`Bitter radio of hate' hits back

OKLAHOMA: American right on the defensive as chief suspect refuses to co-operate with FBI

"The BATF is a very dangerous group of people. They are totally out of control. I think it is very dangerous to put a childrens' day-care centre in a building which houses the most hated agency in the country."

Such were a few random thoughts for his claimed 8 million audience offered yesterday by the erstwhile Watergate felon, gun freak and syndicated radio talk king, G Gordon Liddy, on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the siting of its offices - along with those of a clutch of other federal agencies - in the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.

A week after the worst terrorist incident inside America's borders, the spotlight of controversy is focused on conservative talk radio and those "purveyors of hatred," whose "reckless speech" and "bitter words" were so roundly castigated on Monday by President Bill Clinton. For the first time in months, the American right is on the defensive; but if Mr Clinton was expecting contrition, there has been scant sign of it from Mr Liddy and his peers.

Yesterday, as every day since the slaughter, Oklahoma City was the only topic on his three-hour show. So great has been the media clamour that Mr Liddy turned a segment of the programme into a press conference in the lobby of the building which houses the studios at station WJFK, in Liddy-parlance "Radio Free DC".

Was he unwittingly stoking up the extremist, lunatic fringe? Absolutely not, he responded, "I have a fine, intelligent, thoughtful audience." Yes, he conceded, he had given instructions on how to kill ATF agents - but only in self-defence, when they attacked without reason, as during their raid on the "Christian fundamentalist" movement at Waco, two years ago.

But, surely, someone else asked, his views on federal agencies and government in general had not made life easier for the innocent victims of Oklahoma City? "But what about the innocent victims of Waco," retorted Mr Liddy. "What we need to do is make sure these things stop. You can tell when I'm serious: We've got to see that federal agencies which run amok are reined in. And you can tell when I'm joking."

Yes, he acknowledged to another questioner, "I did relate on the air that on the Fourth of July, 1994, when I was with my family at a properly constructed shooting range and we ran out of targets, I drew some stick- figures for new targets and called them Bill and Hillary. But I accept no responsibility for somebody shooting up the White House" - a reference to Francisco Duran, who fired 36 rounds at the President's home last year. But, Mr Liddy seemed to imply, the President was asking for it, by "coming for your guns in the name of civil liberties. If it hadn't been for the armed 18th-century citizens' militia, there wouldn't have been any civil liberties here in the first place. And now Clinton wants to take away more of your liberties by giving more powers to the FBI."

But elsewhere than on the radio talkshow circuit, the President has emerged with credit from the crisis. The federal government which he heads and its agencies - especially the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency - have demonstrably performed well.

Mr Clinton's approval ratings are up, and more sober political opponents such as the Senate majority leader, Bob Dole, have applauded his handling of the disaster. Not least he has been centre stage throughout: no small improvement for a man pleading, at a news conference the night before Oklahoma City, that he was still "relevant".

And for all the fire currently directed at them, the shows too may benefit. With the Republicans in control of Congress, and few epithets left to hurl at President and Mrs Clinton, the format had been starting to look stale and over-strident. Now the conservative hosts are back where they love it, at the centre of debate. And if ratings go up, they'll be the last to complain.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor