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Is Charlie Sykes Finally Realizing He’s Part of the Problem?

Issue of the Week

Aug. 23, 2016
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I met the enemy and it is I. 620 WTMJ right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes is getting a lot of national attention these days for his #NeverTrump stance. Most of these profiles portray him in a flattering light, as a brave truth-teller who’s speaking out of the dangers of a Donald Trump presidency. Most recently, Politico got Sykes to consider that perhaps—perhaps—he and his fellow right-wing radio talk show hosts are partly to blame for Trump’s popularity among racists.

Sykes told Politico’s Erick Trickey, “When I would deny that there was a significant racist component in some of the politics on our side, it was because the people I hung out with were certainly not. When suddenly, this rock is turned over, there is this—‘Oh shit, did I not see that?’”

Really Charlie, you’re a smart guy who has been very well paid for stoking the anger of your right-wing listeners using very carefully crafted code words that a significant part of your audience clearly understands to be racist. For years you have been part of the right-wing echo chamber that has done more to separate and polarize Wisconsinites than unite or educate them. Let’s face it: You were a liberal guy from a liberal family who was fired from his position as editor of Milwaukee Magazine and then figured out that he could gain fame and fortune by becoming an incendiary right-wing talk show host. It worked; you now make significant money from your radio show, your TV show, your website, your books and your Bradley Foundation-funded Wisconsin Policy and Research Institute gig. Not bad if you aren’t concerned about the fact that you are dividing a community and helping to lay the foundation for a Donald Trump-type campaign to get legs in America today.   

Your message is targeted to aggrieved white people in the suburbs and you prop up Republican candidates who reap the benefits of your divisiveness. You, a Mequon resident, have fanned the anti-Milwaukee flames for years, ginned up fears of non-existent voter fraud, discredited public education, bemoaned a “nation of moochers,” opposed transit that would actually help Milwaukee workers and employers, aired an allegedly funny bit circulated on white supremacist websites and often blur the line between “journalist” and Republican political operative.

620 WTMJ, which uses our public airwaves, is so pro-Republican that an independent study found that during the recall elections, your station gave Gov. Scott Walker and his supporters an average of 79 minutes of free air time a day, while Democrats got just one minute of coverage a day. That’s not exactly fair and balanced.

Unfortunately for you, Walker and Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, the right wing’s white rage has gotten so out of control that your party’s presidential nominee is Donald Trump, who appears to be a blatant racist who could take down the entire Republican establishment you are part of. The Trump candidacy has already hurt America in so many different ways, including providing propaganda footage for ISIS.

Charlie, we’re glad that you’re doing a little soul searching and we certainly don’t condone the hateful attacks you receive from Trump supporters. But in the future we hope that you think about the impact of your words on impressionable listeners and the cowardly Republican politicians who stoke anger and divisiveness to fuel their personal and political agendas. As you nimbly made your conversion in the late ’80s/early ’90s from a liberal-minded individual to a professional right-wing radio talker, we hope that this current soul searching you seem to be doing will bring you back toward the political center.


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