`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
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

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003