It’s risky to bash Donald Trump on talk radio



Ross Kaminsky has been running the morning rush hour show on TalkRadio 630 KHOW in Denver for all of two months, but he’s already in hot water with many of his 50,000 listeners: They like Donald Trump, and Kaminsky doesn’t.

I drove to Kaminsky’s house on 16 hectares of forested mountain side in Nederland, a town in Boulder County, Colorado, where Kaminsky is one of very few conservatives, because I’m hooked on U.S. talk radio. Driving around primary states on a reporting assignment is a lonely business. So Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and their local colleagues are my in-car companions, their wit and eloquence making long drives more tolerable. I don’t get to argue, so in just six weeks they’ve taught me how to think like a U.S. conservative, though I disagree with myself when I do.

U.S. talk radio is wickedly good as an entertainment product, and I’m not convinced the tens of millions of people who listen to it are all hard-line Republicans. Every conservative talk radio host owes something to Limbaugh, who invented the format and has perfected it since his show started in 1984, dissecting the news to fit an idiosyncratic worldview. So does Kaminsky, though he says he’s not a fan.

A former options trader, Kaminsky moved to Colorado with his wife 12 years ago. Here, he made a name as a conservative blogger and started getting invitations to radio stations, first as a talking head, then as guest host. “The first time I filled in for somebody, I was hooked instantly,” Kaminsky says. “It was like heroin.”

Kaminsky uses his coveted morning spot and the increased influence that comes with it to wage war on Trump. “He’s so reminiscent of Germany and Italy in the 1930s,” the radio host says. “It’s all about being a strongman. The words he uses the most are ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ and ‘win’ and ‘lose.’ There’s no principle here.”

A self-described libertarian (“Rand is my son’s middle name,” he says by way of proof), Kaminsky has discovered that many of his listeners don’t care about principle when it comes to Trump: To use a Limbaugh-coined expression, they are “low-information voters.”

“I do think I have lost some listeners by being so critical of Donald Trump,” Kaminsky says. “I’m getting emails from Trump supporters saying, ‘I’m really mad at you because you have this influence and you’re beating up on Trump so much and saying you’re not gonna vote for him if he’s the nominee, and if Hillary Clinton wins, maybe it’s your fault.’ “

Talk radio, notably Limbaugh and Hannity, have gone easy on Trump throughout the campaign. Most recently, Limbaugh defended Trump when he was accused of failing to disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s endorsement. Hannity (whose shows air on Kaminsky’s station, part of the iHeartMedia network) has praised Trump for his lack of political correctness and called him an “impressive” candidate.

“Rush has been bad on this,” Kaminsky says. “But radio is a business, and its purpose is to make money, like any other business. The way you make money in radio is by generating ratings. And at the end of the day the way you boost your ratings is by being entertaining. Limbaugh figured out many years ago how to make politics entertaining, and he still does it. Trump is by far the most entertaining candidate, so I don’t blame Rush for wanting to talk about the most interesting candidate, but I do blame Rush when he spends all these years talking about fundamental principles and then he plays up Trump.”

Conservative principles are important to Kaminsky, who gave up his Republican voter registration eight years ago. They’re also the stock-in-trade for such talk radio stalwarts as Mark Levin and Glenn Beck, who both back Ted Cruz.

Beck is particularly venomous about Trump, and has campaigned for Cruz. Levin recently broadcast a hysterical Trump soliloquy followed by a statesmanlike Ronald Reagan speech, creating a comical contrast. (Reagan, of course, is the ultimate hero for nostalgic talk-radio audiences.) Limbaugh and Hannity, however, have stayed above the fight, conveniently preaching the need to keep the Democrats out by any means.

This split among the most popular hosts isn’t helping the Republicans, making it harder for the conservative base to fall in behind a single candidate. But if Trump is acceptable to the loudest voices of talk radio, he’s acceptable to the listeners, too — and that’s why Kaminsky is getting those angry emails and calls.

“They may come to regret it later, but they may not,” Kaminsky says of his federally famous colleagues who have chosen not to attack Trump. “If Trump becomes president, there will be a lot to talk about. Now, the country will be going to hell in a hand-basket, but there will be a lot to talk about.”

I can’t help thinking that’s the case with the mainstream media, too. There’s no way around it: Trump is entertaining and fun to talk about. The ensuing airtime has made him more acceptable as a potential president than he should ever have been.

Talk radio was set up as an alternative to the liberal mainstream. With Trump, though — perhaps because it’s so highly commercialized — it has fallen into the same trap as the mainstream of tempting Americans to merge entertainment and politics in the important business of choosing who should run the country.

Based in Berlin, Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist and the author of five books.

  • iia3ezu

    If you really, really want to see the country go to hell in a hand-basket, make Hillary the President.

    Before her first term is up, America will be burning from coast to coast.

    • Law ‘n order

      Yes, Bernie is a MUCH better choice.

      • Stenka Razinova

        Actually there is no difference, except Sanders want to throw some loose change around.particularly to some local laude voices.

  • bv

    This election is about illegal immigration and preventing the flood of Muslims to wreck our nation the way Europe has been destroyed for all times – anything more than that is a bonus. Hillary will be an American Angela Merkel and GrandPa Munster can’t beat her – the Clinton machine will steamroll illegal Cruz like a cockroach. Please, please please, people…do the right thing . This is our last hope – we won’t get another one.

    • Eileen Kuch

      Don’t give up hope, B.V.; Donald Trump has that capability to defeat the Hildebeast. He’s ahead of the Canadian-born, illegal Ted Cruz, who, btw, has 12 lawsuits filed against his running for POTUS.
      As for the Hildebeast’s sole Democrat rival – Bernie Sanders – he’s an avowed Marxist Bolshevik, and he was soundly defeated in S. Carolina and fell back on Super Tuesday. His only silver lining is the indictment by a Grand Jury on Hillary for sending/receiving emails containing some 1800+ classified documents (including those containing info on special operations). Should that happen, Sanders would automatically be the Democrat nominee .. and that would mean a Sanders-Trump match in November.

    • Stenka Razinova

      At first debate Cruz was relatively subdued and so relatively quiet.
      He had his wet finger above his head in the wind.
      He was checking what works. In the next few debates he totally plagiarized Trump. He does not have any original idea.
      He still plagiarize Trumps ideas except Trumps economic projections. That should tell you that he does not want to offend Wall street and corporations who are supporting him.
      His speech at CPAK was only slogans and platitudes.
      There was no one sentence with substance.
      He is like empty vessel. True demagog.

    • walcon

      I share in your desperation. But I don’t look for the best to happen.
      The people are simply asleep.

    • walcon

      I share in your desperation. But I don’t look for the best to happen.
      The people are simply asleep.

    • walcon

      I share in your desperation. But I don’t look for the best to happen.
      The people are simply asleep.

  • bv

    This election is about illegal immigration and preventing the flood of Muslims to wreck our nation the way Europe has been destroyed for all times – anything more than that is a bonus. Hillary will be an American Angela Merkel and GrandPa Munster can’t beat her – the Clinton machine will steamroll illegal Cruz like a cockroach. Please, please please, people…do the right thing . This is our last hope – we won’t get another one.

  • tomw

    David Duke never endorsed Trump. Get it, never. Try printing the truth, and maybe someday you can call yourself a journalist.

  • Josefa

    David Duke last was in the KKK 40 years ago. Since then he was a fully legitimate

    elected member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and now has his PHD. Sen Robert Byrd was in the KKK for much longer and supported and praised by Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama. Harry Truman was in the KKK , too. We don’t hear about much of that- not politically expedient for your lying extortion and entrapment “cause”.
    And like the other commenter noted, David Duke NEVER endorsed Donald Trump.
    It’s just the old communist ploy that if you say the smear long enough, it might stick. That’s seems good enough for the “host ” and writer. What BS

  • BHill

    Ross Kaminsky is a cuck. A cuckservative

  • Bill the eighth

    Sounds like the author of this tripe is pretty much an idiot and Kaminsky just another neocon Wall Street insider troll.

  • freewheelinfranklin543

    More neocon tripe.

  • freewheelinfranklin543

    More neocon tripe.

  • DmaxD

    I used to enjoy Rush Limblab until his entire program became focused on Clinton, and stayed there. As I matured politically, I’ve come to realize both parties are a sham, irreverent and out of touch. After listening to Internet radio programs such as Hal Turner, David Duke and Red Ice, commercial broadcasters beholden to their advertisers, are just plain dead air. Trump is the only political cantidate touching on an important issue, that being getting the aliens out and building a border wall. All other cuckservative issues from abortion, to support for israel do not resonate with Americans.

    • shropster

      The Clinton clan is evil, evil that needs attending to until it is gone.

  • Tuaca1107

    10 reasons to vote Trump

    1. China
    2. Mexico
    3. Saudi Arabia
    4. France
    5. Germany
    6. Muslims
    7. RNC
    9. Professional lobbyists
    10 Special Interest Groups

    Are all “deeply concerned” as China said, of a Trump presidency. Have you heard any talk like that toward and of the Professional Politicians?! I think not.

  • Andino Mining

    Kaminsky is a cuckservative, useless. Americans are fed up with the Establishment and they are growing increasingly angry about people like Kaminsky -who can´t see the obvious dangers to our country (and they don´t come from Trump turjnng into Mussolini) – and outright maniacs like Glenn Beck, an ignorant yokel who has recently gone completely round the bend; the only thing left for Beck to do is to soil himself in public after one of his crying jags. Anybody who thinks people will be put off Trump by calling him names is nuts. That loser twit Romney did Trump a bigger favor than he can imagine by showing what a pack of lying, cowardly vermin the Establishment Republicans are. If Trump is cheated out of the nomination by these scum it is the beginning of civil war in the U.S.

  • Stenka Razinova

    Kaminsky means stone man, That should tell you something.

  • faucets

    Colorado took away the voters chance to vote in a Primary or Caucus. So, the Establishment has taken Colorado. So, why is this guy upset about Trump?

  • Joe Dixon

    “Conservatives” have had control of the government and did nothing to stop the ever expanding government and endless flow of migrants through our porous borders. This simply proves that it doesn’t matter what politicians call themselves. Talking heads like Kaminsky can go on about how this candidate isn’t conservative enough, that one is too liberal and on and on. All these words have lost their meaning. Trump’s appeal is partly because he doesn’t call himself anything, he just sticks to the issues that the public is most concerned about. His populism has the appeal of the masses, the Kaminskys of the world will just never get it.

    • Stenka Razinova

      Open borders by Democrats is not a negligence. it is on purpose. It coalesce wit the line of multiculturalism and destruction of white race.

  • walcon

    Using past voting histories as a reference, I have little faith in the American people in selecting the right president and I fear they are going to screw this one up as well. They are not educated enough to make such a decision as they had been many decades earlier when citizens actually saw education as something to desire and the best way to achieve freedom. Instead, they have found ipod, ipad, iphone entertainment superior to reality, and so immerse themselves into a bottomless screen, looking up once in a while to make sure no one has stolen their fantasy land.