Talk Radio Network, the syndicator of Michael Savage's "Savage Nation" radio show, issued the following statement today:
On Michael Savage's Autism Comments
There have been numerous calls in recent days for Michael Savage, who hosts “The Michael Savage Show” for Talk Radio Network (the “Network”), to be fired or suspended for his brief 84 seconds of commentary concerning autism during the July 16th broadcast of the Show.
Promptly after the Network’s management learned of the comments in issue, the Network commenced an investigation into the particulars and the circumstances of those comments. This investigation began with the Network’s CEO, Mark Masters, personally contacting Dr. Savage to address the concerns and obtain an explanation of the comments directly from Dr. Savage.
In that conversation, and other subsequent conversations between Mr. Masters and Dr. Savage, Dr. Savage explained the circumstances and intent of his statements in considerable detail. The Network also carefully monitored subsequent broadcasts of the Show, on Monday, July 21st and Tuesday, July 22nd, which were devoted to the subject of autism and further explanations by Dr. Savage of his views on the subject.
Dr. Savage has clarified that his July 16th statements concerning autism were not directed at those who are in fact challenged by this horrible affliction, but were instead addressing efforts to broaden the concept of autism beyond those who truly are autistic to a broader “autistic spectrum” of behavioral symptoms which are also manifested by persons who do not suffer from autism, and his concern that many children are being misdiagnosed as autistic due to the subjective nature of autism diagnosis (due to the lack of known biomedical indicators, such as blood tests, to definitively confirm or deny the actual existence of autism).
Dr. Savage has also explained his belief that there have been efforts by certain professionals and professional organizations to expand diagnoses of autism more broadly, for various reasons, and his concern that this victimizes and stigmatizes children who are misdiagnosed as autistic. On multiple other occasions Dr. Savage has expressed his concerns that other conditions, such as ADD and ADHD, are overdiagnosed and result in improper medication of young children, which Dr. Savage regards as abusive.
In the context of his broader concerns, it is clear that Dr. Savage’s comments were intended to suggest his opinion that, in the vast majority of cases, most children throwing tantrums, or refusing to communicate, are not autistic. Unfortunately, by condensing his multifaceted concerns into 84 seconds of commentary, the necessary context for his remarks was not apparent, and the few words he used to express his concerns were, in this instance, inartfully phrased.
As a result, Dr. Savage’s comments did facially appear to be directed at children who suffer from autism, and clearly could be perceived as such. This has, in turn, caused understandable pain and distress to those who have a child or family member who is challenged by autism. This was not Dr. Savage’s intent, and, on behalf of the Network and all persons associated with the Network, we wish to note that our hearts go out to all families who are forced to face the realities of autism every day of their lives, and to sincerely apologize to these families for any increase in these burdens resulting from inartful commentary appearing in the Network’s programming.
While the phrasing of Dr. Savage’s remarks was inartful, after the aforementioned investigation, as well as personal knowledge of Dr. Savage’s strongly held views towards children and those dealing with special challenges, the Network is satisfied that he did not mean any disrespect to autistic children or their families but was instead reiterating his longstanding concerns on public health issues. Indeed, on these points, Mark Masters, the Network’s CEO, notes that:
I have known Michael Savage for nine years now. Over those nine years, we have had occasion to disagree on many issues.
However, I have always respected Michael as a man of conviction, and I have noticed throughout our relationship that he has always been passionate and intense in his opposition to persons who he perceived to be disrespectful of persons dealing with special challenges.
I once asked him about his passion in this area, and he noted that it was because he had a brother who was disabled, but that he did not want to discuss it. Michael never shared any particulars on this with me until he shared with his audience on Monday that his brother never spoke during his lifetime, was institutionalized at 5 or 6 years old, and died in that institution in his 20s.
My observations of Michael’s consistent opposition to what he viewed as abuse or disrespect of persons dealing with special challenges, and of his interest in children, as well as his 1982 book, Healing Children Naturally, are completely inconsistent with Michael attacking children who are truly autistic. In contrast, his belief that misdiagnosing children as autistic will damage those children who are misdiagnosed and stigmatize them for life, his aversion to what he sees as improper medication of young children, and subjecting them to a lifetime of chemical straight jackets, and his recent sharing of his belief that the medical profession failed to properly care for his brother prior to his brother’s death, do explain his passion in challenging what he sees as improper efforts by some in the health care industry to brand and treat as autistic persons who are not.
In this context, for multiple reasons, the Network does not believe that it is appropriate to take adversarial action to suspend or terminate Dr. Savage for not phrasing his comments in this instance more carefully.
First, the Network recognizes, and those who are calling for action against Dr. Savage should recognize, that live talk radio is unscripted. Hosts do not read from prompters. Regardless of the abilities of any individual host, it is impossible to expect that hosts can in all instances avoid any instances of failure to provide full context and caveats for every statement made in three hours per day, five days per week, of a live talk program.
The Network also believes, as a policy matter, that it is not appropriate to censor the opinions of its hosts on legitimate issues. Neither the Network nor its management personnel agree with all positions asserted by all hosts on each of the Network’s shows.
As a policy matter, the Network neither supports nor rejects individual policy statements asserted by its hosts. It does, however, support the rights of its hosts to express their views on public policy issues.
The purpose of talk radio is to raise the level of public discourse by introducing commentary on controversial issues. If the Network were to require hosts to refrain from stating views which others disagree with, or discipline hosts for holding unpopular views, its hosts would be intimidated from exercising their freedom of expression. Should this ever become the standard for talk radio, the interchange of ideas and debate which is the lifeblood of talk radio would be destroyed, and the freedom of expression which is a hallmark of American democracy would be eroded.
The Network is particularly concerned with respect to efforts to remove Dr. Savage from the airwaves by persons or organizations who disagree with his political views. In the case of the underlying July 16th autism clip comments now in issue, the Network must be cognizant of the fact that the initiation of a campaign to remove Dr. Savage from the air for those comments was instigated by Media Matters, an organization which regularly tapes broadcasts of The Michael Savage Show for the purpose of finding sound bites which could be used in an effort to remove him from the airwaves, for their own political ends.
In this case, the Network does believe that there has been an effort by Media Matters to take advantage of an inartful lapse on the part of Dr. Savage in failing to supply full context, caveats and explanations in the 84 seconds of comments at issue. While the Network and Dr. Savage regret any pain to families of autistic children as a result of inartfully phrased comments intended to enhance the welfare of children, it does appear to the Network that Media Matters and others now seek to cynically exploit this particular sound bite, out of context, to harness the pain of parents with truly autistic children, for their own self-serving agenda, in a broader political effort to remove a voice they politically disagree with from the airwaves.
In this context, the Network does question, if such efforts were to be successful with respect to Michael Savage, which other hosts will be the next targets. This is not the first, nor will it be the last, attempt by Media Matters to exploit any issue for their own self-serving political and social agenda.
Despite the concerns on the Network’s part as to the motivations of Media Matters and other organizations which seek to remove those hosts they disagree with from the airwaves, and its belief that no action against Michael Savage is warranted under all applicable circumstances of this situation, the Network does want to take some positive action to address the fact that inartful statements concerning autism were made on one of its programs. As a result, the Network will begin broadcasting public service announcements with respect to legitimate autism issues, subject to spot availability, without charge, and will be encouraging other networks to do the same. In this regard, the Network invites organizations which would desire to submit public service announcements to forward them by email to PSA@TALKRADIONETWORK.com, or by mail to P.O. Box 3755, Central Point, OR 97502.
In contrast to the cynical efforts of Media Matters to manipulate 84 seconds of commentary out of context, for its own ends, the Network does believe that the issue is about the children. While the 84 seconds at issue has created intense controversy, the Network welcomes the opportunity to broaden the discussion on the important issues relating to autism, the “autism spectrum”, the validity of autism diagnoses, and the ever-expanding drugging of America’s children.
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