Bob Grant, Father of Conservative Talk Radio, Dead at 84

Image: Bob Grant, Father of Conservative Talk Radio, Dead at 84

Friday, 03 Jan 2014 07:28 AM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Veteran New York radio personality Bob Grant — widely credited with inventing the conservative talk-radio format — has died at the age of 84.

Grant, who lived in Toms River, N.J., passed away on New Year's Eve, according to the Branchburg Funeral Home.

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Grant began his career as a controversial talk show host in 1970 when he joined WMCA in New York and quickly bucked the liberal slant of many of the other hosts.

The gravel-voiced talker's in-your-face opinions and regular telling off of callers often got him in hot water.

He opened his show stating: "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another hour of the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions in the belief that as American citizens you have the right to hear, and to be heard."

He slammed uncouth politicians as "craven bootlickers." He once said of the Second Coming of Jesus: "He's not coming back. Look, I don't believe he's coming back. I think that's a myth and I say it."

Grant routinely signed off with the chant "Get Gaddafi," in a taunt at Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi.

In 1973, he called Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal of New York a coward for cancelling an appearance on his show, leading Rosenthal to complain to the Federal Communications Commission.

The case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals and was ultimately thrown out after a judge decided Grant had offered Rosenthal equal time.

Grant left WMCA in 1977 to work for WOR, but was fired for controversial remarks he made in 1979.

"[A] caller phoned in to the show saying he was upset with a woman who was blaming the police for what happened to her sons. [This woman] was the public relations director or community relations director of WCBS newsradio," he recalled on his website.

"I stupidly asked the caller if he knew how she got that job. The caller said he didn’t know and I promptly and arrogantly said, “I will tell you how. She passed the gynecological and pigmentation test — that’s how! … WOR was forced to fire me even though I had given the radio giant the biggest overnight ratings they ever had."

Grant returned to WMCA in 1980, where his producer was Steve Malzberg, now host of "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"I had grown up listening to Bob Grant so this was a dream come true," Malzberg said.

"He was an extremely nice guy, a wonderful and funny pioneer who overcame many attempts to turn him into a villain. He persevered and did what he love until the very end."

In 1984, Grant was hired by WABC, which had switched formats from Top 40 music to all-talk. With its strong signal, Grant was heard by millions of listeners in the Northeastern United States.

The station began billing him as "America's most listened to talk radio personality."

But Grant got in trouble with WABC in 1996 when he made a mean-spirited crack about Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, whose plane had crashed in Croatia.

"My hunch is that [Brown] is the one survivor. I just have that hunch. Maybe it's because, at heart, I'm a pessimist," Grant said. Brown, along with 34 others on board, had been killed.

Grant then moved back to WOR and his show became nationally syndicated. His WOR run ended in 2006.

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In 2007, he returned to WABC where he stayed for a year and a half, before leaving to host an Internet radio show titled "Straight Ahead!" He again returned to WABC in Sept. 2009, to host a Sunday talk show, retiring last summer because of poor health.

Grant's family asks that any memorial contributions be made in his memory to the Young America's Foundation, 110 Elden Street, Herndon, VA 20170 or the New York Police and Fire Widows' & Children's Benefit Fund, Inc., 767 Fifth Ave., 2614C, New York, NY 10153.

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