a weekly program on KCRW in Los Angeles.  Hirschman felt public broadcasting needed conservative voices to help change the perception that NPR had a left wing bias.   

According to the Los Angeles Times [link], on May 15, 1992 Horowitz’s program Second Thoughts debuted. The program’s name came from the title of the book "Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the '60s. The book’s author was Peter Collier, one of Horowitz's business partners.

Second Thoughts focused on what Horowitz perceived as the pervasive influence of leftists and liberals in American culture. House Speaker Newt Gingrich had launch an assault on public broadcasting.

At the time I was Director of News at American Public Radio (now Public Radio International) in Minneapolis. I was often the first point of contact for producers seeking to have their programs distributed by APR.

Ruth Hirschman contacted me in an effort to get APR to promote and distribute Second Thoughts.  Hirschman told me she was trying to "placate the people who want to abolish public broadcasting" by putting Horowitz on the air.

I listened to several sample programs and they were truly awful. Horowitz had a terrible radio voice, a whiny, menacing wail, that was certain to drive listeners away. Every edition of the show sounded the same: Public broadcasting is a subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Topics that I heard in the sample shows included:

Why does NPR hype the Black Panthers?

Why are none of senior figures at NPR conservatives?

Why does PBS keeping attacking white people?

Second Thoughts spewed the same “alternative facts” that Breitbart News does today.

I told Ruth Hirschman that there was no way APR would be associated with Second Thoughts. The problem was not its politics, it was how it sounded.  She passed this along to Horowitz, who she said was livid about the criticism. Reportedly, he still stews about the denial of a national platform.

Second Thoughts continued on KCRW for a couple of years before Horowitz got bored and ended the program without a whimper.

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