Fixture In Talk Radio Handing Reins To Herman Cain

Neal Boortz is a fixture on radio and has hosted a talk show for more than 40 years. Now, the quasi-conservative host has announced he's stepping down and former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain will take over for him. Cain will start on inauguration day next year.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Conservative talk radio host Neal Boortz announced this morning that he is retiring after more than 40 years on the air.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Flying high for decades, Boortz is reaching for the rip cord. But until he's on final approach, the oratorical aerobatics continue. It's the Boortz Happy Ending.

SIEGEL: Boortz has been broadcasting since Richard Nixon was president. And he says he's giving up his nationally syndicated program on WSB Radio in Atlanta because it's too restrictive.

NPR's Kathy Lohr has the story.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: Neal Boortz, who calls himself The Talkmaster, says he got off the bus in Atlanta in 1967 and did whatever he could to make a living while he was trying to get a job on the radio. He was a jewelry buyer, an insurance salesman; he loaded trucks and wrote speeches for former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox.

NEAL BOORTZ: All this time, I'm just trying to get into radio - anything. I'll be a reporter. I'll be a cameraman for a TV station. Everybody told me, you don't have any experience. I mean, you don't know what you are doing. Get out of here.

LOHR: Then a local radio host committed suicide in 1969 and Boortz says he camped out at the station early the next morning to talk to the general manager.

BOORTZ: Well, OK, you can do it for a couple of weeks until we get a replacement in here for that show. So, they put me on that afternoon - 90 minutes. And two weeks later, they moved me to the morning show, and then that was it.

LOHR: Four decades later, Boortz says he's ready to call it quits.

BOORTZ: It's just been a total and absolute joy. Now, I'm going to miss everything associated with doing a talk radio show.

LOHR: About six million listeners a week tune into the Neal Boortz Show. He's a conservative yet independent voice. Boortz is a libertarian, and during the most recent Republican campaign for president has urged his listeners not to focus on social issues, including abortion and gay marriage. He is not a shock jock, but he attacks controversial issues head on. On a program last year, Boortz spoke with Herman Cain about disparaging comments being made about the former GOP presidential candidate.

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BOORTZ: They called you a monkey, Herman. You're the monkey in the window.

HERMAN CAIN: Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, I'm free at last.

BOORTZ: OK. Now, let me ask you something.

CAIN: Yes.

BOORTZ: Are you a runaway slave?

CAIN: If you consider leaving the Democrat plantation, yes.

MICHAEL HARRISON: He is a force that has influence within politics and public policy, but he's also entertaining and funny.

LOHR: Michael Harrison is publisher of Talkers Magazine.

HARRISON: Although he may agree with Limbaugh and Hannity and some of the other big names in conservative talk radio, he is in no way a follower. He has always gone his own direction. He's very independent and quite unique.

LOHR: Perhaps not a complete surprise. Herman Cain, who has had a nightly talk show on the same radio station, will take over Boortz's morning slot on January 21st. That's inauguration day. Here's how Boortz put it.

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BOORTZ: If it's Barack Obama, then I'm going to disappear into the mountains somewhere and come out after he has completely destroyed this country. If it is Mitt Romney, then we're all going to leave the air - well, we're going to start drinking, we'll start drinking as the show begins. And...

LOHR: He's calling his announcement the Boortz happy ending. Today, comedian Jeff Foxworthy was among those who called in to lament the end of an era.

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JEFF FOXWORTHY: Man, are we going to miss you. It's just not going to be the same on the radio.

BOORTZ: Well, you're so kind and so kind to call.

LOHR: Boortz says after he retires, he plans to spend eight months on what he calls the Boortz bus traveling with his wife.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

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SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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