This morning I faced a very unexpected dilemma while on the air.
Republican state representative Steve Hickey was scheduled to join me. Hickey has been in the news this week for challenging the nominating petitions of fellow Republican Annette Bosworth. I contacted Hickey yesterday and asked if he would be willing to come on the show and explain his motives.
If you missed the interview, you'll find the podcast here: http://bit.ly/1r0aOsy
Several minutes before the interview, Annette Bosworth came into the side door of our studios. I didn't invite Dr. Bosworth to join us nor were we expecting her. Bosworth spoke with my producer, Brownie (Mark Brown), who works at a small desk just outside my studio.
I was still on the air and happened to glance Dr. Bosworth in the hallway. Her appearance came as a complete surprise to me. I had not received any emails or calls from Dr. Bosworth or her campaign to request an interview.
My immediate response was anger. I've been hosting a radio talk show for almost 16 years. I can't recall any instance where any politician or candidate showed up unannounced at our studio minutes before an interview and wanted to challenge the invited guest on the air. It's highly unprofessional and hardly befitting a candidate for U.S. Senate.
Jack Taylor was winding down his sportscast. We're about 4 minutes out from the interview with Steve Hickey. I know Brownie is going to walk through the door the moment my mic is off and tell me that Bosworth wants to be on the air. And that's exactly what happened. What should I do?
There was only one choice. I told Brownie to invite Dr. Bosworth back tomorrow at the same time to share her side of the story. I'll explain why I made that decision in a moment.
Brownie went back out into the hallway and chatted with Dr. Bosworth as I was getting Steve Hickey on the phone. I fully expected Bosworth to leave and return tomorrow.
When I looked back up, she was still standing in the hallway. In fact,Bosworth stood out in the hallway throughout the entire interview with Hickey. She turned up the monitor so loudly that it disrupted several other morning shows down the hallway. And if you think I'm being too hard on Bosworth, you should have heard what some of them had to say. But I digress.
At this point, I'm seething. In my opinion, it seemed like Bosworth was making an attempt to intimidate me. It's a good thing for me that I'm too dumb to feel threatened.
I refocused and proceeded with the interview with Steve Hickey. Dr. Bosworth left as soon as it was over. We didn't speak directly at all this morning.
Twitter was soon aflame with criticisms and questions as to why I didn't allow Bosworth on the air to confront Hickey. Many of them said things like, "it would have been great radio" or "it would have been great entertainment".
Sure! Great idea! Maybe Bosworth would have gotten so mad that she'd have thrown a chair! I could have let the whole thing devolve into the Jerry Springer show!! Yeah, it sure would have been great entertainment.
But it would have yielded little or no information.
If I had wanted a cat fight between Steve Hickey and Annette Bosworth, I would have invited them both to appear at the same time.
I was seeking information. I wanted to question Hickey about his motives. I wanted his thoughts on lessons learned from the petition challenge. It seems to me we've got a big problem when residents only have about a 15 day window to challenge signatures. I wanted information that would be helpful to voters trying to make up their minds in the Republican primary.
My goal today was to inform listeners, not entertain them. This is a contest to select the next United States Senator from South Dakota. While it may be an entertaining joke to you, it's deadly serious business to me.
There are plenty of other reasons why it would have been a mistake to let Bosworth appear on the air this morning...
1. Steve Hickey would have been completely blindsided. He wasn't expecting Bosworth to be part of our conversation. It would have been rude and unprofessional of me to hit Hickey with that information moments before going on the air. I don't conduct ambush interviews.
2. I won't set a precedent that we're going to drop what we're doing every time someone shows up at our studio. We rarely refuse interview requests of elected officials and candidates for state wide office. If they wish to be on the air, all they have to do is call or email in advance.
3. Bosworth actually gets more time to make her case tomorrow. She won't have to share the microphone with another guest. That also translates into more information for listeners.
4. I was angry! Despite what you may believe, I wish to treat Bosworth fairly and let her share her side of the story. I can't conduct a decent interview when I'm angry at the person across the desk. Some have suggested that I did Bosworth a favor by giving her time to cool down. Honestly, I was more interested in giving myself time to cool down.
One of Bosworth's sycophants is complaining that I didn't immediately let the good doctor on the air. But can you imagine how he would be howling if I had allowed Hickey to intrude unannounced on a scheduled interview with Bosworth?
The criticism honestly doesn't bother me. The louder people scream, the more confident I am that I'm applying pressure in the right place.
Dr. Bosworth will join me live at 8:20am tomorrow (Thurs 4/17). Don't be late.
Greg Belfrage @belfrageshow is heard 6am-9am on KELO 1320 AM and 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.