Is the Media Ignoring the Air America Scandal?

Investor’s Business Daily is amazed that a scandal involving Air America is receiving “A Big Fat Yawn” from most of the press.

Rush Limbaugh’s prescription drug troubles were splashed all over the media. Yet a financial scandal rocking a leftist radio network rates no coverage. The mainstream media, fixated on bringing down Karl Rove, have so far deemed apparent funding irregularities at Air America unworthy of note. But that doesn’t make them any less of story.

Here’s the gist, according to The New York Sun — which is giving the scandal the coverage it deserves — and a few others, mostly bloggers and columnists, who are providing a public service: New York City’s Department of Investigation is looking into charges that $875,000 from a Bronx nonprofit group and an affiliate whose budgets are generously stuffed with local, state and federal grants was inappropriately used to fund Air America, the left’s counterattack on the colossal success of conservative talk radio.

The two groups — the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club and Pathways for Youth — said they thought they were making a loan to the network. But when Evan Montvel Cohen was working as both chairman of Air America and director of development for Gloria Wise, some red flags should have been raised. Jeannette Graves, president of Gloria Wise’s executive committee, has said that without her authorization or knowledge, Cohen siphoned $613,000 from the organization to himself and Air America. Cohen also allegedly used money from the groups for personal medical care.

While this mess is being sorted out, the city has suspended its ties with Gloria Wise and Pathways. That means money intended for poor minority children and Alzheimer’s victims was instead used to make sure the financially tanking and ratings-troubled Air America could keep blathering.

Public funds used to prop up a business! Just the kind of scandal that left-leaning media would die for. Yet for some reason they’re giving this one a pass. Is it because there are no mean ol’ conservatives to blame?

Michelle Malkin does the math:

Number of NY Times articles mentioning Air America since March 2004: 59

Number of NY Times articles mentioning the Air Enron scandal: 0
(Via Nexis)

An amusing juxtaposition, although somewhat unfair since the scandal has only emerged recently. Presumably, there have been rather few Air America stories during the overlapping period.

Is this a conspiracy of silence among the liberal media elite? Perhaps. More likely, the relative lack of attention is because virtually no one has heard of Air America. While Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo are reasonably famous in their own right, neither is on par with Limbaugh. Scandals involving the famous and powerful are simply more newsworthy than those involving lesser players. It’s the same reason that Howard Stern’s move to satellite radio got more attention than the hiring of presumably dozens of other hosts for other shows on Sirius.

Indeed, Hugh Hewitt hints at this in his Weekly Standard piece on the subject.

WHAT DID AL FRANKEN KNOW, and when did he know it?

When Air America launched last year, it was the beneficiary of more free publicity than any radio show or network launch had ever received. So desperate was the mainstream media to find some left-leaning response to the Limbaugh-led revolution in talk radio that the many and obvious flaws in the network’s offerings went largely unreported. Those of us who have been around radio studios for a few years know, though, that launch hype and selective reading of Arbitron results can never mask the key question: Is a show profitable? Do the ads sell? Do sponsors arrive and stay, year after year? Does the affiliate list grow and grow?

The answers to those questions are yes, yes, yes, and yes for Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and, yes, me. About Air America it is very hard to say because, well, the numbers are hard to come by.

Still, as all the pieces note, the story is getting plenty of coverage in the Blogosphere:

The full details are available from bloggers Radio Equalizer, Michelle Malkin, and Ed Morrissey, and New York Sun reporter David Lombino is digging as well. Short version: Not-for-profits that exist to serve kids and Alzheimer’s’ patients, overwhelmingly via the funds obtained from government grants, should not be “investing” in incredibly risky start-up radio networks. But the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club–apparently now defunct–did just that last spring, funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into Air America’s coffers.

Given all this scrutiny, details will emerge. The level of outrage generated will, presumably, be proportional to the level of interest in Air America itself, though.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Cricket says:

    Of course, we would NEVER accuse the media of bias
    in their coverage, right? I mean after all, their
    start up was all over the media. Now that it is defunct after it was touted as being the One True
    Radio station to answer all conservatives we dare
    ask why and find out creative bookkeeping was involved? Why did it fold? Could it be because no one, not even liberals, wanted to hear what Franken
    had to say? I mean, had it been successful and the
    loans repaid, no biggie, right?

  2. billy says:

    “Now that it is defunct ”

    what are you talking about? i listen to aar every day, and to boot i get to hear people like you called traitors on a regular basis. a perfectly good use of YOUR tax money. aar is going nowhere except into more households throughout the country.

  3. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘Is this a conspiracy of silence among the liberal media elite? Perhaps. More likely, it’s because virtually no one has heard of Air America.’

    How does that explain the 59 prior references in the NYT. They heard of it then but haven’t heard of it now?

  4. wavemaker says:

    ICall, you dope — read his statement — Malkin said that the NYT hasn’t mentioned the SCANDAL once.

  5. billy says:

    i heard of aar before i didnt hear of it. sounds like aflip flop to me. these right wingers seem more interested in aar then me. thats probably why their ratings are SKYROCKETING in less than a year. tell that to Rush “My ratings are down 35%” Limpballs.

  6. NJ voter says:

    I also think that the MSM is ignoring the scandal about “how cool my new CD is”. Somebody has to answer to that one too.

  7. billy says:

    they also missed the one where Air America’s janitor picked a booger out of his nose and discarded it on the sidewalk. Why havent the police investigated AAR for littering? Why hasnt this been reported? This is a major scandal Why is the liberal media not hounding AAR? Ill have to send an e-mail to Michelle Malkin to find out, maybe she can write another blog about it.

  8. Jesus was a Liberal says:

    The Republicans will go to any lengths to discredit AAR, even if it means they have to feign a newfound interest in the plight of poor children.

  9. chester says:

    I hope the MSM never does pick up this story about Air America. Personally, I’d rather hear the MSM go after Rove, Limbaugh, and O’Reilly.
    There’s no media bias in this country, and I’ve got some documents that I’ll fax over to you from Kinko’s if you don’t believe me.

  10. ICallMasICM says:

    Wave – thanks for the name calling –

    Explain again – 59 references by the NYT

    0 involving the scandal

    OTB statement –

    ‘More likely, the relative lack of attention is because virtually no one has heard of Air America. ‘

    If ‘virtually no one has heard of Air America.’ it wouldn’t be worthy of 59 prior references. If they had referred to it 59 times then probably somebody had felt it was worthy of mention. It doesn’t jive with 0 mentions of it involving the scandal.

  11. wavemaker says:

    Oh yes, it’s all very clear to me now, ICall — because the NTY has mentioned AAR 59 times since 3/94, then of course EVERYONE must have heard of it.

    Want to trumpet the arbitron ratings of the AAR programming, do you?

  12. fred says:

    If ‘virtually no one has heard of Air America.’ it wouldn’t be worthy of 59 prior references.
    dude, the point is even after all those favorable mentions, NOBODY listens. sorta like america coming together; lots of money, lots of fanfare – no results, no audience. typical liberal results i should say. oh man, when we pull out of iraq, can we pull out of the war on poverty too? its been going on 40 years and we arent winning.

  13. happy guy says:

    It will be interesting to watch how interviewers question Al Franken about the recent AA scandal while he’s out promoting his new book this fall. There’s a relatively new blog,, who monitors Al Franken and AA. He has a new book due out the same time as Franken’s titled, Pants on Fire: How Al Franken Lies, Smears, and Deceives.

  14. Lawton Smalls says:

    Those guys have to remember that they should come clean, God loves them … deal with it.

  15. ann says:

    Rush Limbaugh had a bit more than “prescription drug troubles.” He was buying drugs without a prescription in HUGE quantities. And he had his housekeeper buy prescription drugs for him from an illegal source. Stop trying to make it sound so sweet. Rush is a drug addict and a hypocrite.

  16. James Joyner says:

    Ann, The description was IBD’s, not mine. There’s little doubt Limbaugh was skirting the law, if not breaking it. Getting addicted to prescription painkillers after an injury and taking desperate measures to feed that addiction, though, is something rather different than, say, taking mass quantities of heroine to get high.

  17. capt joe says:

    One thing that seems to have clarified things in my view is that the left is just as hypocritical as the right.

    Limbaugh’s issues notwithstanding (I sure don’t listen to him), AAR broke the law.

    I think this whole event put paid to the theory of liberal bias in the media. If you say no then you are just lying to yourself.

  18. DL says:

    It is hilarious (a word that means we shouldn’t take Hillary’s moderation attempts seriously) to watch the left attempt to deflect criticism, when caught with their hand in the cookie jar, by presenting the issue as one of moral equivalence. In this case it may very well be immoral equivalence. How does one intelligently excuse an evil by pointing to someone else’s evil?

  19. Seth Yantiss says:

    Yet, the MSM has done this before with incredible effectiveness. Look up Sandy Berger…

    If ever there was a story that got burried…

  20. RA says:

    People who love their country, believe in a strong national defense, believe in a proactive war on terror are “traitors”!? Yet those who hate America, believe in no national defense and are reactionary winers about everything to do with Iraq are “patriots”!?

    This is what listening to AAR does to your thought process. Why don’t you lefties just join the Jihad. America is to good for you.