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

Finneran’s race-baiting co-host

If talk-radio executives know one thing, they know this: racism sells. It’s titillating, it’s naughty, it gives some middle-aged white guys a thrill as they’re driving to work in the morning to hear jokes they’d never dare tell at the office being blasted out at 50,000 watts.

How else can we explain the decision by WRKO (AM 680) to audition fired Imus producer Bernard McGuirk alongside the substantive but ratings-challenged morning host, former Massachusetts House speaker Tom Finneran? (The Globe reports on the story here, along with a quote from yours truly; the Herald’s “Inside Track” weighs in here.)

Let’s be clear. McGuirk, at least in terms of his on-air persona, is worse than Imus. The standard shtick on the late, unlamented “Imus in the Morning” show was for McGuirk to come out with something so offensive that Imus would stop him, professing to be horrified. Indeed, it was McGuirk’s reference to “hardcore hos” that started the infamous exchange that led to Imus’ putting a torch to his own career.

And lest we forget, Imus told “60 Minutes” back in 1998 that he’d hired McGuirk to tell “[N-word] jokes.”

Media Matters has gathered a few of McGuirk’s greatest hits:

  • While portraying a stereotyped Irish cardinal, McGuirk referred to Barack Obama as a “young colored fellah.”
  • Claiming that Hillary Clinton was “trying to sound black in front of a black audience,” McGuirk exclaimed that Clinton “will have cornrows and gold teeth before this fight with Obama is over.”
  • During an appearance on “Imus in the Morning” by Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, McGuirk was heard saying in the background, in Spanish, “Kiss my ass, fat one.” Richardson’s mother is Mexican.

Finneran’s show is not off to a good start. His ratings are worse than those of Scott Allen Miller, the host he replaced. Having a local morning program helmed by a smart host who really knows the Boston area is a good idea, and I want to like it. But it’s pretty dull.

But attempting to save it by pairing Finneran with an out-of-towner who made his reputation telling racist, sexist and homophobic jokes is reprehensible.

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The serious and the frivolous


  1. Anonymous

    Just to remind you……Finneran was boring when he substituted for Brudnoy on Brudnoy’s radio show. I can’t imagine that he would be any better on his own show.There seems to be an art to being a talk radio program. Some can do it, others can’t. Fineran wasn’t able to do it. Howie Carr can barely do it–and he learned from a master (Jerry Williams) before he supplanted him.’RKO is destined to become another sports radio station in Boston. Thank goodness for Internet streaming.–raj

  2. jvwalt

    McGuirk was also responsible for the Stepin Fetchit “impersonation” of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the abrasive Cardinal Egan, among others. But aside from ethical/moral concerns about employing Imus’ in-house racist, there’s the bottom-line concern: can an outsider come in and successfully do local talk radio in a market that can be strongly provincial? The most successful talkers in Boston are the ones with longstanding ties to the area: Carr, Brudnoy, Dennis and Callahan, Lydon, etc. The guys who come in from outside often have trouble gaining traction — Scotto and DePietro, for example. WRKO would be better served to look for someone talented within the Boston market — even if it’s someone who’s not well-known yet — rather than importing outsiders.

  3. Don (no longer) Fluffy

    Racist, sexist and homophobic are in the mind of the listener. You can’t be offended unless you let yourself be offended.

  4. Rick in Duxbury

    If Steve Bailey, McGuirk and Finneran were together in the studio, it would look like the sign in front of a pawn shop……

  5. Brighton Boris

    I don’t get it. Why did Jason had to settle on Bernie? Isn’t the “Bitter Man” Imus currently available and looking for work? That would’ve been a much bigger publcity splash for WRKO.

  6. i4NDY

    In today’s Globe, Derrick Jackson lists a few companies that advertise on the WRKO show.”In a couple cycles of commercials for “Finneran’s Forum,” prominent firms such as J.C. Penney, New York Life, Salem Five, Ira Toyota, Uniroyal Tires, and Venezia Restaurant had ads. Savings Bank Life Insurance of Massachusetts has an ad on the website for Finneran’s show.”

  7. Anonymous

    Oh my Bernie said all those things….oh my those people must be really hurt and scared for life oh my

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