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Issue of the Week: The Right-Wing Smear Machine Goes Into Overdrive

Dec. 7, 2011
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620 WTMJ doesn't own the airwaves.

It rents a frequency from the public, which owns the airwaves.

WTMJ's broadcast license is a privilege, not a right.

That's why it's so shocking that WTMJ's star talker, Charlie Sykes, continues to use the public airwaves to smear those who disagree with him and profit from the potential recall of Gov. Scott Walker.

Sykes, along with Brian Sikma of conservative phony "watchdog" group Media Trackers, pushed a false story about Sen. Lena Taylor's alleged role in aiding a felon to vote in the April election.

Sykes and Sikma didn't just allege it. They claimed the Taylor-as-accessory-to-a-crime story was true and ran with it.

Other Journal Communications properties followed suit. Four of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's ace reporters fleshed out the story, as did WTMJ-TV's Charles Benson.

The problem is that the story was false. The felon in question was able to vote in the spring election, as Dan Bice, who worked on the original Journal Sentinel story, finally reported this weekend.

Taylor is demanding an apology, and she should get one.

But Sykes and Sikma aren't backing down.

In fact, they're digging in.

Although Sykes and Sikma attempt to pose as credible pundits just looking out for the little guy, they are anything but credible. Their job is to hype stories, no matter how false, to inflame their audience. That gets ratings and attention in other media outlets. It also promotes their political agenda.

Sikma is a conservative agitator who uses social media to demonize Democrats. Media Trackers is an offshoot of the national tea party group American Majority, which gets some of its funding from the uber-conservative Bradley Foundation.

Many just argue that Sykes is hopelessly morally corrupt. Sykes and his wife are both bought and paid for by the Bradley Foundation, which has propped up Scott Walker's career through thick and thin. The head of the Bradley Foundation, extreme right-winger Michael Grebe, chaired Walker's campaign. Sykes doesn't care if his story about Sen. Taylor is incorrect because it feeds into the biases of his listenership, keeps listeners tuning in and drives traffic to his website, where he provides links to pro-Walker, pro-Charlie Sykes merchandise. We kid you not. Sykes is selling T-shirts, hoodies and other swag with the slogan "Unite to Reward Scott Walker: Charlie Sykes Radio Show. 8:30-Noon—620 WTMJ."

If spreading outrageous lies and "uniting" with a political candidate for profit isn't enough of a reason to terminate WTMJ's license to broadcast on the publicly owned airwaves, then what is?

Heroes of the Week
: Repairers of the Breach

As a daytime homeless shelter, Repairers of the Breach (1335 W. Vliet St.) provides resources and refuge 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, a time when most such programs in Milwaukee are closed. More than 100 people a day use the group's facility, which offers sanctuary, access to showers and clothing, meals, and basic education and life-skills training.

Recently, Repairers of the Breach began offering health services, including testing and screening, flu vaccinations and referrals. That, combined with the group's policy of remaining open on a 24-hour basis when the wind chill drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, has increased the cost of operations.

Funded entirely by private donations, the nonprofit organization is in the midst of a $2 million capital campaign to cover expenses and make needed upgrades to its facility. Individuals, groups or corporations interested in donating supplies or helping fund Repairers of the Breach in their efforts are encouraged to call 414-934-9305 or visit www.repairers.org.


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