- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

WMAL-AM (630) has fired conservative talk-show host Michael Graham, three weeks after the ABC-owned radio station suspended him for calling Islam a “terrorist organization.”

Mr. Graham also has lost his gig, at least for now, as a panelist on “Eye on Washington,” the weekend political talk show produced by WUSA-TV (Channel 9), the local CBS affiliate.

“The First Amendment and I have been evicted from ABC Radio,” Mr. Graham said in a statement posted to a Web site Sunday night.

Mr. Graham described Islam as “a terrorist organization” 23 times during the July 21 edition of his show, which WMAL aired weekdays between 9 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.

On July 25, he told listeners that “Islam is at war with America,” “We are at war with a terrorist organization called Islam,” and “The problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged WMAL to discipline Mr. Graham and called on group members to contact WMAL advertisers after the July 25 broadcast. At least one, Moore Cadillac Hummer, wrote to the group to denounce Mr. Graham’s statements, but did not say it would pull its ads.

WMAL initially declined to discipline Mr. Graham, but it relented July 28 by pulling him off the air without pay.

In his statement, Mr. Graham said ABC wanted him to retract his comments about Islam, apologize on air and perform what he called “additional outreach efforts” to people he had offended.

“I will not apologize for my opinions or retract the truth,” Mr. Graham said in the statement. In a brief interview yesterday, he said he learned he was fired in a letter from WMAL on Friday, declining further comment.

Chris J. Berry, WMAL’s president and general manager, said Mr. Graham was making “misstatements” regarding the incident.

“I asked Michael for an on-air acknowledgement that some of his remarks were overly broad and, inexplicably, he refused. Michael has also tried to position this that we were pressured into taking disciplinary action against him. For the record, we make our decisions independent of external pressures or third parties, and we will not permit an employee to willfully violate our policies,” Mr. Berry said.

Mr. Graham has been a regular panelist on “Eye on Washington” since its November debut, but he has not appeared on the show since July 23.

“Right now, we don’t have any plans to use him,” said Darryll J. Green, WUSA’s president and general manager. He declined further comment.

At WMAL, Mr. Graham was part of a lineup that includes syndicated talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Exact ratings for Mr. Graham’s show were not available, but the station drew fewer morning listeners in the spring than it did one year earlier, according to the most recent data from Arbitron Inc.

It isn’t unusual for radio talk-show hosts to be fired for making statements about religion or race. In April, a Pittsburgh host was fired for questioning whether Pope John Paul II would go to heaven.

“This is not a free-speech issue,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, an industry trade magazine. WMAL has a right to fire hosts with whom it disagrees, he said.

This is at least the third time Mr. Graham has been fired from radio jobs for on-air remarks. The most recent previous incident occurred in the hours after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in 1999, when a Charlotte, N.C., station fired Mr. Graham for telling listeners that the death of athletes at the school was “one minor benefit of this otherwise horrible story.”

Rabiah Ahmed, a CAIR spokeswoman, said Mr. Graham “has the right to have bigoted views, but the public has a right to live in a society free of incitement.” Mr. Graham’s statements that CAIR has not condemned terrorism are inaccurate, she added.

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