The First Amendment and I have been evicted from ABC Radio in Washington, DC.
On July 25th, the Council on American-Islamic Relations demanded that I be “punished” for my on-air statements regarding Islam and its tragic connections to terrorism. Three days later, 630 WMAL and ABC Radio suspended me without pay for comments deemed “hate radio” by CAIR.
CAIR immediately announced that my punishment was insufficient and demanded I be fired. ABC Radio and 630 WMAL have now complied. I have been fired for making the specific comments CAIR deemed “offensive,” and for refusing to retract those statements in a management-mandated, on-air apology. ABC Radio further demanded that I agree to perform what they described as “additional outreach efforts” to those people or groups who felt offended.
I refused. And for that refusal, I have been fired.
It appears that ABC Radio has caved to an organization that condemns talk radio hosts like me, but has never condemned Hamas, Hezbollah, and one that wouldn’t specifically condemn al-Qaeda for three months after 9/11.
As a fan of talk radio, I find it absolutely outrageous that pressure from a special interest group like CAIR can result in the abandonment of free speech and open discourse on a talk radio show. As a conservative talk host whose job is to have an open, honest conversation each day with my listeners, I believe caving to this pressure is a disaster.
I for one cannnot apologize for the truth and I cannot agree to some community service-style “outreach effort” to appease the opponents of free speech.
If I had made a racist or bigoted comment—which my regular listeners know goes against everything I believe in—I would apologize immediately, and without coercion. When I have made inadvertent fact errors in the past, I apologized promptly and without hesitation.
But we have now gone far beyond that, with demands that I apologize for the ideas my listeners and I believe in. It is not a coincidence that, after my suspension on July 28th, WMAL received more than 15,000 phone calls and e-mails protesting my removal from the airwaves.
Why such a huge response? It wasn't about me; the listeners I spoke to said they felt betrayed by my suspension because the vast majority of them agree with me on the subject of Islam. By labeling my statements as unacceptable, these listeners felt that WMAL management was insulting them, too.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but I care about the listeners of 630 WMAL. I respect them and I appreciate the amazing support they have given me.
I could not dishonor their principled support for free speech by giving into these demands. I cannot join ABC Radio in bowing to CAIR’s wishes. And I will not apologize for my opinions or retract the truth.
The whole point of the Michael Graham Show is what my listeners and I call the “natural truth,” those obvious facts about modern life that the P.C. police and mainstream media believe should never be discussed. That includes the tragic, but undeniable relationship between terrorism and Islam as it is constituted today.
The conversations my listeners and I had on this subject were not offensive or bigoted in the least. In fact, Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR (who has appeared on my show several times) credited “criticism from talk radio” in part for the recent fatwa against terrorism issued by a group of US Muslim scholars. Ironically, it was issued the day before I was suspended.
That’s the real tragedy here. The people who most need free speech and open dialogue on the issues facing Islam today are America's moderate Muslims. These are people of good will who have the difficult job ahead of reforming and rescuing their religion. They need all the help they can get.
The decision to give CAIR what it wants—a group with well-publicized ties to terrorists and terror-related organizations—will make it harder for the reformers to successfully face Islam's challenges. Still worse, silencing people like me will make it easier for Islamist extremists to dismiss all sincere calls for reform as mere "bigotry."
When CAIR is able to quell dissent and label every critic a "bigot," the chilling effect is felt far beyond ABC Radio and 630 WMAL. If anyone is owed an apology, it is the moderate, Muslim community who have been failed once again by the mainstream media.
A very special note to everyone who emailed and called on my behalf:
Again and again through this ordeal, as people pressured me to just give in, say what CAIR wanted to hear and get my job back, I thought of you. I cannot express how much your support meant to me. I don't know that I'm doing the right thing by fighting this fight. I only know that I believe it's the right thing, and I believe it with all my heart.
Your support, your words of encouragement, your anger that the forces of P.C. fear have this much power—these all helped me do what I needed to do. Thank you.
In the coming days, I hope I'll have some good news for you about how we can continue our conversation. So please stay tuned, please stop by here each day and check it.
Trust me, this isn't the last you've heard from me.
Michael, are you sure you've been fired?
I've had several people tell me that ABC Radio says I'm not really fired, that I have "chosen" not to go back to work. I don't know what to say to that except that I received a hand-delivered letter very late Friday announcing that I was "terminated immediately." If there is some other definition of that other than "you're fired," I am not familiar with it.