'Progressive' Radio Station Hopes for Liberal Star

They are the stars of the most listened to talk radio shows in the country: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage. Not a liberal in the bunch.

Air America Radio — a self-described "progressive" radio network — hopes to change that.

Four stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco will launch programming for a liberal radio network that hopes to conquer the airwaves and replicate some of the feisty spirit that has worked so successfully for conservatives in the last decade.

"America is divided," Mark Walsh, chief executive officer of Air America Radio told ABCNEWS. "Anybody that doesn't understand that or acknowledge that is in denial." In this division, Walsh says, "is a media opportunity — sad as that may sound." Because, Walsh says, "in divisiveness comes debate. And in debate comes entertainment."

In other words, in a country divided into red Bush states and blue Gore states, there are many who see green.

'You Will Never Ever Be Their Friends'

For years conservative talk radio has dominated the political airwaves. It got to the point that right after the Republican Party took control of the House and Senate in 1994, Limbaugh was named an honorary member of the freshman class.

"You will never ever be their friends," Limbaugh told Republican freshmen in December 1994. "They don't want to be your friends. Some female reporter will come up to one of you and start batting her eyes and ask you to go to lunch. And you'll think, 'Wow! I'm only a freshman. Cokie Roberts wants to take me to lunch. I've really made it!' "

Limbaugh warned the freshman not to "fall for this" and "get moderate' and "start trying to get liked."

Ten years later, many Democrats — particularly those in the party's left wing — think their party has similarly cashed in their principles.

Air America Radio will seek to change that, starting rather humbly. While Limbaugh is syndicated on approximately 600 stations, Air America Radio will begin on four AM stations — WLIB (1190 AM) in New York, WNTD (950 AM) in Chicago, KBLA (1580 AM) in Los Angeles and a station in San Francisco to be named before the launch date of March 31.

The O'Franken Factor

Their star will be comedian and actor Al Franken, no stranger to taking on the right wing as the author of the book Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot. He nonetheless hopes to do to conservatives what his nemesis, Limbaugh, does so successfully to liberals.

"It's like ju-jitsu," Franken told ABCNEWS. "You use what they say against them and use it to hold them to scorn and ridicule. So there will be a lot of ridicule."

In that spirit and a nod to the lawsuit recently brought against him by Fox News Channel and host Bill O'Reilly for using the term "fair and balanced" in Franken's book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right — an injunction quickly dismissed by a judge — Franken is calling his new show The O'Franken Factor.

"Bill, I want you to sue us," Franken jokingly baited O'Reilly on a Wednesday conference call with reporters

Can Liberals Succeed on Radio?

Previous efforts on the radio with noted liberals Mario Cuomo, Jerry Brown and Alan Dershowitz failed.

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