Monday, December 26, 2016

Media: One of her guests was never you

Diane Rehm's hold on NPR finally came to an end last Friday.  She got her current spot in 1979 and has spent years serving up falsehoods including the claim that "one of my guests is always you."

The falsehoods, like her image, could have remained intact if she'd only left at a reasonable time.


Instead, like every other radio host at NPR or PACIFICA RADIO, she treated the public airwaves as her own personal entitlement.

Irma R. Aandahl died June 9, 2014.  She was 96-years-old at the time, 16 years younger than Diane is currently.  From the heights of a program host for WAMU Irma wound down as a host on Mercer County Community College's radio station.

In 1973, Diane had started as a volunteer at WAMU on Irma's program.  Ten months later, she was a part-time employee and a producer of Irma's show THE HOME SHOW which debuted in 1971.

Here it gets a bit blurry as Diane tells it -- kind of like her personal history, including her WIKIPEDIA entry -- which renders George Hamaty invisible (Hamaty was Diane's first husband, they married October 16, 1955).

Irma wasn't a big fan of Diane's -- as late as 2011, she was still mocking Diane's outfits (which Diane made herself).  They didn't have the warm relationship Diane likes to pretend publicly (while skipping out on various memorials of Irma in 2014).

In 1979, Diane squeezed Irma more or less out of the public record -- like the way WAMU had squeezed blue grass off the airwaves -- and she became the host of KALEIDOSCOPE, later renamed THE DIANE REHM SHOW (1984).

WAMU declared her the winner of "a nation wide search."  Usually left out is the fact that she was one of a hundred contenders or that she applied only after Irma herself called Diane to tell her she was retiring.

Why did she have to call Diane?

Because despite claims of Diane's ever-loving dedication to WAMU and public radio, Diane didn't stay at public radio in the 70s.

She left public radio for a few years as she pursued a (failed) career in television.

In 1996, THE DIANE REHM SHOW would be distributed by NPR and -- as NPR spent the last ten years making clear to WAMU that they felt the two hour broadcast would be more successful without Diane -- that's no doubt a decision would like to take back.

In fact, she probably would like to take it back even more than last year.

Last year's when Diane finally got beat up in the press.

For decades, the press has played along with Diane, pretended that her every utterance was truth.

This is a woman who used her gender to get a job with public radio but who didn't feel the need to give back.

It's an important point, especially as Diane spent the last months giving empty lip service to the idea of diversity.

It's empty lip service and we know because we did a study of her show in 2010 and found 232 guests booked of which only 30.17% were women.

Two years later, we looked again:

As we've pointed out before, in the United States women are said to make up 50.1% of the population. So half the country is women. This should mean that half of Diane's guests were women.
But that's not the case. Over ten months, only 34% (33.9%) of Diane's guests have been women.
So although women make up half the country's population, they make up only 34% of Diane's guests.

It's amazing how some women use their gender to advance their own pocketbooks but never take the time to do anything to create equality.

But, outside of us, the climate for Diane from the left (us) and the middle was nothing but fawning.

Until 2015.

Diane got two major slapdowns that year.

There was her activism with what's been dubbed as the right-to-die movement.

As NPR ombudsperson Elizabeth Jensen explained near the start of 2015:

A story in the Washington Post, posted online on Feb. 14 and on the Feb. 15 front page, detailed how Diane Rehm "is becoming one of the country's most prominent figures in the right-to-die debate." Rehm is the longtime, well-respected host of the midday talk and call-in program, The Diane Rehm Show, which originates at Washington, D.C. station WAMU-FM.
The article chronicled Rehm's personal experience last year as her husband, John, deteriorated physically due to Parkinson's disease. His Maryland doctor rejected the couple's request for medical assistance to help him end his life — such actions are illegal in that state — instead counseling John to stop eating and drinking; he died ten days after doing so, according to the article.

While Rehm has dealt with the issue on her program before, with both proponents and opponents of medically assisted suicide represented, her personal experience has prompted her to get more deeply involved in the issue, the article recounted:
[. . .]
As to the fundraising dinners — small discussion gatherings, the first of which took place Monday night — she said: "Mind you, I am walking a very careful line. I am there to tell my own story, to tell John's story, and to hopefully help to facilitate discussion among the attendees. I am not being paid a dime for doing any of this. I am doing it because it's what I believe I want for myself and I believe that talking about it is something that is crucial within our entire society, no matter what side you come out on." The line she will not cross is "to ask people to do or give anything" and no solicitation of funds took place in her presence, she said.

We've never heard a bigger lie in our lives.

Diane appears at fundraiser dinners and, she insists, no line was crossed because in her speeches at these fundraiser dinners she did not ask for money and no one else did while she was there.

At these fundraiser dinners.

She'd already asked them to contribute to attend the dinners.

The dinners were the fundraisers.

And when she was advertised and served up as the guest speaker, she was asking people to donate to hear her speak.

That's reality.

In the end, it's a reality she could not escape and those in power at WAMU and NPR began more loudly insisting that she select an exit date.

Four months later, Diane got another smackdown.

Again, we'll go to ombudsperson Elizabeth Jensen:

Listeners are mad, and rightly so, about Diane Rehm's Wednesday interview with the Vermont senator, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president. (For the record, Rehm is employed by WAMU-FM, which produces her show; NPR distributes the show to stations across the country and it is clear from the mail I have received that listeners consider the program to be an NPR show.)
And Rehm? She told me this episode "has been the most difficult two days of my professional life."

To recap briefly what happened: During the interview Rehm said to Sanders: "Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel." Even when Sanders immediately corrected her, Rehm pressed on, telling him his name was on a list of lawmakers with dual citizenship.

WAMU and NPR got louder in urging Diane to the door.

She thought it would pass.

At the end of March 2015, Diane thought she'd survived the controversy over her fundraising for the right-to-die movement.

In July, she confessed to a friend that she was beginning to believe the Sanders issue might not pass as easily.

It did not.

She was left humiliated and she finally agreed to leave which led to the end of 2015 announcement that Diane was stepping down.

These two high profile embarrassments of 2015 helped ensure that Diane's departure would be a story for NPR but for few other outlets, that her departure would not be the media story of 2016, the media story of December 2016 or even the media story of the week.

It was as though the entire media universe was done with Diane.

At least she still had her listeners, right?

Not really.

Which is why the rare coverage she got last week tended to focus on older ratings for the show.

Diane's been losing listeners.

Part of the reason is they woke up to the reality of the lie "one of my guests is always you."

Diane walked away from listeners over Iraq.

She was bored with the topic.

Even before Barack Obama was elected president at the end of 2008, Diane was bored.

And she had taken to ignoring listeners requests for Iraq coverage.

She still had to include it some in her second hour of her Friday show -- her international roundup.

Usually when someone posting to the show's discussion board pointed out that one or more US service members had died in Iraq that week and she hadn't even mentioned Iraq.

She and her 'experts' would quickly and desperately try to use commercial break time to familiarize themselves with Iraq.

Susan Page often filled in for Diane and that only hurt Diane more.

You could ask about Iraq on the air if Susan was the guest host.

But Diane had banned the topic for phone calls on the shows she herself hosted.

And she grew even more bored with Iraq and went on to limit it to a brief discussion (four minutes or less) on the second hour of her Friday show -- limit it to once a month.

Then she walked away completely.

This was a huge topic to her listeners.

It always had been since the start of the Iraq War in 2003.

But as they noted their e-mails and calls were ignored, as they noted their comments on her discussion boards did not prompt coverage, they began to grasp that they were not, and never had been, her guest.

This was especially true May 8, 2009 when angry e-mails flooded the show as Diane elected to ignore the conviction of a US soldier for raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl.

We shared some of the e-mails that were passed onto us by a friend with the show:

As I listen to all the babble on this second hour and notice that NO female guest is on the panel, I have to wonder if that's why we're hearing nothing about Abeer Qassim Hamza.
Steven Dale Green was convicted yesterday afternoon.
Why aren't you talking about that?
And why doesn't Diane book female guests?
This is embarrassing, in 2009, that Diane's got 3 guests and everyone's a man.
A 14 y.o. girl was gang-raped and murdered. In Iraq. US soldiers. It's an international incident. And we can't hear it and I've got to hear three men drone on about the most dull topics in the world.
[name withheld]
Manchester, New Hampshire

As a Iraqi American whose family came here twenty years ago I am very concerend about the story of Abeer Qassim al Janabi who was only 14 when she was killed in her home along with other members of her family and she was killed after she had been raped. I have been most displeased to see no attention given to this especially since the man who is said to be the leader was convicted yesterday in court. I would hope you would find time for this topic.
Thank you,
[name withheld]

Dear Diane Rehm,
Looking forward to today's second hour because I always enjoy the lively international discussion.
Hope you will be addressing the conviction of Steven D. Green yesterday in the Kentucky federal court for his crimes in Iraq.
Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi was a 14 year old girl and he was stationed in her Iraq neighborhood at a checkpoint. He was supposed to protect the neighborhood. Instead, he plotted with other US soldiers on how to rape her. He (and other soldiers already convicted) raped her. He killed her parents, he killed her sister and he killed her.
Hope this will be addressed.
Thank you,
[name withheld]
[Note that the e-mailer attaches
this CNN article on the verdict after his name.]

Good morning Miss Rehm,

Can you and your guests cover the trial of the US soldier who was convicted of raping and murdering an Iraqi girl yesterday? I have not heard this covered on any show and it's the topic I really count on you for deep explorations of.


[name withheld]

Ann Arbor, MI

Yesterday in Kentucky, a federal court convicted Steven Green on 16 counts over the March 12, 2006 crimes in Iraq that he and other U.S. soldiers took part in.
Green specifically took part in the gang-rape of a 14 y.o. girl, he murdered her, he murdered her parents, he murdered her sister, and he was the ringleader.
This was an international incident.
This topic belongs on today's show and I'm very distressed that I'm having to write in to say, "Girlfriend, cover it!!!!!"
[name withheld]

This story [link to Democracy Now! headlines for Friday] about the soldier being convicted for raping the 14 year old girl is really tragic and I hope you and your guests plan to discuss it.

Also when do you plan to have Jerry Seib back on the show?

Yours truly,

[name withheld]


Why is today's show ignoring the verdict in United States versus Steven D. Green?
That is the big international story and there's been no mention of it. War crimes took place in Iraq. A verdict came down yesterday.
It needs to be addressed.
[name withheld]

listening on KERA in Dallas

Dear Ms. Diane Rehm,

As a survivor of rape, I know the horror involved and I know that we rarely get media attention on sexual assault cases. That is why National Public Radio is so important. It can cover these topics and do so without interrupting to broadcast commercials. Yesterday Stephen Green, a US Army man, was convicted in court of raping and murdering a 14 year-old girl while he was serving in Iraq. This is a very important story that I believe many of your listeners would be interested in hearing about. I know I would be. Please consider addressing it.

[name withheld]

New Haven, Conn.

A woman as a host and yet a rape conviction can't be covered.

A US court convicts a soldier or raping a girl in Iraq and it can't be covered.

Listeners realized Diane wasn't who she pretended to be and that they weren't really her guests.

Another clue was the way her guests, her real guests, repeatedly began attacking listeners on air.  In September 2012, they hit an especially rough patch as David Corn was allowed to trash listeners on air repeatedly in one program.

Then came Friday, her last show, where she declared "I hope to hear from you" at the top of the show and that she was "most especially grateful to all of you, the listeners."

How did she prove it?

By taking calls from listeners.

Or 'listeners.'

In that last hour of the show, where Diane hoped to hear from you the listener, she took 8 calls from listeners.

She took many more calls from insiders.

Frequent guest Paul Butler was allowed on air first. Then NPR CEO and president Jarl Mohn, singer Judy Collins, FACE THE NATION host John Dickerson, her son David Rehm, Academy Award winning actress Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, author Isabel Wilkerson, politician  Corey Booker

It wasn't just that these nine insiders were on, it was that they were allowed on so long.

So many exchanges of "I love you" to one another and greetings for the holidays and would they be guests on Diane's new weekly podcast and so much more.

Actual listeners were rushed off the air while what passes for celebrities were allowed to pontificate endlessly.

As, for example, Judy Collins and Diane Rehm cooed on air to one another, who benefitted.

  • MS. JUDY COLLINS: Hi, Diane. It's Judy Collins.
  • 11:21:23

    REHM: Oh, aren't you dear, Judy Collins, to call in?
  • 11:21:29

    COLLINS: Well, I...
  • 11:21:30

    REHM: Will you sing for us?
  • 11:21:31

    COLLINS: I -- of course. Of course. Let's see. There are places I remember all my life, though some have changed. So, you know, I love you. I love your show.
  • 11:21:49

    REHM: Oh.
  • 11:21:49

    COLLINS: And I wanted to be here to pay my respects and to honor your amazing program and you, who are an amazing woman and broadcaster and friend to so many of us. I loved being on your show and I've loved getting to know you over the years and sharing things that are important to both of us. So I want to wish you the very best, Diane, whatever you are going to do. And I know it'll be spectacular.
  • 11:22:21

    REHM:  Judy, you're just adorable to call in. Thank you so much.
  • 11:22:27

    COLLINS: You're so welcome, my dear.
  • 11:22:28

    REHM: Would you do me a favor?
  • 11:22:32

    COLLINS: Tell me what.
  • 11:22:33

    REHM: Would you sing one verse of "Amazing Grace"?
  • 11:22:39

    COLLINS: Of course I will. I wanted to tell you, I had some news that I wanted to give you. "Amazing Grace" celebrates it very well. I just got nominated for a Grammy.
  • 11:22:49

    REHM: Oh!
  • 11:22:50

    COLLINS: After 40 years.
  • 11:22:51

    REHM: How wonderful! And you're announcing it here. That's terrific.
  • 11:22:57

    COLLINS: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a retch like me. I once was lost but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see.
  • 11:23:37

    REHM: Oh.
  • 11:23:37

    COLLINS: That's for you, Diane.
  • 11:23:38

    REHM: Oh, you beautiful woman. Thank you so much.
  • 11:23:41

    COLLINS: Thanks, honey. God Bless.
  • 11:23:43

    REHM: Thank you.
  • 11:23:44

    COLLINS: And Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
  • 11:23:46

    REHM: Merry Christmas to you as well. I love you.
  • 11:23:50

    COLLINS: Love you, too. Bye.
  • 11:23:51

    REHM: Bye. Oh, my goodness. What special treats. All right. Let's go to caller number three. 

  • It was with crap like that, navel gazing and gushing, that Diane wrapped up her public radio career.

    Even when Nick from New Hampshire called to ask if any callers over the years stood out, Diane didn't bother to address the listeners who had called in because, instead, she wanted to share a celebrity story.

    You know, speaking of callers, I have to tell you, Tom Wolfe, in his gorgeous white suit, was on this program one day. And I'm talking about Tom Wolfe, who wrote "Bonfire of the Vanities." He was on this program one day. And, of course, the producers had reminded him several times to turn off his cell phone. And what happened? During the program, not only did his cell phone ring, but he answered it. He answered the telephone and said, hi, it's Tom. And the person on the other line began talking. And he said, well, you know, actually I'm on "The Diane Rehm Show," right now. Yeah. She's in Washington. He continued the phone call. And I'm sitting there and I'm glaring at him. And finally I said, Tom, would you be good enough to hang up? And he finally hung up the phone. You know, you never know what's going to happen in live radio. 

    How caring of Diane.

    The listeners were never a guest.

    It's a lie.

    She loved to lie about listeners.

    For example, she claimed her show took calls because, once upon a time, a guest didn't show up.

    No, it took calls because it was a WAMU program.

    It took calls the same way THE HOME SHOW had -- or, more frequently, tried to take calls.  (In the early days, it was very hard to get callers.)

    In the end, very little Diane said on the air was true -- and that's her real legacy.

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