Tags: North | Dakota | 'Liberal' | Starts | Radio | Show

North Dakota 'Liberal' Starts Radio Show

Monday, 23 February 2004 12:00 AM

"I'm so mean, there's blood on my sheets of paper," Schultz told his listeners, kicking off a project last month that some Democrats and other supporters have billed as a liberal alternative to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Schultz might be considered a liberal in Fargo, but they wouldn't know what to make of him in, say, Berkeley, Calif., or Cambridge, Mass.

He is anti-abortion and pro-guns. In his opening monologue, Schultz, an avid hunter, told listeners in his typically loud and bellicose style: "I'm a gun-totin', red meat-eatin' liberal."

In fact, Schultz began his talk show career in the early 1990s as a conservative, imitating Limbaugh by telling listeners he was broadcasting from "high atop" the studios of a Fargo radio station.

Somewhere along the line - around 2000, he said - he switched sides, much to the delight of Democrats he once vilified and the chagrin of Republicans he once supported.

"The Ed Schultz Show" promises "straight talk from the heartland" - meaning, not from those out-of-touch-with-the-common-man liberals in Los Angeles or New York.

Schultz was recruited for the afternoon program after more than a decade as host of a talk show on Fargo's KFGO.

About a dozen stations are carrying the national show, mostly in smaller markets like Hardin, Mont., Brownwood, Texas, and Lisbon, N.D., but also in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Jones Radio Network, the programming company that produces the show, said it is looking to get the program on 40 stations by year's end.

Schultz, 49, a former college quarterback and sports broadcaster, likes to be known as a fighter. He once bolted out of the broadcast booth while doing play-by-play for a college football game to chase down a fan who threw a whiskey bottle at him. He once threatened to "bop" a "bozo" who was harassing him during a broadcast of a college hockey game.

Some listeners have accused him of opportunism, saying he made the right-to-left switch for the chance to make more money.

"You can't believe anything Schultz says because you don't know what his core beliefs are," said Larry Astrup of Fargo, a former listener who describes himself as "so conservative I'm mad at Bush."

Schultz, a native of Norfolk, Va., said his transformation from Republican to Democrat was genuine, and started when his wife-to-be, Wendy, asked him to meet her for lunch at a Salvation Army cafeteria - an experience that made him feel guilty about poking fun at homeless people.

He said it was not until he took the show on the road to rural North Dakota in a 38-foot motor home that he realized his views had become more aligned with those of the Democrats.

"I saw that we were gutting the infrastructure of the country," he said. "People in rural America are suffering and I'm really concerned for the country."

He considers himself in line with the Democratic Party on such issues as farm policy, education, veterans and the homeless. Among the first guests on his national program were Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

"They are probably the two most vilified people on conservative talk radio in America," Schultz said. "This program, from time to time, is going to give those folks an opportunity to fight back."

State Democrats had once considered Schultz a possible candidate to run against Republican Gov. John Hoeven, a man Schultz often derides as an "empty suit." But the national radio opportunity came up, and Schultz said he figured "I can fry more fish and help more people have more of an impact if this goes."

Michael Harrison, editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine, said Schultz's show can work because he is entertaining, not because of any lack of liberal politics on the air.

"There are other liberals on the radio, but you need a host who's funny, engaging, talented and charismatic," Harrison said. "Ed Schultz is known around the country, even though he's basically in a small market, one that's off the beaten path. That says a lot for the guy."

David Campbell of Elizabeth City, N.C., a trucker who listens to Schultz on XM satellite radio, said he likes the contrast between Schultz and another one of Campbell's favorite talk show hosts, Michael Savage.

"I'm more of an independent, really," Campbell said. "The difference between Ed and Michael Savage is like Mars and Earth. You listen to Michael and you're afraid he's going to have an aneurysm, and Ed is more low-key."

Schultz said many conservative talk show hosts have "this big political engine" buying advertising to get them onto stations, making it difficult for him to break into bigger markets.

"I know I'm climbing a pretty tall mountain," he said. "I also know the conservative hard-right attack is coming. I know they're going to go after me any way they possibly can. My feet are on the ground. I'm ready for it."

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"I'm so mean, there's blood on my sheets of paper," Schultz told his listeners, kicking off a project last month that some Democrats and other supporters have billed as a liberal alternative to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Schultz might be considered a liberal in...
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Monday, 23 February 2004 12:00 AM
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