Though much has been made of the recent debut of Al Franken as a liberal talk-radio host, the most important political voice on talk radio this year may turn out to be not Franken but the usually apolitical "shock jock" Howard Stern.
Recent months have not been kind to Stern, who found himself a target of the backlash against indecency that followed the baring of Janet Jackson's nipple during the Super Bowl halftime show. In February the radio behemoth Clear Channel Communications dropped him from six of its affiliates for being "vulgar, offensive and insulting." The following month the FCC slapped him with a $27,500 fine for his on-air discussions of sexual techniques such as the "nasty Sanchez" and the "blumpkin" (don't ask). As Congress considers raising obscenity fines as high as $500,000, Stern is contemplating a move to satellite radio, where the FCC couldn't touch him.
The proudly boorish host has cast himself as the target of a Republican vendetta—sparked by his criticism of President Bush and spearheaded by Clear Channel (whose CEO is a Bush family friend). So Stern is fighting back, proclaiming "radio jihad" on Bush's re-election campaign and partly remaking his show—well known for its adolescent obsession with fart jokes, lesbians, and strippers—into a platform for anti-Republican invective. "Remember me in November when you're in the voting booth," Stern tells listeners. "I'm asking you to do me one favor. Vote against Bush. That's it."