BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone. Howard Stern brought his act to Las Vegas this week, but even the rowdy live audience in the high stripper-to-regular-guy ratio couldn't knock the so-called King of All Media off message.
HOWARD STERN: You know, the FCC has been awful--
HOWARD STERN:-- and we've been dumped by Clear Channel [CROWD HECKLING AND BOOING] in six markets for no other reason than the fact that they have no backbone. I mean it was absolutely ludicrous that as soon as the FCC said something, they just sort of backed off and said, well we fired him; it's no problem.
MAN: Really a wimpy move.
HOWARD STERN: Just a super wimpy move. We work for a great company called Viacom, and we worked for some companies around the country -- they're too numerous to mention, but -- who are brave and believe in freedom of speech and believe that this show should continue.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:And that's not Stern's only message these days. The long-time supporter of Republican candidates is doing his part to get out the vote, this time for Democrats.
HOWARD STERN:Who knows what's going to happen? I, I have predicted that we will be off the air eventually, and I do believe that still. [CROWD BOOING] But-- probably our last trip to Vegas, which makes me sad. And I don't mean to bring everyone's head down but-- you know, might be a good time to think about who you're going to vote for and -- me, I'm not voting for Bush.
MAN: Me neither.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Joe Hagan's cover story for the New York Observer this week was called Howard's Private War, and he joins me now for an update on the battles of that war. Joe, welcome back to On the Media.
JOE HAGAN: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, he has been a supporter of Republicans historically. Has his support actually helped people get elected do you think?
JOE HAGAN:Absolutely. George Pataki, the governor of New York, has mentioned Stern's support as being crucial to his election, definitely with Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey who had kind of a very sort of up tight Brahmin image that she was coping with during her election, went on his show and really sort of turned her entire image around and was able to get elected and as a result named a [LAUGHTER] Turnpike rest stop after Mr. Stern.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I was reading in the L.A. Times, Judy Rosen observed that the "long-sought, liberal talk radio voice has finally arrived, and it's not Air America -- it's Howard Stern."
JOE HAGAN: Right.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:And she says that Stern isn't just sounding off on the president and the administration in broad strokes -- he's actually, in her view, cogently attacking issues and positions on stem cell research, abortion rights, gay marriage, media consolidation, the war -- so Democrats should be lining up for his endorsement now, shouldn't they.
JOE HAGAN:Well, that's what you would think, and you know I spoke with some Democratic media strategists. They were of the mind that it's not worth getting near Stern at this point, but it's good to have him out there talking to this particular fan base, especially.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: In fact, he invited John Kerry on a sort of Barbara Walters-esque program on ABC that he's doing and Kerry said no, no, no.
JOE HAGAN:That's right. You know, the whole way I got into this story was I learned that there was a talent booker in Washington going around, trying to find out if there were any politicians interested in going on his ABC show, and they just were getting no one, and especially John Kerry they were interested in obviously, and as we understand it, Michael Powell also declined to go on the show, which infuriated the producer who thought, you know, here's the man who is having all this effect on broadcasting and here's a major broadcaster who's asking him to talk in public with him, and Michael Powell said he was busy.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Michael Powell, of course, is the chairman of the FCC, and as far as we can tell, there's only one prominent public figure who has stood up for Howard Stern!
JOE HAGAN:That is, right, former mayor Rudolph Giuliani. One of the interesting things that Giuliani said was that Stern had been serious with him, had been respectful of him. In a way I think he was trying to tell other people it's safe to go near Howard Stern.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are there any prominent media people who will stand with Giuliani, with Howard Stern?
JOE HAGAN: Well, in terms of the big media moguls, there's Mel Karmazin, obviously, who's his boss and should be standing up for him, and--
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Karmazin, the head of Viacom.
JOE HAGAN:Right. But there haven't been a whole lot of other media mogul or top media executives. I think the press has generally been his biggest supporter.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I would suggest that maybe the media are his second biggest allies. The first seem to be the listeners. His ratings have spiked, right?
JOE HAGAN:Right. Right. Up 22 percent in New York in the last 3 months and number one show in, in Los Angeles. And the demographic of his listeners is really sort of interesting -- I mean they're generally this white male and have been identified as sort of Reagan Democrats -- culturally Republican, but you know maybe voting just right of center generally, but that Stern is addressing this crowd and telling them not to vote for Bush could potentially have a powerful effect.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: How many listeners are we talking about?
JOE HAGAN:Roughly 8 and a half million listeners a day. I believe the ABC producer told me that 15 to 20 million unique Americans listen to Howard Stern a week.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That's enough to turn a national election.
JOE HAGAN:Absolutely. And especially when you consider that a lot of these 8 and a half million who listen every day are all across the country, especially in these battleground states, and you know, it could potentially make the difference if, if it's going to be like the last election where it's just a few hundred votes determining something in Ohio. Well, Howard Stern can be heard in Ohio.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Thanks very much.
JOE HAGAN: You're welcome.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Joe Hagan is a columnist for the New York Observer.