By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Jay who?

The Herald’s Jay Fitzgerald (uh, not the Jay of “Jay who?”) reports that WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) has replaced trash-talking, Muslim-bashing afternoon-drive-time host Jay Severin with trash-talking, Muslim-bashing afternoon-drive-time host Michael Graham. (The Globe runs a squib in its “Names” column.)

Severin disappeared from the airwaves several months ago after signing a national-syndication deal with Infinity Broadcasting that kicks in next year. Coincidentally, the Long Island-based “live and local” host left the Boston mediascape at the same time that Globe columnist Scot Lehigh revealed Severin had falsely claimed to have won a Pulitzer Prize.

Among Severin’s numerous notorious moments in Boston was an incident that took place in the spring of 2004, when he referred to Muslims in the United States as “a fifth column” and told a caller, “I have an alternative viewpoint. It’s slightly different than yours. You think we should befriend them, I think we should kill them.” Severin later apologized for not making it clear that he was referring specifically to Muslim terrorists, not to all Muslims. But he also enjoyed an undeserved field day because the Globe inaccurately reported that Severin had actually said, “I’ve got an idea, let’s kill all Muslims” — wrong, but also a fair approximation of his actual words.

Trouble is, Graham has had his own widely publicized problems with making grotesque remarks about Muslims — and it is, in fact, the reason he was a free agent in the first place. Graham could go toe-to-toe with Severin in an offensive-speech contest, given that he was fired from a station in Washington this past August after referring to Islam as “a terrorist organization” following the London subway bombings. (No, it wasn’t just one off-handed remark. Read Fitzgerald’s whole story.)

Graham has posted a maudlin, self-pitying take on his ordeal here. Graham writes:

It is a new day, not just for my family and my career, but I believe it is an important day for talk radio and free speech, too.

It’s been three months since the Council of American-Islamic Relations demanded my removal from the airwaves and ABC Radio capitulated to their demands. In those three months, many things could have happened: If ABC had had their way, I would have been falsely labeled a bigot. Even worse, I could have given into their pressure and issued a false apology, abandoning my principles for the sake of a job (a very tempting idea whenever the rent payment came due). I could have been banished from the talk radio industry, deemed “unhireable” by the industry — which is what several radio muckity-mucks assured me would happen.

Instead, the talk radio industry rallied. KFI in Los Angeles led the way, putting me on the air the very week I was fired, a statement more about their values than my broadcasting abilities. I have had more than half a dozen job offers from excellent radio stations across the nation. Not one station — NOT ONE — demonstrated any reluctance at all to work with me due to fear of pressure from CAIR or because of ABC’s decision to fire me.

So I’m off to Boston to a better job at one of the most successful FM talkers in the country and I’m returning to afternoon drive, my favorite time slot. My family is excited about the move, Boston is a great city and I can’t wait to get started.

Well, isn’t that special? It’s nice to know that Graham’s First Amendment right to earn a six-figure salary at a government-licensed, cartel-owned radio station has been upheld.

As for Severin, maybe he’ll prove me wrong when his Infinity deal kicks in. Maybe he’ll even pop up locally — possibly on WBZ Radio (AM 1030), which is an Infinity-owned station. But I have the feeling that he might have blown the best media gig he’s ever had.

Perhaps I travel in the wrong circles (I’m reminded of the famous if apocryphal Pauline Kael statement that she couldn’t believe Richard Nixon had beaten George McGovern, since no one she knew had voted for Nixon). But I have heard absolutely no one say, “Gee, I really miss Jay Severin.”

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  1. Anonymous

    You have now heard one person say it. He was offensive on occasion but marginally more interesting than Howie; (PBK, yeah right). I remain astounded at the slack CAIR gets cut. Their silence about terrorism has been deafening. Don’t confuse a Boston campus with the “real world” DK, the Pauline Kael reference was spot on. Trips outside MA are illuminating, in my experience. I once met a man who actually disagreed with something on NPR…

  2. Anonymous

    And the difference between the “cartel” and public radio, (other than that evil profit motive) would be what, please? I’m holding my breath waiting for the LBO of Air America…

  3. Dan Kennedy

    I’ve got no problem with profits. I do have a problem with Greater Media, WTKK’s corporate owner, being allowed to own five stations in the Boston market, given that the broadcast spectrum is finite and, at least in theory, owned by We the People.

  4. Anonymous

    I guess I’m having trouble deducing how common ownership of a country station and a talker is a problem. If one is opposed to Walmart selling gas and groceries because they’re just too darn big already, then we have to agree to disagree. Genie is out of the bottle unless we can figure out a way to stop politicians from influencing granting of licenses. Like judicial appointments, SEC seats have become spoils of the political war.Problem may be self-correcting if podcasts continue to flourish, with TIVO-esque avoidance of ads and paid satellite radio, it will go back to being about the content, (aren’t you amazed at the amount of your cable bill? People pay to avoid ads.) Now if 96.9 and 680 were under same ownership, I’d see your point. With web and other technical changes, who says the spectrum is still finite? If I sold radio ads/time for a living, I’d be as nervous as the posters on Poynter…

  5. Brad Priestley

    Gee….I REALLY miss Jay !

  6. Anonymous

    More likely WBCN for Severino Dan. I don’t mind “muslim bashing” albeit I’m not a slave to the secular humanistic elitist persona you and yours abide to, however, it’s sad that TKK can’t field a truly local host for this position.

  7. Anonymous

    Islam: A Dynamite Religion. I have no problems with other people and their religious views. But when these viewslead to things like hijacking planesto kill 3,000 Americans so that saidperson can meet Allah and the 72 virgins, well, there is where I draw the line.

  8. Anonymous

    From Free Republic Mass. board: “I love Ingraham, and wish management of WTKK would switch her show to a better time and bring Severin back.”So there’s someone who misses Jay, right there. (Not me though, I prefer Howie.)

  9. Anonymous

    Oooptie doo…James Thompson Severino, the 3rd is a fraud. Graham Cracker is right benind him.

  10. Anonymous

    the biggest loss to the boston market will be howard stern. the others are weak posers in pussy clothing. piss on jay severin. like anyone ever recognized him at grill 23 anyway…

  11. Justin

    Egan & Braude should have gotten the slot.

  12. Anonymous

    add 2 more to the “I miss jay list”!

  13. Anonymous

    You can agree with Jay or don’t. It is just a matter of opinion. But he was entertaining, funny and educating at the same time. That is why I liked his program and I miss it now!

  14. Anonymous

    I’ve been listening to Jay for years and I miss him too!

  15. Anonymous

    Greetings! Jay was arrogant and somewhat self absorbed, but he was also very bright, had unique veiws at times (with a logic for having them) and for the most part, he was entertaining. I hope he comes back “humbled”, which would make his show a lot better. Regarding his Muslim comments, you are wrong. He was absolutely addressing the terrorist Muslims within the context of his show and consistency of his shows over time. I agree with him,if they fire at our troops from a Mosque, blow it up, we’re too respectful.

  16. Anonymous

    Jay is definately missed here in Boston…He was an eye opener who had the balls to say what others think and only wish they could say !!!I didn’t agree on everything he said, but, he made topics more interesting. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times he made me laugh and brightened my mood. GO JAY!!! WE LOVE YOU !!!

  17. Anonymous

    the right to free speech must be upheld, it’s what makes our country unique and great. Lot’s of things I hear I don’t like or agree with, but these are the most precious ideals that are America. I feel people are much too sensitive to ridicule or good natured laughter. Let’s not run to the diversity or community question, we’re all human, so let’s just lighten up. If we can instill empathy in our children then we have been a success…

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