Following controversy, Joe Walsh expands radio platform

Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh

Days after he was widely criticized for a series of incendiary tweets attacking President Obama and Black Lives Matter, former Chicago area congressman Joe Walsh has carved out a wider berth for his radio rantings.

Walsh announced Monday the expansion of his self-syndicated radio program to Houston, Indianapolis and Birmingham, Alabama, bringing to seven the number of affiliates for his two-hour weekday talk show. It already has been airing on stations in New York, Phoenix, Denver and Dallas.

“We’re so excited to add these new radio stations to our network of affiliates,” Walsh said in a statement. “As the election approaches and the country continues to wrestle with big issues, the time has never been better to expand this platform in order to have these important conversations.”

The syndicated show, for which Walsh buys airtime on the seven stations, is separate from the local show he hosts from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays on Salem Media news/talk WIND AM 560. Salem pays Walsh to host the show, which has been airing on the station since 2013.

Walsh, 54, a Republican maverick and tea party firebrand who served one term in Congress from the northwest suburbs before he was defeated by Democrat Tammy Duckworth in November 2012, appears to thrive on public outrage:

  • Last Thursday, in response to the Dallas shooting that killed five police officers, Walsh tweeted: “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.” He followed that with a series of tweets that seemed to blame Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement for the officers’ deaths.
  • In January 2015, after several networks chose not to run an image of the prophet Muhammad from the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, Walsh tweeted: “Let’s hope that when the Islamists next strike they first behead the appeasing cowards at CNN, MSNBC, et al who refused to show the cartoons.”
  • In June 2014, Walsh uttered a series of racial slurs on the air, including the n-word, supposedly to make a point about acceptable language in light of the disputer over the Washington Redskins’ name. His bosses pulled him off the air in the middle of his show.

In each case, Walsh attracted national attention for his antics. And in each case, he claimed his statements were misconstrued or taken out of context by the media and liberal critics.

Although Twitter deleted the tweet that started the trouble Thursday, Walsh expressed no regrets: “Of course I didn’t mean, ‘Let’s go kill Obama and Black Lives Matter,’ ” he later told the Chicago Tribune. “I was not trying to incite violence against Obama and Black Lives Matter. That’s crazy and stupid and wrong. . . . It would end my career and it’s wrong. I would never say anything as reprehensible as that.”

For their part, Salem Media bosses are maintaining radio silence on the matter. On Monday Jeff Reisman, general manager of WIND, declined to comment (except to confirm that Walsh was still on the air). Other sources said “significant conversations” were held with Walsh, but no action was taken.

The company’s stonewalling may reflect its leaders’ ambivalence toward the firebrand host. On one hand, they’ve done nothing to suggest a lack of support for him publicly. As long as Walsh generates revenue and draws big crowds to station events, they seem willing to tolerate his calculated outbursts and publicity stunts up to a point.

On the other hand, there may be a limit to their patience. After last year’s incident in which Walsh advocated beheading “appeasing cowards at CNN, MSNBC,” WIND cut his show from three hours to two, and Salem dropped him from its New York station altogether. It was a clear signal that his star no longer was ascending at the company, and it is believed to have prompted his move to self-syndication in other markets.

In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WIND tied for 25th place in afternoons with a 1.7 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 169,600. Although far down in the pack, it still edged out two other news/talk stations — Cumulus Media’s WLS AM 890 and Newsweb Radio’s WCPT AM 820 — which both tied for 27th in afternoons with a 1.5 share.