The Firing of Amber Athey: Cancel Culture Hits WMAL - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Firing of Amber Athey: Cancel Culture Hits WMAL

Not all that long ago, the founder of The American Spectator, the inimitable R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. — “Bob” as he is universally known and loved — wrote a book titled After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery

There, Bob noted that conservatives were “drifting apart” and “not taking an interest in each other’s ideas” and that, alas, “it was now … every man for himself.” In other words, his point was that conservatives need to stick up for their fellow conservative warriors. The book was published in 2010, well before the arrival of the far-left woke doctrine of cancel culture. The latter now routinely targets conservatives and tries to bully sponsors of TV and radio show conservative hosts when not trying to remove Fox, Newsmax, or One America News off cable carriers. And then there’s its constant effort to silence conservative speakers at this or that college campus.

Bob’s wisdom comes to mind now that cancel culture reigns and the news arrives that Cumulus, the owners of the conservative WMAL radio in Washington — home of the great Larry O’Connor, the host of WMAL’s O’Connor & Company — has turned on a far left-wing woke dime and fired the conservative commentator Amber Athey for a tweet.

The tweet played off of a UPS advertising campaign that said, “What has brown done for you?” Referring to a photo of Vice President Kamala Harris wearing a brown suit at President Biden’s State of the Union Address, Athey said,

Oh, the horror!

The New York Post reports that Athey was fired because she later had the nerve to criticize protests in favor of “‘trans kids at the University of North Texas.”

Suddenly the Athey Kamala tweet was now being framed as racist, with “dozens of Twitter accounts” boasting of contacting Cumulus to say the Kamala tweet was a racist and a bigot.


Yet nonetheless, eight days after the tweet Athey “was contacted ‘out of the blue’ ” by “Jeff Boden, the vice president of station owner Cumulus Washington, and human resources VP Kriston Fancellas,” was told her tweet was racist, and she was out.

I have to say, as a White House staffer for President Reagan in the 1980s — long before, apparently, either the complaining lefty students or perhaps even the Cumulus executives who fired Amber were born — I heard various libs of the day mock Reagan for exactly the same thing. Which is to say, the president — he the one-time actor from California and a distinct Washington outsider — had the audacity not to stick to the Washington dress code of navy suits for men. Reagan wore, yes indeed, a brown suit.

In 1975, one John Molloy published a bestseller titled Dress for Success. Ten years later, when Reagan was president, Molloy was featured in this UPI wire article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune. The headline about his breaking news of the day was this:


Molloy is quoted as saying this:

Ronald Reagan has changed the direction of fashion. Ten years ago when I conducted the initial research for my book “Dress for Success,” I found that anyone who wore a brown suit in the Northeast was considered a hick and a hayseed. 

Today, the same brown suit, providing it’s conservatively cut and adequately tailored, has gained a niche–it’s appropriate for any business meeting, and sometimes it can be more effective than its blue or gray counterpart.

And that’s primarily because Ronald Reagan wears brown suits on important occasions.

On January 18, 1981, two days before Reagan was to be sworn in as the 40th president, an article on his fashion sense ran in the New York Times and quoted presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize–winning author (for his Making of the President series) Theodore H. White as saying this:

‘“Two weeks before the election,’’ says Mr. White, ‘’Ronald Reagan showed up in a new suit, a brown suit with a tint of red to it, and you wish you had the guts to wear it yourself.”

And why would a man need “guts” to wear a brown suit? Because, as John Molloy noted, “anyone who wore a brown suit in the Northeast was considered a hick and a hayseed.”

All of which is to say, Ms. Athey is well in the mainstream of people who arch an eyebrow at anybody — man or woman, president or vice president — who wears a brown suit. Perhaps Cumulus executives should brush up on their cultural history?

The serious issue here is, again, exactly what Bob Tyrrell was pointing out a full 22 years ago. With conservatives under furious assault, this is no time for them to shut one’s eyes to these kind of attacks on a fellow conservative warrior and be all about oneself. And along those lines, three cheers for Fox’s Tucker Carlson and Newsmax’s Greg Kelly for giving Athey serious airtime to tell her story.

Let’s be candid here. The attack on Amber Athey for an innocuous tweet about Harris’s brown suit was far-left-wing cancel culture on steroids. With the leaders of a supposed conservative station joining the left-wing mob and the hysteria of its woke politics.

Not to mention that Athey’s attackers were themselves, doubtless unaware, showcasing their own racism by looking down on America’s first black female vice president with what former President George W. Bush once called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” In this case, the Twitter lefties clearly believe Vice President Harris doesn’t have either the ability or the brains to defend herself from an utterly innocuous tweet if she so chooses. Now that is truly insulting.

Let’s cut to the chase.

What was done to Amber Athey by Cumulus was not only wrong but insultingly wrong. It damaged the reputation of Cumulus and WMAL, a great station that I have listened to repeatedly over the years and appeared on occasionally.

WMAL owes an apology to Athey, a young, hard-working woman of great promise. And for that matter they should apologize to all the other hosts and commentators on their station.

It’s bad enough that all these left-wing zealots are poisoning the great political debates of the day. But it’s worse that a conservative station would contribute to the ideological bonfires.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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