Radio in the red zone
On Yuba and Sutter radio dials, there’s only room for the right
The radio station KMYC 1410 AM in Marysville touts itself as “where Rush and Dr. Laura live together.” It’s a cute, and ironic, tagline—given conservative talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s often repeated contempt for any romantic relationship outside of marriage between one man and one woman. But on KMYC, there’s even room for G. Gordon Liddy and Michael Reagan to cohabitate.
For a while, the station experimented with something different: putting hosts on the air who were local and, well, Democrats.
Gabe Singh, a native of Live Oak and a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, and Mike Johnson (who twice ran unsuccessfully against local Republican Congressman Wally Herger), were given a weekend talk show in the hopes of bringing some ideological balance to the company’s talk lineup. The station boasts that it is the “only talk station in the market” for Yuba and Sutter counties.
The experiment lasted a year—ending in threats to boycott the station’s advertisers, death threats, and Singh and Johnson being run off the air.
Welcome to politics Yuba-Sutter style.
Singh has made himself a bit of a lightning rod in Yuba and Sutter counties, over time becoming one of the few prominent Democrats in an area that has been under Republican rule for decades.
It’s an area that also is saddled with grinding poverty. “We’re at the bottom in every category. Worst in jobs, worst in health care and worst in education,” Singh said, winding up for a tirade against the Republican establishment he holds responsible for the mess in the northern stretches of the Central Valley.
Last year, Singh got himself appointed to the Sutter County Planning Commission. But he was kicked off the commission by county supervisors last spring, after he likened Sutter to “Hazzard County” and the county administrator to “Boss Hogg” in a public meeting.
County Supervisor Larry Montna, who appointed Singh to the board—and who is a Republican himself—laughed when he recalled the sacking. “Gabe can be rather boisterous. I guess they didn’t take too kindly to what he had to say.” Montna, one of Singh’s few political allies, took some glee in immediately reappointing Singh to the commission.
In talking to Singh, it’s obvious that he too takes pleasure in goading his political foes. So, hosting a political talk show in the heavily conservative hinterland was a joy.
“Every time I’d say ‘right-wing trash,’ man those boards would just light up.”
Where Singh drew the most fire, however, was in promoting Measure G, a Yuba County ballot measure that would have allowed construction of an American Indian casino just outside of Marysville.
Singh supported the measure on the grounds that it would create jobs, “better paying than Wal-Mart at least.” But area church groups and the Republican leadership heavily opposed Measure G. About a million dollars was spent on both sides of the Measure G fight, mostly from outside groups—the casino developers promoting the proposition and other casinos in the region that aided the “no” side. But the measure was red meat for Singh and Johnson’s show, and they talked about it every weekend—blasting local elected officials who were working against it.
As the campaign heated up, the angry calls from irate listeners started to spike. They wanted Singh off the air.
“The station was getting 25 calls a week. They were threatening to boycott the advertisers, even threatening our lives. You know, ‘I’m going to shoot you. I’m going to shoot your family,’” Singh said.
On November 7, Measure G was narrowly defeated, getting just 47 percent of the vote. Singh took some credit for the close vote, but on the weekend after the election, he and Johnson were told the show was canceled.
Tom Huth, the owner of KMYC, wouldn’t comment, beyond saying “I have absolutely nothing to say. I just want it dropped.”
But Ed Fleming, one of Singh’s fellow planning commissioners, attended the meeting between Huth and Singh that day. He said that Huth complained about having his advertisers and even his family threatened.
“Huth was white as a ghost,” Fleming recalled. “He said, ‘I wanted you to have this show. But I’ve got to think of my family.’ The man was really scared.” Singh and Johnson had to go.
So, Rush and Dr. Laura are rid of a troublesome roommate. But Singh vows to return to the airwaves. He’s negotiating with KCTC, the Air America talk station in Sacramento, for a regular show. And he’s not giving up on hardball politics in Yuba and Sutter counties. “This is hillbilly land. If somebody calls you a lowdown skunk, you’ve got to get out in the street and fight.”