The strange case of Barreiro, Franken and Baker

About 10 days ago, my Twitter feed lit up with GOP operatives chattering about a contentious State Fair interview between KFAN-AM host Dan Barreiro and U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

I listened, and there were definitely some odd moments. The oddest was when an audience member asked a question about the housing crisis, and Franken responded by asking the questioner where he worked.

Later, host and guest tangled about whether a “mosque” or “community center” was being built near ground zero, and whether Franken could invoke the Bush administration to defend the facility’s imam as a moderate Muslim.

“You’re getting way too worked up here,” Barreiro says at one point as the crowd heckles Franken. “I am in favor of building in this location.”

As it turns out, there was a back story to the static that concluded with fellow Clear Channel talk show host Chris Baker being hauled to the managerial woodshed.

Baker does the morning shift for conservative talker KTLK-FM, whose booth butted up against KFAN’s. During the Fair, he was doing double-duty entertaining his fans during Barreiro’s afternoon show.

Baker is an ideological shock jock who’s mused that women and homeless people shouldn’t vote, called Barack Obama “a little bitch” and agreed that Magic Johnson faked having AIDS. It’s not too surprising that the DFL Senator has spurned invitations to appear on his show.

When Baker and his fans saw Franken walking toward Barreiro’s stage, they razzed the Senator about not coming on the show. They apparently realized KFAN presented them with a chance for a guerilla interview.

If you listen to the segment (about 60 percent of the way into this link), Barreiro seems reluctant to turn to audience questions. The housing question was the only one asked, and the group mocks Franken’s answer to the point where he asks to be allowed to finish. The heckling continued during the mosque back-and-forth.

Clear Channel’s local operations manager Gregg Swedberg says Baker’s crew “got too aggressive.” The segment ended with Baker waiting to ask a question; Barreiro’s producer may have killed that particular mic.

Franken’s spokesman Marc Kimball explains the Senator asked about the questioner’s employment to “clarify if the questioner was connected to Chris Baker.” (The man responded that he was a city of Minneapolis employee.)

Swedberg says that what seemed like a Clear Channel ambush “threw Franken off so he was no longer a useful guest” for Barreiro; in turn, Barreiro was “upset” that Baker tried to hijack the interview.

“I think any time you have two passionate people who are doing their gigs, we have to find a way to keep them from each other,” Swedberg notes.

The message delivered during the sit-down? “We do our best not to step on another show’s toes,” Swedberg says. “Unless it’s a planned cross-promotion, it’s not something we do, to our own shows or to anyone else’s.”

For his part, Kimball says Franken wasn’t thrown off his game: “Senator Franken does interviews in a wide variety of settings and is used to handling those situations.”

And will Franken appease Baker and go on his show in the future?

“Senator Franken appears on radio shows all the time to constructively discuss issues important to Minnesota in a mutually respectful manner,” Kimball says. “With constraints on his time, he and staff have to make decisions on which requests would be constructive and the best use of his time.”

Sounds like Baker will have to wait a bit longer to get his shot at the man who wrote “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.”

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/10/2010 - 09:22 am.

    Sounds like Baker is doing his best to prove that Rubaugh isn’t the only (figurative) big fat idiot in the conservatalk echo chamber.

    If he’s such an attention whore, maybe he needs to burn a Bible on air or something. Yeah! That’ll get him noticed!

  2. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 09/10/2010 - 09:55 am.

    David, you forgot about Thug Radio Announcer Baker’s recommendation to use machine guns and ax handles on RNC protesters in 2008:×115488

    Talking about the planned protests at the RNC, Baker said: “So we’ve been talking about police protection during the upcoming convention when all those stinky protesters are coming. There seems to be a big debate over whether or not police officers will be able to wear helmets, carry shields, use pepper spray and Tasers on this crowd. You know, I’ll tell you what works on a crowd like this — a machine gun, that always works very well.”

    Baker’s co-host, “Jordan,” agreed: “Mow ’em down, baby!” he added.

    “You must have order, you cannot have a civilized society without order and if that means cracking a few skulls, so be it,” said Baker. “A good ole boy network is what you need and hand out some ax handles.”

    I can’t imagine why Sen. Franken wouldn’t want to go on Baker’s show for a rational discussion of the issues like that.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/10/2010 - 10:57 am.

    I’m looking forward to the day when “Angry” Al Franken dives off a stage, screaming, and tackles someone who is questioning him. And yes, I sincerely do believe that kind of anger and hatred is boiling just beneath his fancy new shirt…it’s just a matter of time.

  4. Submitted by John Jordan on 09/10/2010 - 03:43 pm.

    I’m not a big Baker fan but if he’s a “shock jock” one has to wonder who you’d describe Ed Schultz or virtually anyone who was ever on Hot Air America (including Franken himself).

  5. Submitted by Stan Daniels on 09/10/2010 - 06:01 pm.

    I heard both sides of this. Baker exaggerated what happened on his show the next morning and didn’t explain everything. Barriero did a solid interview with Franken and Franken handled it poorly.

    Baker a “shock jock”? Really? He is actually very sarcastic and while I agree he tends to overdue things and leans heavily right I don’t see him in the Howard Stern category.

    That said, Baker was out of line and I’m sure Franken will never appear on his show.

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