Radio host says he was fired mid-show after criticizing Trump on the air
The radio host says he's still not sure exactly why he was fired mid-show Saturday, when he says his station switched abruptly to network news before a higher-up came in to tell him, "You're done."
Whatever the cause, the ouster underscored Craig Silverman's growing unease with his conservative talk radio colleagues' unswerving support of President Donald Trump, he says.
Silverman, who has hosted his weekly show since 2014, says his willingness to criticize the president he voted for in 2016 had long set him apart on Denver's 710 KNUS, part of Salem Media Group, which promises conservative, Christian viewpoints and has a history of cutting ties with Trump critics. But nothing brought out Silverman's tensions with others at Salem, he said, like the Democratic-led inquiry into whether Trump abused his office to secure a foreign investigation into a political rival.
"I heard my fellow hosts say, 'It's boring. It's a sham. Bad for the country. A hoax,'" he told The Washington Post. "So many of these talk show hosts are doing the total bidding of Donald Trump. And I want to offer my contrary voice."
Right-leaning talk radio is closely attuned to the Trump base, said media historian Brian Rosenwald, the author of "Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States."
"There's an understanding now, given that all the Never Trumpers are gone, that if you work for a Salem company, you're going to be pro-Trump," Rosenwald said. "And where is conservative media? It's where conservative consumers are, which is pro-Trump," Rosenwald told The Post.
KNUS and Salem Media Group did not respond to inquiries Sunday to confirm Silverman's account or explain his departure. The station appeared to have deactivated the website for "The Craig Silverman Show," and some of the show's archives have seemingly been removed.
Silverman says he was fired after he defied orders not to go on other networks' shows to discuss impeachment, despite a contract provided to The Post that describes his work with KNUS as "nonexclusive." He says he finds the facts emerging from the hearings "damning" and wanted more than his three-hour Saturday slot to get his views out.
So, on Saturday, he announced on the air that he'd be appearing on outside shows anyway. His microphone was cut later in the show, during a segment scrutinizing former Trump attorney Roy Cohn, Silverman says.
He has taken his abrupt exit as an opportunity to broadcast his differences with the station.
"I cannot and will not toe strict Trump party line. I call things as I see them," Silverman tweeted Saturday in response to a supportive tweet from a state lawmaker.
Silverman, a former local prosecutor, has told Colorado media for years that he wants his show to be an "island of independence" within his station. Asked whether his "liberal and libertarian viewpoints" were out of sync on KNUS back in 2014, he told Complete Colorado that "there is diversity in their hosts."
He felt more and more the odd one out, though.
In last week's show, Silverman accused some Trump supporters of being unwilling to have a civil debate about the impeachment inquiry or consider arguments about the investigation's validity. Responding to a call from a listener who called the inquiry unjustified, Silverman brought up allegations that Trump attempted to withhold military funding from Ukraine to secure investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter Biden.
"You like Donald Trump's policies and I like many of them as well," Silverman said. "Right now, we have peace and prosperity, and that's great. But the question becomes, 'Is it OK to cheat to win?' Because the allegation is that Donald Trump is using that money and the power of the presidency to cheat to win in 2020."
Silverman says he never got direct pressure from bosses to change his tune on Trump. But Salem Media Group has clashed notably with other former hosts who diverged from its pro-Trump stance.
In 2018, CNN reported that former hosts were pressured by Salem executives to cover Trump more positively.
Last year, Salem Media Group announced that Michael Medved, a host who once called the president "insecure, unprepared and angrily unhinged," would be replaced with a former Trump adviser's show, "America First with Sebastian Gorka."
More recently, in August, Salem's radio network canceled a distribution deal with Joe Walsh after the former Illinois congressman launched a long-shot primary challenge to the president. The network did not explain the decision.
Executives have emphasized a desire to match programming to their audience's tastes, even as Salem says it provides a "variety of perspectives."
"They're expecting us to deliver that information through the lens of conservative politics," the company's president of broadcast media, Dave Santrella, told The Hollywood Reporter in April. "And, our experience has always been that any time we deviate from that, we lose listeners and we lose advertisers."
In staunchly supporting Trump, Rosenwald said, Salem's hosts reinforce the audience's belief that the impeachment inquiry is just a " 'witch hunt' and not an inquiry based in fact."
"It infuriates me, because these are substantive allegations," he said.
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