Liberal radio is airing bad jokes and worse taste

The United States “is on the slippery slope to theocraticfascism.” “The Catholic Church has been secretly encouraging oralsex for years.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “ought to be tortured.”President Bush should be taken out and shot.

Those are a few nutso nuggets from the hosts of Air AmericaRadio, which calls itself the new liberal voice. With the Iraqtorture scandal everywhere, I tuned in, expecting to hear soberpolicy analysis mixed with glee over President Bush’s politicalpickle.

Instead, I got 10 hours of rancid venom directed at thepresident, Rumsfeld, Rush Limbaugh, the Catholic Church and anyoneelse the hosts felt like slamming. If you’re a card-carrying libwho likes crude sex jokes and a cartoonish echo chamber, AirAmerica is for you.

Take one host’s linking the talk of “pulling out” the troopswith the claim that “that’s what the Catholic Church says aboutpremarital sex.” Ha, ha.

The network aims to give Dems a media organization to counterLimbaugh and others on the right who dominate talk radio. What,National Public Radio and The New York Times aren’t enough?

The signing of comedian and best-selling author Al Franken gaveAir America a liberal drawing card. But if his three-hour show onMonday was typical, he could sink the ship instead of savingit.

Two attempts at humor were offensive. In his “oy, oy show,” setto Israeli music, a sidekick reads news reports – in this case, themurder of the Russian-backed president of Chechnya. Franken’s roleis to pipe up with a lighthearted “oy, oy, oy.” Yep, nothingtickles the ribs like assassination.

Franken also imitated a priest giving communion, saying “Body ofChrist” when an imagined pedophile priest was in line but “not foryou” when pro-choice politicians came up.

The church was a daylong obsession, as was Limbaugh. He is an”awful man,” “a pig” and “a Nazi.”

Color me confused. If Franken & Co. hate the pill-poppingLimbaugh so much, why imitate his tarpit tone? Sounds like Limbaughhas simply driven them nuts.

Missing was the tension that comes from honest debate. OnlyFranken had guests voicing even slight distance from the partyline, which is that John Kerry is perfect except he should attackBush more.

The queen of venom, Randi Rhodes, followed Franken in the hostslot. Her imitation of a cracker military type telling a soldier to”insert this fluorescent light bulb into that man’s buttocks” wasrevolting. She compared U.S. prisons in Iraq to the “Nazi gulag”and said, “The day I say thank you to Rumsfeld is the same day I’llsay thank you to the 12 people who raped me.”

Rock bottom came when she compared Bush and his family to theCorleones in the “Godfather” saga. “Like Fredo, somebody ought totake him out fishing and phuw,” she said, imitating the sound ofgunfire.

During a day of torture by radio, I heard ads forHewlett-Packard, Greyhound and, especially, General Motors. I askedGM why it appeared in such shows.

Ryndee Carney, GM’s manager of marketing communications, saidthe ads were wrongly picked up from an earlier deal with WLIB. Shesaid the station was ordered to “cease and desist” Tuesday, andadded: “GM will not advertise on any Air America affiliates.”

Michael Goodwin is a columnist for the New York DailyNews.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune InformationServices.