Effectiveness of Black Talk Radio Questioned
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Coming up: We are in Las Vegas. It has long been a destination for people seeking a new way of life. Now, it's joined a new crowd: immigrants. We'll take a look at how the immigration debate is playing here. That's later in the program.
But first, if you had an opportunity to see the movie, "Talk to Me," you saw Don Cheadle portray the outrageous talk show host, Ralph "Petey" Greene. Greene spent years at WOL AM, a station that's become a prominent Black Talk Radio outlet in Washington, D.C. It's part of the black-owned media company Radio One.
Black Talk Radio continues the tradition of highlighting issues of particular interest to the African-American community. But is black talk radio too focused on convenient conspiracy theories and not enough on hard news?
Casey Lartigue posed that question on his June 23rd radio program at Radio One's XM Channel 169, The Power.
(Soundbite of radio show, "The Casey Lartigue Show")
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. CASEY LARTIGUE, JR. (Host, "The Casey Lartigue Show"): Greetings. You are tuned to "The Casey Lartigue Show." I am Casey Lartigue, and this is a show where it is okay to get caught thinking while black. If you have people questioning your race loyalty because you don't put on thoughts from others like a tailor-made suit, and if you are tired of the conspiracy theories and urban legends that are spread through the Internet, talk radio, the grape vine, your relatives and all that, then this is a place for you.
MARTIN: Lartigue was fired. He wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post Outlook section on Sunday. The former talk host argues in the Post piece that he was let go for challenging conspiracy theories and attacking his colleague, talk show host, Joe Madison. Welcome, Casey.
Mr. LARTIGUE: Hey. Thanks a lot for inviting me.
MARTIN: So why do you think you were fired?
Mr. LARTIGUE: Oh, you know, it's kind of a long story because - and I'll say that there were three different things that combined to make this happen. First of all, there is this curious document titled "Memorandum 46," and it's about how Jimmy Carter's former national security advisor allegedly had a strategy to undermine black leadership domestically, as well as to separate blacks from Africans.
The second thing is that, you know, I've had a relationship with Radio One, but it's always been kind of a fringe relationship because, you know, I'm somewhat outspoken.
MARTIN: Well, a lot of their hosts are outspoken, so it's not that you're outspoken. I mean, Joe Madison is outspoken.
Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah.
MARTIN: So you're either outspoken or that your conservative or you're more politically…
Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah. I'm not conservative, though. But I think the main thing is that a lot of the foundation for discussion on the station is conspiracy theories - conspiracies, urban legends, just paranoia in general, and that a lot of the hosts, as well as listeners, just seemed to be predisposed to believe just about any damn fool conspiracy that people come up with.
MARTIN: So why do you think you were fired?
Mr. LARTIGUE: I mean, I can tell you what happened. My co-host and I, we had a show on June 23rd, so my co-host is Eliot Morgan. We discussed these urban legends and conspiracy theories. So we talked about the first president being a black man. We talked about Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeye's and Church's Chicken all putting something in their chicken to make black men go sterile - hasn't worked, by the way, you know? But…
MARTIN: Not that I've observed.
Mr. LARTIGUE: Exactly. So that's what we did in the first our hour. The second hour, we highlighted one particular urban legend, conspiracy theory, whatever you want to call it - called "Memorandum 46." And this was after it had been mentioned by another host on the network. I got an angry call from the programming director telling me two things. The first thing is you cannot attack another host. All right. He's programming director. I said, fine. You know, I will abide by that.
The second thing is you're wrong. You don't know what you're talking about. You're over your head. That's where I said, no, that this is about the content of the radio show that I had and, by the way, you're wrong. You don't know what you're talking about. So he threatened to suspend the show. He told me he was two seconds away from pulling it off the air, and that I did not deserve to be on the air.
MARTIN: But my question then is does that - is that indicative of any unwillingness on the part…
Mr. LARTIGUE: But, you know what?
MARTIN: Hold on, Casey.
Mr. LARTIGUE: Okay.
MARTIN: Is that indicative of any larger unwillingness on the part of black radio to entertain alternate points of view? Because that seems to be the really important issue you're raising.
Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah. Well, you know what? I do believe the issue is about the fact that I mentioned another host on the network, the number, I guess he's supposed - I suppose he's the number one host there. That I did, as he say, undermine his credibility. And if that seems to be…
MARTIN: Or personally attack him.
Mr. LARTIGUE: No, I wasn't personally attacking Joe Madison.
MARTIN: What did you exactly say?
Mr. LARTIGUE: About who?
MARTIN: About Joe Madison.
Mr. LARTIGUE: About Joe Madison. Okay. I pointed out that he's one of the people who believes in "Memorandum 46." This personnel issue, I believe, is just a cover for the fact that I did reveal this stupid memorandum that they were hocking on the air.
MARTIN: But my question is talk radio thrives on controversies…
Mr. LARTIGUE: True.
MARTIN: …so why isn't that you are so convinced that your particular brand of controversy is unwelcome as opposed to your interpersonal skills, if I can call it that.
Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I don't think I have any kind of personality problems at all. Look, it's a conversation that got me…
MARTIN: Generally, people don't get to cuss out their boss and keep their jobs. I don't know.
Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah. Yeah.
MARTIN: Maybe I haven't worked in as many places as I could have, but it just generally doesn't work that way (unintelligible).
Mr. LARTIGUE: Yeah. Okay. Well, you know, if you think that's the main issue…
MARTIN: I don't think.
Mr. LARTIGUE: …that's fine. Yeah. But I'm telling you that they seemed to be more concerned about the memorandum.
Mr. LARTIGUE: That that seemed to be the main point. Now, this personnel thing, okay, fine. I mean, like I said, I'm not asking them to bring me back, and I wouldn't go back.
MARTIN: Okay, what about talk radio in general? Do you still think that you have a future in and interest in talk radio?
Mr. LARTIGUE: Well, you know, obviously, I, I mean, is this a job ad? I mean, I absolutely loved being on the air. I mean, see, the thing is for me - what I would do every week is take one topic, spend a little time researching it, and then go on the air and talk with the listeners about it and invite them to call in and give their opinion. And, you know, it's a lot of fun, and I definitely got the radio bug.
MARTIN: Okay. Casey Lartigue is a former host at Radio One's XM Channel 169. He's also an educational consultant. He joined me here in the studio. Casey, thanks so much for speaking with me today.
Mr. LARTIGUE: All right. Thank you.