Media company orders right-wing radio hosts to stop promoting debunked election conspiracies or face expulsion
In AM talk radio, a long list of far-right pundits have been promoting the debunked conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump was the victim of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. But following the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 by a mob of violent extremists, domestic terrorists and white nationalists, Atlanta-based Cumulus Media has ordered its employees to quit promoting voter fraud conspiracy theories.
The Washington Post's Paul Farhi reports that in an internal memo — which was first reported by Inside Music Media — Brian Philips, executive vice president of content for Cumulus, wrote, "We need to help induce national calm NOW." Phillips went on to say that Cumulus and Westwood One, which syndicates Cumulus programming, "will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has been resolved, and there are no alternate acceptable 'paths.'"
Phillips warned Cumulus employees, "If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately."
Farhi explains, "The new policy is a stunning corporate clampdown on the kind of provocative and even inflammatory talk that has long driven the business model for Cumulus and other talk show broadcasters. And it came as Apple, Google and Amazon cut off essential business services to Parler, the pro-Trump social media network where users have promoted falsehoods about election fraud and praised the mob that assaulted the Capitol. Apple and Google removed the Parler app from the offerings for its smartphones, while Amazon suspended it from its Web-hosting services."
Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino are among the many far-right radio hosts who are employed by Cumulus and, Farhi notes, "have amplified Trump's lies that the vote was 'rigged' or in some way fraudulent." Levin, in fact, encouraged Republicans in Congress not to honor the Electoral College results, which showed that President-elect Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes. In the popular vote, Biden defeated Trump by more than 7 million.
The mob that stormed the Capitol Building on January 6 was hoping to prevent Congress from ratifying Biden's Electoral College victory but only succeeded in delaying it. Hours after the attack, Congress resumed its joint session and ratified Biden's win.
One radio host who won't be directly affected by Cumulus' directive is Rush Limbaugh, whose program is broadcast on many Cumulus-owned stations but is syndicated by Premiere Networks. Cumulus owns and operates Westwood One.
Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine, told the Washington Post that Cumulus and other media companies "recognize they're in the hot seat right now because the national eye is on them" and that talk radio hosts "never expected" their comments on the 2020 election to "get out of hand" in the way they did on January 6.
"I would hope they put their personal feelings aside and come clean with their listeners," Harrison told the Post. "I encourage them to pursue the truth and to tell their audience something that Trump may not like."
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