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Stern Calls Bush “Insane”

New York- This morning Howard Stern interviewed Congressman Jose Serrano [D] from New York’s 16th district. Serrano sits on the House Appropriations Committee, which, among other things, provides funding for the FCC. Stern, who for weeks, has been claiming through his moles in the FCC that he’s being targeted for reprisal by that government organization, urged Serrano to go after the head of the FCC, Michael Powell. Serrano seemed willing to go with the program.

“This is not just Howard Stern or the FCC,” Serrano agreed. “It’s a real right wing nonsense that is talking place in this country- attacking gays, attacking minority congressional districts like in Texas where they practically did away with most districts of anybody who’s progressive or Hispanic. It’s an onslaught throughout the nation as you well know started in 2001 with that election.”

Stern asked Serrano if he didn’t agree that the religious right headed by George W. Bush and his “fanatical Jesus teachings” is mixing church and state. [Stern qualified by saying that there’s nothing wrong with being for Jesus if that’s your thing.]

“Isn’t it getting all too frightening?” Stern asked. “Isn’t there a cultural war going on in this country trying to take away free speech?”

Serrano agreed about the cultural war aspects. “In all honesty, but the committee I sit on- and I’m the top ranking Democrat on a committee that oversees the FBI, the Justice Dept., the State Dept. the Small Business Administration- what you see is that no one in this country has said a word about the fact that a couple of guys in the White House are attempting to overthrow the president of Venezuela. What does that have to do with what’s happening to you? It’s all part of this behavior that says we can do what we want to do whenever we want to do it. And if you ask any questions or criticize us, you’re not a good American. You’re not a good patriot, and September 11, shame on you. September 11th, they’ve taken this opportunity of the pain in this country to try to change the whole society and the whole culture.”

Stern wanted to make it quite clear that the FCC has to come to Serrano’s Committee for funding. Serrano said the FCC comes to him annually and, in the past, Stern has been the subject of many discussions. “I was shocked two years in a row when I asked them how do you get after someone?” Serrano went on to say. “If someone complains they said. So, if no one complains, there’s no issue.”

Stern wanted to know if an FCC commissioner like Powell asking for $500,000 for first class air travel, has to come to Serrano. “They come to us with a general budget,” Serrano clarified. Asked how much the FCC gets annually, Serrano replied millions but wasn’t going to get specific with numbers. “They get a lot of money.” Stern asked why the FCC has to travel when 90% of the travel money goes for trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans.

“Why does the FCC have to go to Las Vegas and New Orleans?” Stern wanted to know. Serrano said he wasn’t concerned about their travel. “That’s another issue. I’m not concerned about their salaries. I’m concerned about the fact that they now have decided what’s good for me to listen to and what’s not good for me to listen to. And it’s all part of this right wing reactionary, horrible thing that’s happening in this country.”

Stern said, including himself, there have been seven broadcasters fired from Clear Channel stations for speaking out against Bush. Serrano was aware of that. “There are some of us who would go public the way I’m going to try to question them,” he said. “But you have to understand what’s going on here. Since September 11, this government is telling us this is what it’s doing to save us. All this is part of saving us from bad people. People in this country who are good people- the majority- don’t want to challenge that. You’ve got people being held. You’ve got e-mail being read. You’ve got your privacy invaded. It’s all part- supposedly- of protecting us from somebody else.”

Stern acknowledged that the FCC is building a case against him and that he doesn’t have a problem against that. But Stern said he wants to go to court. “I want to find out if what I’m saying is really indecent. I don’t think it is and I don’t think a court will find it indecent.” Stern said the FCC won’t let him go to court.

“They will delay this station’s license renewals and will not allow them to buy and sell radio stations while we’re under investigation,” Stern continued. “They did it to us 10 years ago.” Stern wanted to know how he can exercise his rights as a citizen. “How do I get protection? I need to know that if the FCC fines me that this company’s going to be allowed to go to court. Which is only fair. The FCC can’t tell us that something’s indecent. The court has to tell us that. Who’s going to help me?”

Unfortunately as it is, said Serrano, the people who would stand up for Stern are those who Stern works for. Stern said they are willing to. “The problem is every time we try to go to court, the FCC will not renew their licenses.” Stern asked Serrano if he, in turn, could reduce the FCC’s funding. “Sure, I could attempt to reduce their funds,” said Serrano. “But I’ll tell you now the party that is in control of the House thinks for the most part that what they’re doing is good. I would suspect that people would be thinking just the opposite.”

Stern then asked Serrano if he had enough fellow members that would cut the FCC’s budget in half. Serrano admitted that he didn’t have that support. “I’m in the minority party in the House,” Serrano stated. “What’s happening is that the leadership of the House is in cahoots with the president of this right-wing approach.”

Serrano said the full appropriations committee has over 50 members sitting on it. Asked what it would take to secure FCC budget cuts, Serrano danced on the issue. “What it would take is an understanding from the Republican Party that when Congressman Serrano and Congressman Wolf of Virginia are putting together the budget of the FCC, that there should be a cut because they’re misusing their funds.” But, according to Serrano, such is not the case. Serrano pretty much said Stern’s hopes for cuts are nil. “I think there’s a lot you can do. It sounds like an old cliche. Organize a grassroots effort throughout this country that reaches out. You have to lobby.”

Serrano said you have to get to members of the Congress that would agree this has become an issue of Free Speech.

Stern has been tinkering around with the idea of a Million Man March on Washington. He asked if that would wake people up or would it be necessary to get Bush out of office. “If I get on the air every day and encourage my listeners to help me get Bush out of office, that’s good. Would the march do me any good?”

Serrano said the main problem is the people who support Bush around the White House. Stern asked if that meant The Fellowship.

“The group that runs the White House,” Serrano replied evasively. Stern wanted to get Serrano to admit to The Fellowship but he wouldn’t commit. Serrano said the problem is that people are not relating this to other issues, connecting it to the fact that, besides Stern getting kicked off in six markets, the Justice Dept. is holding people on suspicion of terrorism for two years without a lawyer or charges being brought. “It’s all part of a behavior,” said Serrano. “And what you have to attack is the complete behavior rather than individual issues.”

Stern said he was committed to getting Bush out of office. Serrano claimed that he was going to be on these guys and would be releasing statements that this is not the way to go, that it is an “abuse of power.”

Serrano said it would be Michael Powell himself who would be asking for FCC funding. Serrano promised he would ask Powell why he needs $500,000 in travel expenses, why is he qualified to be the chairman other than just being Colin Powell’s son and why he will not allow court challenges.

“Why do they lose the paper work for license renewal?” Stern wanted to know. Stern asked if Serrano would be “man enough” to bring those issues up to Powell. Serrano said he certainly would but claims he had no clue that the FCC was holding up those license renewals.

Stern again brought up he incident from 10 years ago when he was fined by the FCC. “We said to them we want to go to court. They said fine. Within the two years it took us to go to court- it takes years to get a court date- they harassed this company. In terms of racketeering, they threatened. Mel [Karmazin] was buying three radio stations. Guess what they did? They lost the paperwork. The owner of the three stations said I can’t sell you these three stations. They’re holding it up. It usually takes a couple of days for this to go through. It was taking months and months. This was under Clinton. The FCC has run wild with our First Amendment rights.”

Stern asked Serrano if he was allowed to join him in Washington and grill Michael Powell. “Not unless you face the voters and get elected somewhere,” Serrano replied. Stern said they do it in mob movies, why couldn’t they do it here. “Can I hand you a piece of paper?” Stern said he knows the questions to ask, that he’s been fighting the fight for ten years.

“I’ll be your Bobby Duvall and you’ll be my Marlon Brando.” Serrano cautioned that Stern wasn’t allowed to make faces behind him. Serrano said he liked the idea but under the rules he wouldn’t be allowed to sit. “You’re not a member of the staff.” Stern said he would wear a dress and pretend to be someone else. Stern said he would even turn over half his show to Serrano for the opportunity. Serrano chuckled and said such a notion would probably set back his career. Stern said, au contraire, that people would vote for him as President.

“You’ll become a senator when I’m done with you.”

Serrano then took Stern to task for letting Bush get off a long, long time and that Stern was one of his biggest supporters. Stern claims he never voted for Bush, that he voted for Gore. “I told my audience to vote for Al Gore, and Al Gore won the election.” On the other hand, Stern said he was willing to give Bush a chance. “You support him and hope he’s going to do the best for the country.”

Serrano said Bush has taken the fears of September 11 and made everybody who criticizes him anti-American.Stern said he’s come to the conclusion that Bush is not a bad president but insane. “He literally should be locked in a mental institution. Not only does he take the most vacation of any president [with Stern taking the most time off among radio personalities], he has a right wing religious agenda that includes not allowing stem cell research. He lied to us every step of the friggin’ way. he believes that Jesus Christ is the agenda of this country and I am against him and I believe that John Kerry should be the next president.”

Serrano said the government agenda has been changed in mid-stream. For backing Bush, Stern agreed that everybody makes mistakes and noted that Serrano backed Al Sharpton. Serrano got a little bristly on that subject claiming that if Sharpton got elected Stern would be on the air saying anything he wanted. Stern casually reminded Serrano of Tawana Brawley. “Sharpton is a clown and you know it,” Stern told Serrano. “The way he carried on with Tawana Brawley, I don’t trust him. And he’s also gotta start paying his bills. He stiffed a whole bunch of people, didn’t he?”

Serrano cautioned Stern that attacking his candidate was not the best way of making him his friend.


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