Monday, August 10, 2009

Will Citadel be Financial Liable for Town Hall Mobs Organized by Their Radio Hosts?

Judy Ellis, Chief Operating Officer
Citadel Broadcasting

Dear Judy:

I wanted to alert you that Brian Sussman, a radio host from your San Francisco station KSFO, has been directly telling listeners to attend a rally to protest health care reform Friday August 14th between 1-5 at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco.

I have a few questions for you.
  • What is Citadel Broadcasting's experience in controlling mobs of angry people filled with "righteous indignation?"

  • Has your legal counsel signed off on sponsoring this protest rally?

  • Has your insurance carrier issued you a special event policy for any property damage, injury or wrongful deaths that may occur?*

Listen to Sussman direct listeners to attend.
"This Friday, Justin Herman Plaza, we are planning on having a Bay Area tea party. This was going to go down in front of Nancy Pelosi's office, but I will tell you right now, the interest has swelled due in large part to the reach of this station. I got on board with this last week and said, 'You know what? I'm going to be there I'm going to be in front of Pelosi's office, I'm going to go through that line I'm going to shake every hand of every great American present and by getting on board with the great reach of KSFO the numbers have swelled for this thing. There are not going to be just hundreds, now there are going to be thousands of people attending."
Pelosi, if you won't have a town hall we are having a town hall at Justin Herman Plaza on behalf of every American. You are the house Madam.
If you're working I want you to take the day off. I want you to join us. You need to be emboldened surrounded by all these great patriots who are standing shoulder to shoulder against this plan.
(audio link 8-10-2009 5:28 am) (transcript link)
Sussman has been broadcasting this call to action since last week. I want to be clear that I believe in the right of the people to peaceably assemble. But the word peaceably is there for a reason.

As you know, several Town Hall events have turned violent and have resulted in an inability for constituents to have a civil discussion. Sussman approves of shouting. Here he is explaining how "we are going to shout them down on this." (audio link)

Sussman also has a history of violent rhetoric and has vocalized his rage on air many times. (link) (Shown here posing with a gun. Photo from KSFO website.) Last week, while discussing health care reform, he singled out President Obama's chief of staff's brother, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel as being in charge of designing a federal system for withdrawing care for those chosen for death. (transcript link)

"Some call him Dr. Easy Kill Emanuel."
(I'm reminded of Bill O'Reilly calling Dr. Tiller, "Dr. Killer" in the months leading up to his assassination in a church.) Sussman goes on, please listen to the audio to hear the rage in his voice.
"Your dad who's suffering from the dementia? Your mom who's got the Alzheimer's? Guys like Dr. Emanuel want to kill them! I guess it would be called a mercy killing back in the 30's in Germany. This is what they want to do to our people! That Down Syndrome baby? I've got news for you. There will be amniocentesis when the child is in the womb and when they find out that kid's got Down Syndrome or some other life long ailment, oh they'll put an end to that life in no time flat. Is this what you want?"
-Brian Sussman, KSFO, Citadel Broadcasting 8-7-2009 6:20pm (audio link) Bold
It is also troubling to hear the views of his listeners who may attend this event. Directly after the above comment "George in Oakland" said he was planning on attending and said,

"Our side has to get past this Mahatma Gandhi stuff here. Because this is outright, this is like what the Brownshirts did in Germany in the 20s and 30s and although I intend to be peaceful and law abiding if one of those people comes up to me and does like what you describe, I don't care if I even have to do it alone, I'm going to flatten whoever it is" -George in Oakland (audio link)

Listeners who suggest violence toward others is not new on the show, here a caller wants to kill innocents attending prayer services at mosques. (audio link). You will note Sussman’s support of the killing. Sussman has asked these same listeners to take the day off work and attend this event.

Sussman has been willfully ignorant that there are no corporate sponsors behind the tea party organizing. (audio link) When told of death threats to Democratic congress people and the name of an organizer, FreedomWorks, he dismisses the information and attempts to pin the death threats on "union thugs". (audio link) Even if this was a grassroots movement at one time, the resources committed and the support of Citadel Broadcasting now can not be denied.

I encourage you to listen to the entire Aug 7th show. It is clear listeners intend to create as much physical provocation as possible and then claim victimhood when something erupts. This kind of talk sets up KSFO listeners to indulge in the "defensive" violence that Sussman described after Obama was elected (audio link).

I won’t use the phrase inciting people to riot to describe what he is doing because that is something for the district attorney and the courts to decide after the event.

Sussman Gets the Credit, You Get the Liability

Following the week long promotion on KSFO and his bragging about the people he has drawn to the event, this upcoming event is now squarely on Citadel Broadcasting's books in the potential liability column.

Sussman says, "Republicans don't have thugs". I have documentation of destruction of property from a Melanie Morgan KSFO protest against Code Pink where a man she invited to a "show down" at "high noon" slashed the Code Pink sign and Medea Benjamin's microphone cable (nice metaphors for silencing speech by the way). I will happily make it available if there is a repeat of the violence at this event so we can see if it is the same listener of KSFO causing the violence and so we can rule out agent provocateurs.

KSFO's history of violent rhetoric is relevant because the hosts are using Citadel Broadcasting resources to organize a potentially violent event.

Who's Responsible When Violence or Death Occurs Based on a DJs Actions?

You may recall the Clear Channel Sacramento Radio station KDND which sponsored a contest where a woman died as a result of drinking too much water to win a Wii video console. Although the DJs were warned of the possible danger in advance the DJs response was, "We are aware of that," while another added, "They signed releases, so we're not responsible. It's OK." A total of ten people were fired. Perhaps this was to appease the FCC so that Clear Channel would not lose KDND's broadcast license. It's one thing to demonstrate "responsibility" after the fact, but would the FCC act differently if they knew that upper management was informed in advance, but approved the contest anyway? Could they point to steps taken to ensure the safety of the public and how they were serving the public interest?

While KSFO hosts successfully whip people into a frenzy at the local level it is up to YOU to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved and to protect your corporation from litigation and ruin.

Sussman calls his show, “Sussman’s Revolution" and stokes the, “Obama’s going to take your guns” paranoia after President Barack Hussein Obama was elected (audio link). He is a "Birther" who doesn't believe that the President is a natural born citizen. He has called the president a "halfrican" and has compared the President to Hitler, and believes the census is gathering GPS coordinates so Obama can take people's guns. These same kind of conspiracy theories can be read in the manifesto of Universal Unitarian Church shooter James Adkisson (pdf link)

You have your own policies about the threatening talk of your contract employees. Do they cover genocidal talk? Most recently KSFO's Lee Rodgers called for the massacre of "every last damn one of you." referring to the Iraq people.

Although the FCC has no current fines tied to this kind of talk, commissioner Copps has said in the past stations that ignore the public interest will go on probation and if they don’t, then it’ll be “good-bye license. We’ll give it to someone who has a personal interest in the public interest."

I have demonstrated time and time again where the KSFO hosts have violated your own policies. I understand you are balancing potential revenue with potential liability, but when the tipping point happens I want to make sure that both you and the FCC are clear that you were alerted to this behavior ahead of time.



P.S. I’ve also copied the San Francisco district attorney’s office to alert them of this upcoming event and Sussman’s on-air stated intentions.

*(Note: I just found out that political protests, political rallies, protest rallies and weapons shows are event types that are ineligible for insurance from the National Alliance of Special Event Planners. (link) Of course they are only three underwriters in this area, your policy may cover these events. I also discovered that anyone who submits an application or files a claim containing a false or deceptive statement is guilty of insurance fraud, a Federal Offense)

Kamala D. Harris, San Francisco District Attorney

Michael Copps, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission
Shawn Lapinski, Associate Chief, Public Communications Outreach and Operations Division

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates, author, Toxic to Democracy
Tarso Luis Ramos, Executive Director, Political Research Associates

David Neiwert, author, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, editor Crooks and Liars
Sara Robinson,
Fellow, Campaign for America's Future


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