NEW YORK – Billionaire businessman and former candidate for New York City mayor John Catsimatidis is the owner of WABC-AM 770 radio “which has become New York City’s home for right-wing views,” the New York Times reported on January 24.
Former mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani is among the conservative hosts on the radio station where he “still routinely offers false claims of election fraud,” the Times reported, noting that “his president and No. 1 client, Donald J. Trump, is no longer in office. His claims of election fraud, unfounded and disproved, were dismissed in courts across the country. He may still face criminal charges, and now there is a move to disbar him in New York.”
Just last week, Giuliani on his radio show said that Trump “won that election,” and he called the people who want him disbarred, “idiots,” “malicious left-wingers,” and “irresponsible political hacks,” on the show on January 21, the Times reported, adding his comment, “You want to disbar me? I think I’m going to move to disbar you.”
WABC was not always a conservative talk radio station, it was once a “pioneering Top 40 station: In the late 1960s and early 1970s, WABC had more than six million listeners, the most in the history of American radio at that time,” the Times reported, adding that “in 1982, when most music stations had moved to the FM dial, WABC dropped music from its programming and went to an all-talk format on May 10, a date that some longtime fans and radio industry veterans refer to as the day the music died.”
Over the years there was a mix of hosts of various political leanings, but the “hard shift to the right was solidified by the time it was purchased in 2019 for $12.5 million by John Catsimatidis, a billionaire who has run for mayor of New York City as a Republican,” the Times reported.
“You know why I bought it? I’m having fun,” Catsimatidis said in an interview, the Times reported, “I’m enjoying trying to make it No. 1 again.”
Catsimatidis said “he is considering running for mayor this year but as a Democrat,” the Times reported, noting that “he raised money for Bill and Hillary Clinton before funding local Republicans and voting for Mr. Trump. His daughter, Andrea, is chairwoman of the Republican County Committee in Manhattan.”
Among the recent efforts to “soften the station’s right-wing identity,” Catsimatidis “ran a full-page ad in The New York Post congratulating President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris,” on Inauguration Day, the Times reported, pointing out that the ad included WABC’s logo and the names of Catsimatidis’ two supermarket chains.
WABC “dropped the three-hour show hosted by Ben Shapiro, the right-wing commentator,” and “also hired Bruce Morrow, known as Cousin Brucie, the octogenarian disc jockey who was a staple during WABC’s glory years,” the Times reported, adding that Catsimatidis “also brought music programming back to the station on weekend nights.”
“Enough with the bad news Monday to Friday,” Catsimatidis said, the Times reported, “Let’s just enjoy music.”
News, however, is central to the station’s programming, “and for several hours each day, listeners can hear hosts, guests and callers float a range of beliefs, with or (mostly) without evidence,” the Times reported, noting that “among the recent ones heard on the station this month: The Chinese and Iranians funded the stealing of the presidential election. William P. Barr did not investigate the fraud when he was attorney general because he was blackmailed. Antifascist activists, not supporters of Mr. Trump, were responsible for the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago.”
“WABC runs disclaimers saying the views heard on air ‘do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions’ of the company,” as other stations do, “but the attack at the Capitol seems to have been a turning point,” the Times reported.
“About a week after the Capitol riot, WABC management directed its on-air talent ‘to not state, suggest or imply that the election results are not valid or that the election is not over,’ adding, ‘If this policy is violated, employees will be subject to immediate discipline, up to and including termination,’” the Times reported, adding that “the memo, which Mr. Catsimatidis shared with The New York Times, says the company is ‘committed to uniting the nation during this unprecedented and tumultuous time.’”
“Cumulus Media, a giant talk radio company that once owned WABC, distributed a similar memo to its staff days earlier,” the Times reported.
However, it seems Giuliani continues the false claims and “regularly tells listeners of his one-hour show — at 3 PM weekdays and 10 AM on Sundays — that he has ‘proof’ of fraud in the presidential election,” the Times reported.
“When asked about the station’s memo, Giuliani said that he ‘was unaware’ of it,” the Times reported, adding that “that memo does not refer to discussing evidence. I will continue to do so based on my knowledge of the truth and my guaranteed sacred right of free speech.”
Catsimatidis said, “You know what talk shows is? The theater of the mind,” and later, added, “I want more people to listen — people don’t want to listen to boring people,” the Times reported.
Of the legitimacy of the presidential election, Catsimatidis said, “I don’t know what the truth is,” the Times reported, adding “a version of what he has told WABC listeners.”
Catsimatidis told the Times, “This is going to go down as who killed John Kennedy. OK? That’s my satire. That’s my joke, because 58 years later nobody’s really sure who really killed John Kennedy. Right?”