Monday, January 14, 2008

A Talk Show Host Scorned

When conservative host, John Ziegler’s nightly talk show was cancelled two months ago we received a rather innocuous email claiming that the decision was "truly mutual" and that Ziegler was recently hired to produce a documentary "on a topic that I am sure you will be interested in."

Ziegler signed off telling his fans that it would be "a waste of time" for them to complain to KFI and that he would "be in contact when I have something of importance to share."

Well that "contact" has been made and the "important thing to share" has turned out to be stinging indictment of KFI’s program director, Robin Bertolucci, and several of talk station's marquee hosts including afternoon drive talkers "John (Kobylt) and Ken (Chiampou)" and KFI’s morning man, Bill Handel.

Ziegler posted his four page diatribe on website titled "The Real KFI", which he described as follows:

This website is dedicated to telling the totally true story of John Ziegler's experience at KFI in Los Angeles. John realizes that the creation of this website probably ends any chance that he will ever again hit the highest levels of talk radio and may very well end his talk radio career totally. But he is at peace with that potential consequence because he feels there are certain truths that are worth the risk to tell, especially when you are really the only person in the world in a position to do so.

He then goes on to make nine points that we will condence to four:

  • That the John & Ken Show is "fundamentally fraudulent" and John, who he calls "a racist", is the main reason why Ziegler was canned.
  • That Ken "is presumed to be a [gay] by nearly everyone at KFI and why that should matter to KFI listeners."
  • That Bill Handel is "a fair weather friend", who hates John and Ken, but abandoned Ziegler when his stocks at the LA talk radio station started to fall
  • And that "KFI management [i.e. Bertolucci] is utterly incompetent and corrupt."

It is no secret that Kobylt did not like Ziegler. When Ziegler left the station it was reported in the LA Times that Ziegler was suspended for two days after an on-air argument with John Kobylt."

However, according to Ziegler the depth of animus that Kobylt felt for him was much deeper and ultimately resulted in his demise at KFI.

Here are just a few examples provided by Ziegler.

Kobylt blew up at him and told him to "get out of his studio" when, he questioned why he had changed his position on the War on Iraq. (Kobylt initially supported the war, but has a lately become a critic.)

Here’s the clip:

When he confronted Kobylt on September 11, 2006, about this, Kobylt told him "Actually, it is what I really believe, because trying to control Muslims is like trying to control Black people… it will never happen…it's not in their make up."

From this point on, relations between Ziegler and Kobylt continued to deteriorate and at least one other talk show host – Handel -- and management -- Bertolucci, also turned against him.

Kobylt would not accept Ziegler’s attempts to mediate their disagreement.
  • He stopped allowing Ziegler to do two teases for his nightly (7 to 10 PM) show
  • He even refused to refer to Ziegler by name. Referring to him as Voldermort, (the evil villain in the Harry Potter tales.)
Ziegler also makes unkind references to KFI management but takes his most vicious shots at Bertolucci, who he calls "totally incompetent about hiring people."

He said that "politically [she] made the decision that to keep herself safe she would need to no longer be so closely associated with me":
  • She cut his production staff from four to one
  • Made him move his show to remote location (which was the size of a closet.)
  • Told him that he shouldn’t talk about the war because if was "bad for ratings."
  • And compared KFI to a Mafia crime family "in that you might feel dirty doing some of the things you are called on to do, but in the end you are paid extra for it."

Ziegler also had some unkind things to say about Handel, who has the most successful morning talk show in the country. Handel dis-invited Ziegler to a party at his house, after the incident with Kobylt. Zeigler found this strange since he had always maintained a friendly relationship with Handel and that the morning talker had a hostile relationship with John and Ken who, according to Ziegler "he hated more than Hezbollah."

Even Ken, the mellower half of the John and Ken duo, is targeted in Ziegler’s rant.

"Ken Chiampou is apparently willing to go even further than most when it comes to selling part of himself to pursue and protect ratings," Zeigler says.

According to Ziegler, "[he] never met anyone at KFI that did not presume that Ken is a [gay]." However, on several occasions he sat quietly by while his co-host John made homophobic remarks. Once when he called two openly gay KFI talk hosts – Karel and Andrew – "Ziegfried and Roy" and another time when he played a bit on Senator Larry Craig where Kobylt referred to gays as "homos."

There’s a lot more on Ziegler’s website including airchecks and copies of documents.

Hell knows no fury greater than a talk show scorned.