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Huckabee Show Opens With Staged Caller

What did Huckabee know about planted call from Cumulus VP that attacked Rush Limbaugh?

By 4.10.12

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Wow.

As we often say here: you just can't make it up.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee took his first phone call of his new talk radio call-in show yesterday. From "Mike in San Francisco." Remember: the show is being positioned by the Cumulus Media Network as the conservative show with "more conversation, less confrontation." Or, as it is certainly being pushed in the anti-Rush Limbaugh media, the show for moderate Republicans that will Take Rush Out. RINO Radio, as we noted here last week.

But there seemed to be something slightly out of whack.

That something?

The very first phone call, arriving some fifty minutes into the show. To anyone with an ear for talk radio it had a startling quality.

Why?

No one seemed to remember to give the call-in number to the audience until the very last few seconds of those first fifty minutes. But yet… presto!... within seconds, Mike Huckabee did in fact have a caller on the line! Without ever questioning how that caller could have gotten on that line in less time than it takes Obama to blame Bush for anything!

The caller…"Mike from San Francisco"… was in fact not just your average Mike.

Huckabee began this way:

"Alright, we're going to go to the phone lines and we've got a call from Mike in San Francisco. Welcome to the Mike Huckabee Show, Mike."

What did "Mike" have on his mind? He started this way:

"Well Governor, let me start by saying it's great to have a different opinion and a different person on the radio and I'm very, very happy that you're doing this radio show. One of the reasons why I want to listen to your program every day is because you ran for office and you've been a politician, you have a different perspective I think."

Catch that? "Mike from San Francisco" begins by saying in supposedly unprompted fashion that (bold emphasis mine) "… it's great to have a different opinion and a different person on the radio…"

Different opinion? Different person? Different from whom? Why, Rush Limbaugh, of course.

Interesting.

In fact, "Mike from San Francisco" turned out after some digging to be one Mike McVay, the senior vice president of programming for… wait for it… the Cumulus Media Network. None of which was acknowledged on the air by either "Mike from San Francisco" or, more to the point, Mike Huckabee.

After receiving several tips on this I contacted Mr. McVay himself, asking the following:

Hi Mike....

This is Jeff Lord from The American Spectator.

I have been told that in the debut of Governor Huckabee's show today the first caller was "Mike from San Francisco." The caller thanked Huckabee for his new format etc.

I have information that you were that caller...and failed to identify yourself to the audience as a Cumulus executive, nor did Governor Huckabee identify you.

In other words, Mike, you were a "plant"....not a real caller who really wanted to call in and talk to Governor Huckabee.

A few questions for my column tomorrow:

1. Was this in fact you as I have been told? My source has made a 100% positive ID.

2. If so, why did you not openly identify yourself as a Cumulus executive who has a stake in the success of the Huckabee show?

3. I will be listening to the show tonight, but have already learned the fact that the call-in phone number wasn't given out until seconds before the call-in. Question: isn't it disingenuous to think that the listeners would believe that this was a real call?

4. Did Governor Huckabee know this was you -- and was he a participant in this?

5. Whose idea was this to have you call in? Yours? The Governor's? Someone else from Cumulus? John or Lou Dickey?

6. Governor Huckabee has a good reputation for honesty. Doesn't this kind of thing put both the Governor's reputation and consequently the new show's reputation at risk?

7. I understand the odds Cumulus is facing in launching this show, the involvement of investor cash and all the rest. Even so, was this a really good idea to do this? Will there be more calls of this nature from Cumulus executives disguised as regular folks interested in the Huckabee show -- when in fact they decidedly are something else?

Mike, I'm sure these are not comfortable questions, and I understand the pressure involved in going up against Rush Limbaugh. But under the circumstances, our conservative readers at The American Spectator and surely the larger Internet reading audience will want to know your side of the story.

Thanks. My deadline is 10 pm tonight... Monday... April 9th.

Jeff Lord
The American Spectator

Mr. McVay did not reply.

So we re-directed our request, same letter, to Mr. McVay's -- and Governor Huckabee's -- bosses. That would be brothers Lew and John Dickey, the executives who run Cumulus Media.

I said:

Hi Lew and John....

This is Jeff Lord with The American Spectator.

I'm about to listen to a tape-delayed broadcast of the Huckabee Show. I have learned that the first question on the show I will hear, identified as "Mike from San Francisco," is in fact a Cumulus executive named Mike McVay. Meaning, this questioner was in fact a plant… and never identified on-air as such… a pre-planned question from a Cumulus executive. I have contacted Mr. McVay to confirm this and so far he has not answered.

My column on this will be published tomorrow, and at this late stage, having not heard from Mr. McVay I feel in fairness I should send my e-mail on to both of you.

I have pasted the e-mail below.

Any light you can shed on this would be appreciated.

Thanks for your time, e-mail pasted below.

Jeff Lord
The American Spectator

Last night, John Dickey replied, confirming the story. This is what he said:

Jeff:

Thanks for listening to the show. To your question a colleague in the companywas excited about the new show and arranged to call in with the first questionwithout Governor Huckabee's knowledge. When I learned of this I began theprocess of reminding my colleagues in the company that we should reserveair-time for our listeners and refrain from calling in to our own shows.

John

Mr. Dickey was brief and to the point, and I certainly thank him for responding and being open about what had happened.

But note what was not answered? These questions:

4. Did Governor Huckabee know this was you -- and was he a participant in this?

5. Whose idea was this to have you call in? Yours? The Governor's? Someone else from Cumulus? John or Lou Dickey?

6. Governor Huckabee has a good reputation for honesty. Doesn't this kind of thing put both the Governor's reputation and consequently the new show's reputation at risk?

In other words, the obvious.

Mr. Dickey says Mike Huckabee did not know the call was incoming from McVay. But this leaves unanswered what seems to be obvious. Once McVay was on the phone, it seems extremely unlikely Mike Huckabee didn't recognize Mike McVay's voice.

The thought is now out there that Mike Huckabee himself knew exactly who was on the other end of his phone line -- a Cumulus programming executive with whom, presumably, he had spent a small eternity in the weeks leading up to the show's launch -- and quite deliberately played possum. Going along with a game to fool his listeners into thinking he was getting a real call when in fact he was not.

Was Mike Huckabee a participant in this charade?

Whose idea was it if not Mike Huckabee's? 

None of this would be good for any new radio host. But Mike Huckabee isn't just any new radio host in a new but average radio venture.

As was observed in my column last week, John and Lew Dickey may well have considerable business chops. But the conservative talk radio business that was essentially invented by Rush Limbaugh has for reasons familiar to conservatives across the land become very much a cherished conservative medium.

After decades of being shut out by a liberal mainstream media, conservatives finally had a way to break the stranglehold of that mainstream media. As the years have gone by, with Rush always at the top of the pyramid, other stars have blossomed. From Sean Hannity to Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, and local hosts everywhere, these people have become, Rush Limbaugh first and foremost, not just a voice on the radio but the very embodiment of conservatism itself.

And there has been no shortage of liberals trying to unhorse Rush, from Air America's Al Franken to ex-New York Governor Mario Cuomo, Texas populist Jim Hightower and more. All have failed miserably.

Why?

Challenging Rush is seen by many conservatives as an attack on conservatism itself.

This is a real problem for the Dickeys and Huckabee. And this botched business with a phony questioner could instantly cause a very predictable problem.

Mike Huckabee, again as noted last week, is one of the nicest people on the planet today. But in their heydays so were the late Gerald R. Ford and then President George H.W. Bush. Both took the kind of "kinder, gentler" conservative politics (to use a phrase of Bush's) as their signature -- and both wound up losing the White House. With conservatives across the country simply dropping both Ford and Bush -- and "RINO" Republicans altogether.

Why? Because all were seen as trying to game conservatives. Case in point again, President Bush 41. A genuine war hero, a good man… the story of his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge is infamous in conservative circles still even though it happened way back in 1990. Bush came to embody the idea that "RINO's" were simply untrustworthy when it came to dealing with conservatives.

For better or worse, the bet by the Dickeys is that Mike Huckabee, accused in 2007 by the conservative now-Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Pat Toomey of wanting to steer the GOP leftward, can unseat Rush. And by implication, replace, as it were, Reagan Radio with Ford or Bush Radio.

All of which means in turn: the messenger has to have more credibility than might otherwise be the case.

And right off the bat, Governor Huckabee's credibility as a conservative radio host has been jeopardized with a planted question from a Cumulus executive. A question that deliberately took a shot at Rush and the conservative movement… and by all appearances was pre-arranged. 

There is doubtless a ways to go here in all this.

But the entire venture has taken onto itself the image that it is about far more than just a talk radio show.

It is about replacing Reagan conservatism -- represented here by Rush Limbaugh -- with RINO Radio.

Did Mike Huckabee know he was getting a planted question -- and deliberately refuse to tell his audience? Mr. Dickey says no.

Did he really not recognize the voice on the other end of the phone? Remembering that the voice in question belonged to Mr. McVay, whose title for Cumulus is "senior vice president for programming" -- which is to say the man with whom Huckabee had personally working with for weeks before this launch.

I don't know the answer to this last question. But I must say it simply doesn't seem possible that this particular Cumulus executive -- the programming Mr. McVay -- would have been anything other than one of the most familiar voices in Mike Huckabee's current life.

But I do know for a fact that a staged, planted phone call was used to launch the Huckabee bid to topple Rush.

Read my lips: RINO Radio has a problem.

On day one.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.