Keeping Snyder on the air: it’s the least they can do.

Interesting doings at 550 Radio in Wausau, where they’ve been running a steady diet of right-wing talk as their format for years. Presiding over the stream of non-stop reactionary yapping — when they’re not running the national menu of Limbaugh, Hannity or Jerry Bader out of the Midwest Communications Green Bay affiliate — is morning host Pat Snyder.

I’ve talked about this fellow before and the way it looks, I’ll probably be talking about him again. Snyder is now running as a Republican for the 85th Assembly District seat currently held by Rep. Donna Seidel, who is challenging Sen. Pam Galloway in the upcoming 29th Senate District recall election. On the plus side, it’s an open seat, Snyder has high name recognition and he should be able to raise money. On the minus side, it’s a blue district and Snyder will come into it with the high negatives that he has earned in spades over his past decade or so in Wausau.

Operations Manager Chris Conley explains how 550 Radio will be approaching this situation in the 550 News Blog (something that often has only a passing connection to news):

“Because of equal-time rules, a political candidate cannot work as a radio announcer within 60-days of a general election or within 45-days of a primary. Pat will remain on-air with WSAU until then. If Pat does not have a primary opponent, he’ll continue in his regular role on WSAU through Labor Day weekend. If Pat does have a primary opponent, he will leave us at the end of July.

“We cannot talk on-air about Pat’s candidacy on-air except in our regular news coverage. If you are a regular caller to the WSAU Feedback program, you can’t talk about Pat’s candidacy on-air either. We’ll be conducting a nationwide search for WSAU’s next morning host. We expect to have that person hired before Pat’s time with us ends, and we expect an orderly transition. We’re glad that we the luxury of time to find the right person, and for a long ‘goodbye’ with Pat.

_____

A long goodbye, indeed. A number of years back – maybe not even under the same ownership, but I don’t recall — the station fired on-air news guy Bob Look when he filed to run for the non-partisan, plain vanilla, very part-time office of Marathon County Board Supervisor. Even under the Snyder regime, the rules haven’t seemed all that consistent. I began doing Friday call-in with other area political folks – none of us paid to do it — back before Snyder ever came to town and also prior to the time that I began serving in city council and Marathon County Board offices in 1998. The 55 Feedback show had been relaunched by Nick Ryan and judging by the calls we received, the audience was fairly balanced across the political spectrum. That came to end when hyper-partisan Snyder came on board at WSAU Radio.

I continued to do the Friday call-in for several years following Snyder’s arrival and I was still there when he had his infamous motorcycle mishap in 2003 (something that’s apparently still a touchy subject – and if you’re waiting for an apology from Graeme Zielinski, get a good lawyer.) Pat did his mea culpas on the air and I believe he was sincere, but it seemed to underline some potential for fairly fundamental hypocrisy at the time. Nonetheless, his station and his fans were more than happy to let him reclaim his unfailingly moralistic high ground going forward.

During election years when I had opposition, I had to go off the air from the January filing deadline until after the April election. Nobody was counting the days; it’s just the way it was done. One year, when I was serving my time off the air and about three weeks before the election, I heard a familiar voice while I was listening to the show. It was my opponent and she was in the studio. So I called in.

“Hey, Pat, you remember that e-mail you sent me about having to go off the air because I was in a contested race?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Well, it applies to BOTH contestants,” I said, stating the obvious. “So I presume that you’re also inviting me back for my equal time next Friday.”

There wasn’t much he could do but agree, since we were live. The following Friday, I came to the studio and did the show. And when it was over, I walked into the office of Tom King, Snyder’s token moderate every morning on-air punching bag, and I told him that win, lose or draw, I would not be coming back to the show after the election because Pat Snyder runs a crooked game. And that was that. I’m sure Pat didn’t miss me on the show any more than I missed participating in what it had become. Of course, I still did regular interviews with various media and from time to time, someone would tell me Pat had made some negative remark about me on the air. I always felt he was safe to ignore and frankly, having the right political enemies can often be a real asset.

There have been plenty of things that have come up along the way to illustrate that Snyder works an agenda, rather than making any attempt at fairly airing issues. I didn’t ask who paid for his trip to Iraq in 2005, but the timing certainly lined up well with an orchestrated attempt by other local conservative talk radio hosts around the country to sell the Bush Administration’s policy there, at nearly that exact time, for example. In an amazing coincidence, Snyder’s trip followed a very similar format and if it was indeed part of a larger scheme, does it really even matter who paid?

This is not about supporting our troops, by the way. I spent a half dozen years in the military myself and if nobody was any the wiser, some good probably came from the well-intentioned area citizens who generously sent their goodwill along on the excursion. But if it was news, why not send a journalist? And if it wasn’t, then what exactly was it?

And as is so often the case in politics, the same old friends keep popping up again and again. The Move America Forward group that organized the ‘it’s working’ in Iraq initiative with conservative talk show hosts in 2005 was co-chaired by Howard Kooligian, who later moved on to another ultra right-wing political enterprise, the Tea Party Express. Kooligian was so anxious to show Iraq as a success that he ran a photo on his blog the following year to prove it. (Unfortunately, it was actually taken in Istanbul.)

Snyder has been a regular with far-right groups like Americans for Prosperity and also served for a time as an officer in the Republican Party of Marathon County, until insightfully (eventually) concluding that it might actually be kind of a problem. He’s put a steady parade of extremist guests on his show for years. I don’t necessarily have anything against partisan hacks and plenty of people would probably say that I happen to be one myself. But here’s the difference: I’m not pretending to be some kind of honest broker of news and information while I carry water for a partisan agenda. There are plenty of honest conservative pundits who don’t necessarily conspire off the scene with political parties and special interest groups. Pat is not one of them.

It would be difficult to think of anyone in this region who has done more to promote incivility and intolerance in the public discourse than Pat Snyder. He is truly in a class by himself and if the people of the 85th Assembly District elect him to be their representative, then they will have a professional angry extremist that the Koch brothers will be very happy to see in office. Pat Snyder is the poster boy for what people like me think is wrong in Wisconsin right now.

Any station that has to tell you that they’re “fair and balanced” several times an hour usually isn’t, but even the FOX television network takes a far more, ah, conservative approach toward allowing potential candidates on the air. I can’t imagine any of our local television stations adhering to the lame fig leaf of following the absolute minimum federal standard to leave a partisan candidate for office on the air to talk about political issues during a good share of his campaign. I don’t think the Wausau Daily Herald would ever try to rationalize leaving such an individual as a daily staff columnist on the editorial page.

So thanks for following the rules, Midwest Communications — and especially for doing the very least that you could possibly do to comply. And be sure to let us know if you should ever become mildly interested in the subject of media ethics.

JR

Bob Look, who is cited as someone who was taken off the air at WSAU Radio when he ran for Marathon County Board, commented on the Wausau Daily Herald story this morning:

“Seems ironic that in 2000 I decided to run for a seat on the Marathon County Board while doing the same job as host of the WSAU Morning Show. When it became known I filed nomination papers I was taken off the air immediately. That election was over 4 months away and ownership took me off the air and then later fired me. Now this was for a non-partisan part-time Supervisor position on the County Board. So why the double-standard? Simple…I did not “parrot” the views of ownership and management. To say these are the “public airwaves” is a joke! To say that this broadcast operation serves the community and allows equal access to views and opinions on both sides is just not true. According to the Citizens United ruling “corporations are people”. Really!!! It is more like manipulating people. It doesn’t bother me that Mr. Snyder wants to run for political office, but it does bother me that a double-standard is used in regards to treatment of a person’s employment based on their political views. It’s a dangerous path to follow.”

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4 Responses to “Keeping Snyder on the air: it’s the least they can do.”

  1. Chris Conley Says:

    I enjoy a lively debate, and obviously there will be many opinions about Pat Snyder.

    As a point of information, Pat Snyder’s trip to Iraq in 2005 was paid for by Midwest Communications, with some assistance from local WSAU sponsors. The trip was not underwritten by any national group.

    While in Iraq, Pat stayed with the Wisconsin National Guard.

  2. Thanks for that very helpful information, Chris. Was there any connection to or discussion with the the effort cited in the San Francisco Gate article, or was the fact that these datelines fall just a few days apart entirely a matter of coincidence? The template followed appears substantially identical and it was all happening around the same time.

    • Chris Conley Says:

      I’m not familiar with the article. The scheduling of Pat’s trip was also controlled by the WI Nat Guard. He flew into Kuwait on a military flight.

      We’d sent some staff from our Green Bay stations to Iraq a few months before Pat went. One of the reasons we sent Pat was that the trip was well-received in the other market.

      I was hesitant about the whole thing, but mostly for logistics reasons. Communication was spotty, and the time difference and the remote locations he went to made it difficult to live broadcasts.

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