Statement re: Corporate Censorship

William O’Shaughnessy
wfo@wvox.com

Statement

Re:
Corporate Censorship

May 25, 2017

Organized coercion and intimidation of corporations, networks, news media, and educational institutions which is often clandestinely and stealthily subsidized is just as dangerous and chilling to Free Speech as censorship by government fiat, directive, decree, mandate or dictum.

And it matters not if it’s directed at Bill O’Reilly, Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, Opie & Anthony, Howard Stern, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Billy Bush … or Donald J. Trump, president of the United States.

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WO Interview with Chris Ruddy, Chairman, Newsmax, re: Roger Ailes, President Trump, the Media and Cable News …

William O’Shaughnessy

Interview with

Chris Ruddy

Chairman, Newsmax

Re:  Roger Ailes, President Trump, the Media and Cable News …

May 18, 2017

 

William O’Shaughnessy:

The world of news and network television lost a luminous figure this morning with the announcement that Roger Ailes, formerly of FOX News, has gone to another and, we are sure, a better world.  As he departs, let’s go now to Palm Beach to one of his neighbors, also a network president, he’s the founder of NEWSMAX. Can I accurately describe that as somewhat “conservative?”  His name is Christopher Ruddy. Chris … Roger Ailes … did you know him?

 

Chris Ruddy:

Bill … I knew him very well.  I’ve known him for about 20 years. He was a genius on television, an incredible giant in the news business. We once had a cover of Roger Ailes we did for our magazines. Most people know us for our network and website.  The cover said: “The Most Powerful Man in News!”  Roger told me a few weeks later he met Obama … and Obama said to him “Oh, the man Newsmax says is the most powerful man in news!” He was a giant. He changed the landscape of news and cable news forever. He changed the country. I don’t think Donald Trump would ever have been elected if it wasn’t for Roger. 

 

WO:

Chris Ruddy …  what’s going to happen now to FOX News?  Are there opportunities for you, for Newsmax?

 

CR:

Well, Bill, we’ve already been out there on Newsmax TV.  We’re now on Verizon FIOS channel 615.  We expect to be in another 30 million homes over this summer.  People can call their call their cable operators and ask for Newsmax TV.  We’re building a very powerful lineup.  We think we’re, in some ways, better than FOX.  We give opportunities for people to call in, to become part of the programming.  And we have a lot of good newsmakers coming on all the time.  Alan Dershowitz was on yesterday, for example.  FOX opened the door for networks like Newsmax. Roger was a pathfinder and broke the media monopoly. For years, you know, the media was largely liberal and left-wing. 

 

WO:

And now …?

 

CR:

And now the media, I think, is more open to other points of view.  I think CNN, for example, has become more centrist because of FOX.  It used to be very left wing in the day.  I know Donald Trump doesn’t like the media … but if they didn’t have FOX as the counterweight, Donald Trump would have gotten very little airtime on the major networks.  I think the country benefits from multiple voices. This idea that we should only have one point of view – back in the day when there were three networks led by Cronkite, let’s say as the preeminent anchor, there was generally an Establishment view on things.  Now we have multiple views.  Even MSNBC … I watch that too. I don’t agree with most of their programming, but I think it’s good, interesting stuff.  I think Ailes would applaud that.  That said, I think the guy was … you know in this business … the difference between genius and insanity is a very thin line!  Roger had a lot of quirks.  There’s been a lot of allegations about him and FOX News and sexual harassment issues … it’s not my job to judge that, other than to say that the situation there seems pretty darn messy.  As you may know in the ratings, MSNBC is beating FOX in a lot of the key demos now.  It’s not good for FOX.  And I think with Roger not being there, they don’t really have an organizing principle any more.

 

WO:

Christopher Ruddy … another network said that Roger sold his home up the road apiece in Garrison.  And another place he had in Creskill, New Jersey and moved to Palm Beach where you are, at the moment.  What is it about Palm Beach that all you network chiefs repair to the damn place?

 

CR:

Well, it’s Shangri-La down here.  It’s an incredibly beautiful area.  It’s got a lot of people from New York and New Jersey so there’s a cultural mix that’s pretty accommodating, let’s put it that way.  A lot of amenities.  The tax environment … we have no state income tax, so a lot of people love that. Roger was also facing a lot of litigation, and a lot of people think the reason he bought a $36 million dollar home on the ocean very quickly was that he was hoping to shield assets in some of the litigation he’s going through.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it is a smart idea for a lot of people.  I love New York. Newsmax has an office in New York.  I think New York is still the epicenter of the media world, for instance, and in business and commerce.  But Florida is a great state.  C’mon down if you haven’t been down here yet.

 

WO:

Christopher Ruddy … Roger Ailes, in recent years, took a lot of shots.  But he happened to have been a very generous man.  There’s a group called the Broadcasters Foundation of America, and at the risk of embarrassing you, you also are very generous to that national charity.  Is there a side to Roger Ailes that maybe people didn’t know about?  You know a lot about a lot of things …

 

CR:

Well, I think he would not have risen to the success he did if there wasn’t a lot of good attributes.  I think he was intensely loyal to his friends.  I’m sure he had a charitable side as you point out.  I think he had a lot of empathy for people.  We’re hearing a lot of dark stuff about what happened there. Again, I don’t know if it’s true.  But I think there was probably a lot of good stuff there.  I think he deeply loved America.  He really strongly believed in a secure nation.  I would talk to him often about the sovereignty of the United States. Before Donald Trump was talking about these issues in any serious way, Roger Ailes was.  He was the guy that got everybody worried about the border.  Ten years ago, nobody was talking about the border. Now, it’s a major issue. And Roger started that.   Donald Trump carried the flag.  And has done a good job raising that flag.

 

WO:

While we have you live this morning from Palm Beach, I want to beg another minute to ask you about your friend, and you were accused in the New York Times of being a very good friend of the president. I understand there’s a photo going around that shows you sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office and he’s standing there with his hand on your shoulder. What the hell do you talk about?  Chris Ruddy and Donald John Trump?  What do you guys schmooze about?

 

CR:

Bill, I think that somebody photoshopped that photo! (laughter) I don’t think it’s an accurate photo. 

 

WO:

I don’t believe it …

 

CR:

I think the CIA or the Russians or Putin or somebody did that and I’m going to need to launch a full investigation.  I will appoint a special counsel to find out why my photo with the president was photoshopped!  (laughter)

 

WO:

But you do go to Mar-a-Lago, Chris Ruddy, and you do know the guy.

 

CR:

I’ve known him for 20 years.  I’ve known him well, I’d say, for 10 years.  I am a member of Mar-a-Lago, although I knew him before I was a member.  I’ve known him from the media. I’ve been with him in Scotland, at the opening of his Scottish club. So I’ve gotten to really know the president.  On his personal side, he’s a great guy.  He’s not what the media is depicting him as.  I think he’s a businessman, Bill. He’s not a politician.  And there’s good attributes to that and there’s bad attributes to that. So we’re finding out he doesn’t know that you can’t tell the FBI director: I think you’re pushing too hard on my guy.  Donald Trump would talk very candidly and openly to people.  Nobody told him that’s obstruction of justice if you mention this to the FBI.  And I don’t think he intended that, if he said it at all.  So I think they’re out to get him.  They don’t like him.

 

WO:

Christopher Ruddy … can he survive, President Trump? Tell us.

 

CR:

I think he can. There’s a book I’ve been recommending to everyone.  It’s called Big Agenda by David Horowitz. David has sort of a game plan. He wrote it before Trump became president and then so much of it became true:  the Big Agenda. He sort of lays out a way for Trump to survive all this. David predicted a likely impeachment hearing.  They were talking about this before he even took the oath of office.  I think he can.  But I do think he needs a strong team of advisors around him that are experienced and better in political matters.  I think what we’re seeing with the firing of the director of the FBI is that he did not have an experienced team. The very fact that they thought that  it would be widely accepted as a good idea and that the way they did it would be accepted as a good idea … it was a very strange situation which has led to this catastrophic situation he potentially faces now. 

 

WO:

Can Mueller hurt the president?

 

CR:

Immensely.  But it also will take time.  He doesn’t have time.

 

WO:

Summer has come to New York, Chris. You’re not the only one with good weather today.  Thank you Mr. founder of Newsmax. We’re glad we can get you now in Westchester on FIOS. 

 

CR:

Thank you, Bill.  You are a legend and a beacon of hope for all of us in the media world. 

 

WO:

Chris Ruddy, wonderful stuff …

 ###

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for 56 years as president and editorial director.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, another anthology. He has also completed “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo which has just been published. 

Re: Billy Bush: He Deserves A Second Chance

Re:  Billy Bush
He Deserves A Second Chance
A WVOX Commentary
by William O’Shaughnessy
May 24, 2017

 

Billy Bush is an absolutely wonderful young man … a graceful fellow with sterling manners. But for one unfortunate and memorable lapse, he’s always been a perfect gentleman. 

He started as an intern with our suburban Westchester stations WVOX right out of Colby College in 1994.

Despite the Access Hollywood incident, Billy Bush has been a class act in every season of his life. 

He brings to everything he does – on and off the air – a generous helping of born–and-bred bonhomie, gregarious ebullience, joie de vivre and effervescence. He has always been accompanied by a lot of pep and gracious enthusiasm in everything he does. 

He’s also a fine journalist with good instincts who lights up a television studio. And as we’ve observed him over the years … there’s not a mean damn bone in his body. 

As the world knows, he is also a nephew of a former president of the United States (George H.W. Bush) … a cousin of another (George W. Bush) … and grandson of a United States Senator (Prescott Bush.) Interesting that he’s never “played” or bragged on any of that.

His father is the estimable Jonathan Bush, who Mario Cuomo once described as “the Bush all the others would like to be.”

In an era of vapid, vacuous, boring, tedious, unexciting talking heads, bimbos and poseurs glued to Teleprompters, we still think Billy Bush is a bright, shining star with great potential and a great future.  Because he’s real

And it is our hope that the elders of the television networks will not hold the temporary vulgarity of his frat boy episode with Donald Trump against him.

William “Billy” Bush has clearly done a lot of sincere, quality time, soul-searching with respect to the feelings of women. And he remains the gentleman he was brought up to be.    

To choke off this young man’s career would be unfortunate … nay, inexcusable. 

He deserves a second chance.

 

# # #

As I recalled in my new book Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man, even the former Governor of New York was greatly taken with the young Mr. Bush and the way he carried himself years ago.  Here’s an excerpt:

 

The governor had considerable admiration for the Bush family. And Vice versa. I vividly recall a summer meeting of the New York State Broadcasters Association at the fabled Gideon Putnam, an historic old lorelei of a hotel in Saratoga Springs. William “Billy” Bush, who spent the summer with us as a news intern at our Westchester community stations, “covered” the upstate confab, with broadcasters from all over the state, at which the governor was the featured speaker. After Mario’s formal remarks, he opened it up for a Q & A session.

The very first question came from the attractive young man in the back of the room: “Mr. Governor, my name is William ‘Billy’ Bush. I am an associate of your friend Mr. O’Shaughnessy. I’d like to ask you why must it always be ‘us’ against ‘them’ in the public discourse?”

The room hushed and waited for Mario’s response to the excellent philosophical question, which was right over the heart of the plate for Mario Cuomo. “Well, I can tell from the elegance of your question that you are indeed a Bush …” And then Mario hit it out of the park with a beautiful ten-minute reply.

After the conference was over, I received a call in my car going down the Hudson River Valley. “Who was that attractive young man; is he really a Bush?”  Mario asked.  When I explained that Billy was the son of Jonathan Bush, Mario said, “Oh, I like his father very much.  He’s the one with the great personality, the one all the other Bushes wish they were like.”

 

# # #

 

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for 56 years as president and editorial director.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, another anthology. He has also completed “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo which has just been published. 

 

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher
Whitney Media
914-235-3279
cindy@wvox.com

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Eulogy for Jimmy Breslin

Governor Andrew Cuomo

Eulogy for

Jimmy Breslin

Church of the Blessed Sacrament

New York, NY

March 22, 2017

 

The Cuomo and the Breslin families grew up together in Queens. Mr. Breslin and my father had bonded over the Corona 69 homeowners versus Mayor John Lindsay conflict. Obviously, they were with the homeowners. Together they were fighting City Hall — literally and metaphorically — and they would all their lives.

I was 12 at the time and to me Mr. Breslin was just plain scary. Mr. Breslin smoked a cigar and he smelled like it. He had a gruff air and apparently had no time or love for little children.

With his broad chest, open collar and full head of curly black hair, he looked like a lion with a flowing mane. Although I was frightened by Mr. Breslin, I couldn’t help taunting him occasionally, the way a mouse would run through the paws of a lion.

I was too small to really engender his wrath. He would call the house multiple times at night and I would imitate the way my father answered the phone with a simple, deep throated “Yup.”

That’s all Mr. Breslin needed to start a diatribe. He would normally begin by cursing some politician and then continue for several minutes stringing together profanities and comments on parts of the human anatomy that I had never heard before.

He would pause for a breath and I would say, “Oh Mr. Breslin, you must want to talk to my father.” This would incite the lion’s rage and he would say, “You little blank-blank,” and just hang up.

He would come to the house and sit with my father at the kitchen table — a round, blue Formica table that was designed to look like marble. They only have blue marble in Queens. I would sit down the hall and listen. They would have a drink — and talk for hours, railing against the injustices in life and the failures of the system.

My father was a lion too — a different species without the mane or the colorful language — but a strong, aggressive lion nonetheless. And together they would roar.

They were great crusaders for justice. Always on the side of the little guy. Dismissing the liberal elites and professional agitators, their True North was the common man. They were always looking to step into a fight against the bully. And they loved each other.

As they were two tough Queens guys, I’m sure they never actually said they loved each other. Queens men didn’t say that to each other then.  But they did.  And they knew it.

There was a softer side to their relationship. Mr. Breslin in the quieter moments, would talk about his family, and his face would change. His first wife Rosemary, and how she was a saint — his daughters: Rosemary the superstar, the writer, my sister Maria’s best friend.  And Kelly, the enchantress. His boys, his sons — Kevin, James, Patrick and Christopher. He talked with great pride and love in his voice.  And listening to him speak I hoped that my father had that same love for me.

My mother and Jimmy had a sweet, caring relationship. There was a vulnerability to Jimmy and my mother, always the nurturer, was naturally drawn to him.

Jimmy met Ronnie Eldridge, a strong, brilliant woman, and a political force in her own right and the two married. I can only imagine being married to Mr. Breslin was more than a full-time job.  And God bless Ronnie for all of the support and love. My mother believes Ronnie literally kept Jimmy alive for years.  And with Ronnie came a bonus — Daniel, Emily, and Lucy. And they all brought him much joy.

If my father were here today, he would say Jimmy was an artist and his pen was to paper what Picasso’s brush was to canvas. He would say Jimmy was never a Newsday reporter or Daily News employee — he was just “Breslin,” anywhere and everywhere. He would speak of his superb God-given gifts and selflessness in using them to do good. He would say Jimmy faced many hardships in life. That he came from a family of hardships and suffered much pain, early and later in life, losing both Rosemary and then Kelly.

But my father would say while a lesser man would have grown angry and bitter from the loss, Jimmy grew more empathetic and compassionate.

I hear Mr. Breslin’s voice often. I hear his voice as governor. I recently commuted the sentence of a woman in Bedford Correctional after 35 years of imprisonment. It was clear she committed a terrible crime. But after visiting her it was also clear to me she was a different person now. It was a hard, political decision. I spoke to Ronnie, her fierce advocate, about it many times. I could hear Jimmy’s voice saying, “She made a mistake — we all do. She learned, she paid the price, she spent her life in a cage, and she is now different. Jesus would pardon her. Who the hell made you better than Jesus?”

Mr. Breslin’s life was a life well-lived. We mourn today not for him, but for ourselves — for his family’s loss and our loss — because, in truth, in today’s world we need his voice more than ever. A voice with power and credibility, who wrote stories from the street not from a laptop. Who believed there was no truth worth telling that could be told in a tweet. Whose voice was authentic because he was authentic.  He was New York — hardscrabble, brilliant, difficult, gifted, complicated, argumentative, accepting … and loving.

But as the spirit lives … his voice lives in all of us.  And if we listen we can hear him saying today, “What do they mean they are going to cut the taxes for the richest Americans and tell the poorest we can’t afford to give you health care? Who do they think they are — who made their lives more important than the rest of us?”

It’s not over. Mr. Breslin’s quest for social justice and integrity goes on. He is here today with his good friend Mario and they are reading the papers — the hard copies — and railing at the outrage, disgusted by the political cowards, and ready to fight the good fight.

I say “Roar, gentlemen, roar! Let it echo down from the heavens! And we will hear you!”

Bill O’Reilly and FOX News

William O’Shaughnessy

Commentary

re:

Bill O’Reilly and FOX News

“Character Assassination”

April 20, 2017

 

Some have called it a “firing,” others a “resignation” and Politico elegantly and accurately referred to his downfall as a “defenestration,” which means an assassination by act of throwing someone out a window or in more polite discourse: “dismissing someone from a position of power.” 

We’d call it a “lynching.” Granted that leverage may now be The New American Way. But the O’Reilly ouster also reeks of Censorship by organized corporate intimidation.

“The old order shatters.  We slayed the dragon.  Never forget this is what we’re capable of” bragged Lisa Bloom, attorney for a woman who launched a sexual harassment allegation.

“He was a mouthpiece for Trump … and we got him” said another attacker, a U.S. congresswoman!

Marc E. Kasowitz, an O’Reilly lawyer properly called it: “A brutal campaign of character assassination unprecedented in post-McCarthy America. The smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons.”  Bingo.

The Murdochs, pere et fils, brought in Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton and Garrison to “investigate and report.”  But the atmosphere at white-shoe law firms is altogether different from a television network where sharks swim and poseurs parade – behind and in front of the camera.

We can’t shake the notion that ultimately this is a Free Speech issue, although my friend Judge Jeffrey Bernbach cautions:  “Sexual harassment is illegal.  That’s not free speech.”

But who is to blame for the atmosphere, the milieu, the culture where most of the on camera stars display pulchritude, low cut décolletage and display fine legs abetted by rising hemlines.

Most performers on TV these days are talking air-heads who if the teleprompter froze … would also instantly become immobile.  Most are not serious journalists.

There is something in the jargon of the law profession known as a BFOQ (Bona Fide Occupational Qualification) which means a woman or man can be hired and retained by a television network if they are comely or attractive. Thus there is no question that women performers in this field are looking to get “noticed.”  

Those prowling the corridors and posing in front of the cameras in this day and age are not exactly Mother Theresas.  Or Janet Renos.  Nor are they naive.

When you look at some of O’Reilly’s female accusers and detractors, one wonders just Who is the Real Predator?

Bill O’Reilly is a performer, a social commentator no different than Howard Stern or Don Imus or Rush Limbaugh all of whom we defended when the roof fell in.

He was clearly done in by pressure groups and hostile public relations campaigns eagerly embraced by his envious competitors in the public press.

Although there appeared to be multiple allegations of mis-conduct, there are no reports that O’Reilly ever touched anybody.  He just said stuff.  Another interesting player in all this is  Megyn Kelly who turned on O’Reilly to facilitate her own highly orchestrated and well-publicized exit and she has been called “That cyborg-like individual who wants to be the next Oprah” by the marvelous, contrarian commentator Michael “Lionel” Lebron. 

Suspicion exists abroad in the land that O’Reilly was accused by women who would do anything to get ahead in the Fox News milieu. But quality, educated, well brought-up women know how to handle and deflect offensive moves and untoward and awkward, even predacious compliments in most workplaces or social situations, which is not to say vulgar behavior is acceptable.

On the current Fox on-air roster of comely females is one Jeanine Pirro, well-known to all of us and her neighbors here in Westchester.  Few of her Fox female colleagues can match Her Honor Judge Jeanine in displaying pulchritude.  And, as her former colleagues on the Westchester bench will readily – and admiringly – confirm:  she can also swear like a trooper through those puffed-up, reconstructed lips.  Certainly none wear shorter skirts.  But could you see any guy taking a verbal shot at “Judge Jeanine.”  At their own peril.  Forget about it!

In the O’Reilly Affair, the allegations against him did not seem to involve violent or even “non-consensual” physical activity.

Example, the New York Times cited this juicy vignette and ribald conversation: “O’Reilly stepped aside and let her off the elevator first (like a gentleman) and said: “Lookin’ good, gal!”  How altogether terrible! How insulting!  How abusive!  How sexist!  How ribald!  How injurious!  How disgusting!

Many/most of the cant-filled attacks on O’Reilly were dripping with hypocritical or sanctimonious blather. The commentator Lionel also said this week: “This isn’t about sexual harassment.  This is about sponsors and money.” We agree that the fault also resides among many holier-than-thou (spineless) sponsors who abandoned O’Reilly and collapsed in the face of organized, politically-correct pressure fueled by envy and by contrary political (anti-Trump) views.  That, we’re afraid, is really what’s behind this contretemps.  And everyone knows it.

Despite any “findings” of the mighty Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison white-shoe law firm, O’Reilly should not have been fired or denied his podium.

To be sure, in this whole dreary matter, we’re confronted by a civility issue which is valid, necessary and altogether appropriate, even in a charged-up, behind-the-scenes office setting populated by bimbos – male and female – lacking in any solid journalistic credentials.

The organized opposition to O’Reilly – and thus to FOX News –  and ultimately to President Trump – have, for the most part, used salacious accusations as weapons to knock him off the air and further drive their own agenda.

There are thousands of show biz types and feminist lawyers just waiting to cash in on sexual discrimination and sexual harassment suits.  But much of this resembles a witch hunt replete with character assassination. Among which was a 10-year-old allegation from an anonymous individual … part of a campaign orchestrated by activist lawyers and Trump haters to destroy O’Reilly.

I’ve discovered, just this morning, a humorless woman named Letitia James, the “Public Advocate” for New York City, who took to the MSNBC airwaves to attack Bill O’Reilly in harsh, unforgiving tones and a voice dripping with venom that even made Andrea Mitchell and some of her other guests uncomfortable.  I’d love to see a debate between this Letitia James and Elizabeth Warren.

Judge Bernbach doesn’t see this as a Free Speech issue.  But censorship from corporate intimidation in the face of politically-driven economic boycotts is just as dangerous as the stifling of creative and artistic expression by government fiat, decree, sanction or regulation.

That’s just as treacherous as any racism, misogyny, sexism or bigotry.

We agree with the President of the United States: “He should not have “resigned.”  He did nothing wrong.”

We agree and we also wonder if some of Bill O’Reilly’s opponents aren’t kith and kin to the mob that ganged up on our protégé and former colleague William “Billy” Bush.

 

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for 56 years as president and editorial director.

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, another anthology. He has also completed “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo which has just been published.

 

 

An Appreciation of Jimmy Breslin

An Appreciation

of

Jimmy Breslin 

by

William O’Shaughnessy

March 20, 2017

He was the Dimaggio of a profession which included Pete Hamill, Nat Hentoff, Gay Talese, Mike Barnicle, Wayne Barrett, Nancy Q. Keefe, Phil Reisman, Denis Hamill, Peter Maas, David Hinckley, Jack Newfield, McCandlish Phillips, Dennis Duggan, Richard Reeves, Sam Roberts, Terry Golway, Mike Lupica, Malachy McCourt, Michael Daly, Nick Pileggi, Meyer “Mike” Berger and Jimmy Cannon of sainted memory who was the Mother Lode and inspired damn near everyone here mentioned to write with passion, conviction and honesty.

And, I’m sorry, but if we’re talking here about those who can maneuver words like Nelson Riddle arranged notes and put them into actual graceful sentences and then insert them in elegant paragraphs that fill entire pages that move people … I suggest that one Mario M. Cuomo, although he went to work each day as a politician and possessed a business card that said “Governor,” has to be included in this fraternity too. 

They were practitioners of a journalism that produced lean, strong, direct, muscular, unadorned, passionate, declarative, on-your-sleeve writing.  USA Today called it “simple, but stirring prose.  The New York Times referred to the product of Breslin’s genius as “narrative non-fiction.” By any name, it was sui generis:  unique and able to be defined only in his own terms.  So was he.

Breslin’s modus operandi:  after a sporting event or political race, don’t go to the winner in the spotlight … find the loser: That’s where the story is … at the locker room of the vanquished.

During my own 58 years at the microphone of this community radio station, many friends have caused their sons and heirs and their daughters too to seek our advice and counsel … making them repair to a white-haired broadcaster completely lacking in wisdom or good judgment and possessed only of a good Rolodex.

So as I sat majestically and all-knowing in high council in my office:  if a youngster wanted to spend his or her life in Law Enforcement, I would send them to Joseph Anthony Spinelli who once headed an FBI SWAT team and participated in seven shootouts as a federal lawman.  “Go see Spinelli.” And if the kid was any good, Spinelli would ring up the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with instructions to “hire this guy.”

If a youngster liked show biz or the Theatre, I would send them forthwith to Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. And if government or Public Service was mentioned, I would ring up a failed baseball player with too many vowels in his name.  And Mario Cuomo, of sainted memory, would get the kid’s head filled with all sorts of crazy notions like “God didn’t finish creating the universe, that’s your job.”

If on occasion a young man or woman mentioned newspapers, journalism or broadcasting and seemed destined for the Columbia School of Journalism or the Newhouse School at Syracuse, I would reach over to my library and pull out a book, one of 16 written by Jimmy Breslin.  “Go home and read this … it’s all I know.  It’s all you need to know.  It’s everything you need to know.”  Sometimes I would also thrust a Jimmy Cannon book across the desk.

Many years ago before two busted marriages, I sat with the great Breslin at Costello’s bar which was near Grand Central and Saint Agnes Church where suburban Catholics go with their sins if they are too lazy to take a subway ride to the Garden and walk to 31st Street where the generous and forgiving Franciscans assess only three Hail Mary’s for anything up to a homicide.

Anyway, Breslin and I sat on this one long-ago afternoon in the smoky now-gone Costello’s midtown bar. Reaching way above my pay grade and for another Canadian Club, I told the greatest American journalist during our time that I loved his columns on Jack Kennedy and his brother Bobby and certainly the magnificent one he dispatched from London, in England, which was my favorite. “The pigeons were on the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square while a few blocks away, at Number 10 Downing Street, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill lay dying.  He was a man of beef and brandy and cigars and the last great statue of the English language.”

I told the great Breslin that although I most certainly loved all the iconic columns describing the Kennedys and Mr. Churchill, he had recently taken to writing about guys named Ramon and Jose and Pedro and I gently suggested he might return to the “mythic” figures abroad in the land.  “Who’s to write about …?”, said Breslin. And then he went out into the night to write of a Queens neighbor named Mario M. Cuomo.

They teach Breslin in “J” school at Columbia, NYU, Hofstra and Ithaca which cite his legendary piece about the gravedigger who made $3.01 to dig a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy who, in an earlier sad November day some 55 years ago, had his brains blown out in Dallas, in Texas. 

It was a great piece of writing. But the Churchill piece stays with me because I am well aware that, with the encouragement or forbearance of the Jesuits, I have written some six books, anthologies which contain pages of sentences containing many words, not any of which would permit me to loose the strap on Jimmy Breslin’s sandal. 

He did to a typewriter and yellow legal pads, and later to a computer, what Michael Jordan did to a basketball and Sinatra did in a recording studio to Cole Porter lyrics.

He would take words and put them in strong, passionate, muscular sentences that caused Mario Cuomo to tell people “Nobody can describe a scene like Breslin.”

Jimmy Breslin’s final, personal “30” comes at a most inopportune time.  For it is 2017 and there is, abroad in the land, no Mario Cuomo to do Jimmy’s eulogy. So I guess the graceful lines Dan Barry wrote in Monday’s New York Times will have to do.  These words leap out from among all the many written every day in our beloved Times which exhausts itself trying to find ways to tell just how awful President Donald John Trump is. Here are those beautiful words said of Breslin in our most important newspaper which survives him and will survive Trump. 

“Jimmy Breslin, the New York City newspaper columnist and best-selling author who levelled the powerful and elevated the powerless for more than 50 years with brick-hard words and a jagged-glasses wit, died on Sunday in his home in Manhattan.  He was 88, and until very recently was still pushing somebody’s buttons with two-finger jabs at his keyboard.  Love him or loathe him, none could deny Mr. Breslin’s enduring impact on the craft of narrative nonfiction. At the same time, Mr. Breslin was unmatched in his attention to the poor and disenfranchised.  If there is one hero in the Breslin canon, it is the single black mother, far removed from power, trying to make it through the week.”

I can’t do better this sad morning than Dan Barry who had some help from Jim Dwyer and Richard Goldstein in the Times.

In the hours since James Earl Breslin left us, many other lovely, admiring pieces have been written in all the journals of the land about just how special Jimmy Breslin really was.

There were quite wonderful and graceful tributes from Jim Rutenberg, Jim Dwyer, Dan Barry, Sean Patrick Farrell and Richard Goldstein of The New York Times … Kevin McCoy, John Bacon and Adam Shell of USA Today … Jason Silverstein, Arthur Browne and Josh Greenman of the Daily News … Christopher Bonanos of New York Magazine …  Verna Dobnik and David Bauder of AP … Joe Mahoney in upstate papers … Tom Allon of City & State … Michael “Lionel” Lebron, Phil Reisman and Sarah Fagan Greenberg on Facebook … Paul Duggan of The Washington Post … Mark Moore and Joe Marino of the New York Post … and Debby Krenek and Michael O’Keeffe of Newsday.

But who, I wonder, will come into a funeral home or stand up in a Roman church this week to speak a eulogy of Jimmy Breslin? There really was only one equal to the sad task: Jimmy’s old sparring partner and dear friend Mr. Cuomo, who himself departed on January 1, 2015.

So now lacking the eloquence and presence of his friend, the Gov, to define and celebrate Breslin, we are left with just these gracious remarks Mario put together for the 60th anniversary of Jimmy’s career in journalism organized by Pete Hamill.

I’m not eager to go out to events at night.  Like a lot of other people, my day’s work is sufficiently challenging to make me look forward to quiet evenings at home.  It takes a really good reason to get me out, so when Pete Hamill called and told me that on December 7th there would be an event at night to honor Jimmy for his sixty years as a writer, I wanted to be sure it was real.

I asked Pete … “Does Jimmy know?”  And he said, “Yeah, he’s all for it.”

At first it didn’t sound right to me.  Jimmy didn’t even celebrate sixty years of being alive, so why would he be eager to celebrate sixty years as a writer?

Logic gave me a quick answer.  “Just being alive meant a lot less to Jimmy than being alive and writing.

That’s the way it is with truly gifted people like him.  Writers will remind you this evening of his Pulitzer and a wall full of other significant honors over the years acknowledging his unique and vibrant writing skills.  As a reporter he became the uncommon voice of the common man with his uncanny ability to find in newsworthy events, details that made the events more meaningful to the people of New York’s boroughs and millions of other people like them.  Interviewing the gravedigger at John F. Kennedy’s burial is a good example.  The writers will remind you how he could make people smile, or laugh out loud when they bring back some of Jimmy’s inimitable descriptions of hapless ballplayers, second-rate mobsters and third-rate politicians, or reintroduce you to “Fat Thomas” and “Robert J. Allen.”

There may even be a tear-or-two if someone chooses to read from “Short, Sweet Life of Edward Gutierrez,” or parts of “World Without End, Amen.”

But no matter how many bits of Breslin inspiration are shared this evening, they will amount to only light hints of the immense amount of great writing he has done in his uniquely long, productive and heralded career.  Think of it:  he still works every day … writing or thinking about writing and he has done it for sixty years – nearly 22,000 days and nights – except for the short hiatus when doctors were forced to drill a hole in his head to let out of his congested brain some of his unused lines.  Then … he wrote a book about it!

That’s a lot of “Jim Breslin Writing” to cover in a single night of celebration.  And the challenge is even greater because, as Pete has pointed out – there are really at “least two Jim Breslins.”  One “Breslin” is the public person, Writer, Raconteur and Celebrity figure.

The other is the private guy from Queens when he’s not on the stage or on the screen but is himself, on the phone or having an otherwise quiet dinner, explaining to you the world and it’s various dysfunctionalties.  And excoriating those who are responsible for the disorder, by creating it or by not doing enough to fix it … that often includes the people he’s talking to at the moment.

That’s when he’s just “Jimmy” and that’s the way I know him best and have for more than forty years.

I met him when I was a youngish lawyer trying to help sixty-nine barely middle-class homeowners in Corona, Queens, save their homes from a Mayor who was about to condemn them to accommodate t he builder of a huge housing complex.

They couldn’t afford a big law firm and I was neither prestigious nor politically influential, so the sixty-nine would probably have lost their homes if Jimmy hadn’t gotten involved.  He came to a meeting of the group, did some research then wrote a long story and some short ones, and talked to some influential people at City Hall.  He convinced them the Mayor was wrong and the sixty-nine stayed in their homes.  That was Jimmy at his best and it led to a friendship that has survived all the years since then.  Good days and hard days.  Days when we enjoyed some lucky breaks and other days when we got hit by tragedies.

And most of the real tragedies were on Jimmy’s side of the relationship.  Heavy, heavy blows that would have left me and most people crippled and helpless.

But not Jimmy.

It had to be hard for him for sure, but Jimmy just kept writing.  He had to!  His world was too big, too complex, too filled with great characters.  There were too many great stories that needed telling and retelling.  And there were too many big problems that needed solving!

There still are!  As there have been for sixty years:  nearly 22,000 nights and days!

# # #

Almost every morning before he goes to his typewriter, he’ll call one of his many friends to describe some of the problems …

As war we should be ending, a healthcare bill we need to pass.  I can hear him now, “Did you see the first page of the Times?  Food stamps are back!  Food stamps … and they say the recession is over!  What are you doing about it?  Write a damn letter!  Call somebody – some big shot.  You must know someone!  Tell them about the abused immigrants and the abusive landlords, the crooked politicians and the bad priests.

# # #

Every morning Jimmy has a bowl of oatmeal:  and his outrage.

And I suspect that’s the way it will always be.  He won’t ever stop thinking about the world he lives in and writing about it.

Why?

Because way down deep “Jimmy” is a believer.

He will argue with the priests of his Church, but he knows the God they are supposed to be working for has given him a personal gift.  A gift that is given to only a few.

And he will not offend his God by not using that gift.  And he will use it until there are no more stories to tell nor problems to solve.

Thank you Jimmy.  Keep going!

He leaves a profession which is fast becoming a “Between you and I” industry as he once called it even before the bimbos – male and female – attempted to speak the English language from teleprompters in every television studio in the land.

One more memory of Breslin stays.  It came out of an afternoon on the West Side when John Hay Whitney and Walter Nelson Thayer came to shut down for all time to come a magnificent newspaper called the Herald Tribune which had been founded by Horace Greeley.  As many at the “wake” for the paper crowded around Walter “Red” Smith, the Trib’s iconic sportswriter who sat on the edge of a desk with a shaky hand trying to light a cigarette, there was Breslin over in a corner with the cleaning women trying to put together a story which survives in one of his books.

 

Breslin wrote 16 books including:

 

“Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?”

“World of Jimmy Breslin”

“World Without End.  Amen”

“Forsaking All Others”

“I Want To Thank My Brain for Remembering Me”

“Damon Runyon:  A Life”

“The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez”

“The Church That Forgot Christ”

“Branch Rickey”

“The Good Rat

“The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight”

But he once told me that “Christ In Concrete” a long out-of-print book by an obscure Long Island writer Pietro DiDonato was “the greatest novel ever written.”  Breslin would know.

Dying is something you have to do all by yourself.

It’s a solo act.  There are no accomplices, compadres, colleagues or cohorts to accompany you. But James Earl Breslin was attended by several marvelous and unforgettable characters: (some real, some imagined, all magnificent) Marvin the Torch, the loveable arsonist … Fat Thomas, the bumbling bookie … Klein, the love-struck lawyer … Un Occhio, the scary mob boss who ran a candy store and kept a wolf behind the counter … Shelly, the bail bondsman who was a sucker for a sentimental song … and Pep Maguire, saloonkeeper in Queens.

So I idolized the guy.  I’m not sure he returned the favor.  At a dinner one night he announced “Forget the swell way he dresses.  You have to like O’Shaughnessy … he does so much for the poor of Mamaroneck!”

That’s not so bad, I guess … ?

 

 

 

 

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for 56 years as president and editorial director.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, another anthology. He has also completed “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo which has just been published. 

 

 

Contact

Cindy Gallagher

914-235-3279

cindy@wvox.com

 

 

Iona College vs. City Hall

Iona College vs. City Hall
A WVOX Commentary
by William O’Shaughnessy, Editorial Director
March 8, 2017

 

This morning … a word about Iona, Iona College.  In fact, I’ll offer several words on the subject, if you’ll allow me. First off: congratulations to the Gaels for making the NCAA Tournament. And you can be sure we’re cheering for Iona as they present themselves on the basketball court against the best in the country.  So much for Sports this morning … 

That’s an easy call.  And we really do wish them well.  Speaking of which: we’re capable of no such inclination concerning Iona’s zoning contretemps with the City of New Rochelle which has now resulted, as we’ve heard, in an ill-considered lawsuit filed by our own hometown college against our own City of New Rochelle.

In every telling and by every account, the Court filing unleashed by Iona has a mean-spirited odor to it in which Iona accuses the City of New Rochelle’s corporation counsel of violating ethical codes among other things. 

Especially troublesome to admirers of the College – and we are among them – are reports that Iona has threatened during negotiations to “embarrass” City Hall staffers and put them in an “uncomfortable” position. 

The legal strike against New Rochelle’s corporation counsel is really an attack on the stewardship of the present city manager and that gives us great concern.  New Rochelle has one of the best city managers in America, Charles Bowman Strome. He is really the chief operating officer of our municipality.

We have considerable admiration for Chuck Strome as he is widely-known. We’ve watched him grow in wisdom and age for several decades.  And thus please don’t hold it against him that he began his career in our city as the WVOX news director some 35 years ago. 

Not only is Strome adept at the tedious and demanding minutiae of governance … the rules and regs and jargon of municipal government … he also has a keen understanding and sensitivity to the uniqueness of the many disparate neighborhoods in our City. 

He is also skillful and adept at accommodating the egos of the present very “colorful” city council. It’s a tough job which also includes interpreting and sometimes “softening” the sharp-edged but often tone-deaf brilliance that cascades from the Mayor’s Office. 

We’ve said it before:  New Rochelle is sui generis which means it’s unique and able to be defined only in its own terms. 

As we see it, this whole current dust-up between Iona and the City is really, at its core, a neighborhood preservation issue. That’s the bottom line.  And we would urge Iona to take a deep breath and tone down the rhetoric in their attempt to merge, without any public input, those 11 lots which were once owned by the Christian Brothers.

The “conflict of interest” charge introduced by Iona is aimed at one Kathleen Gill who at various times worked for both the City and the College. She now serves as corporation counsel.  And the College apparently had no objection to Gill’s presence in the negotiations until she indicated that Iona was not above the law of the land, in this case, the zoning requirements.

We believe a good case can be made that the lawsuit is baseless and without merit and is in effect an attempt to promulgate and continue the threatening tone and rough tactics which Iona has been accused of displaying during recent negotiations with the City. 

We would surely welcome an opportunity to discuss this hot-button issue with college president – if he’s still the president –  Joseph Nyre who is on a very “unusual” one-year “sabbatical” … and there are thus real questions abroad in the land about just who is running the show at Iona these days. Dr. Nyre was never shy, we understand, about making his wishes known in the confines of City Hall on any matter involving the college.

But “sabbatical” or not, he has not at all been heard from in this unseemly dispute. The chairman of the current board of trustees is a very successful businessman – a billionaire – named Jim Hynes – and the vice chairman is the well-known and estimable lawyer David McCabe of the Willkie Farr and Gallagher white shoe law firm in Manhattan, which, incidentally, was Mario Cuomo’s old law firm. 

McCabe and Hynes are top-notch individuals and thus, one wonders, why they let this disagreement with the City escalate into personal attacks against the well-intentioned inhabitants of City Hall.

WVOX and the College go way back to the Brother Driscoll days and even before that.  But for your community radio station, ladies and gentlemen, there would have been a strip mall where the Murphy Science Center now sits … if WVOX had not intervened with the city council of the day. That was long, long ago. But not so long ago that any of us should forget how much Iona means to New Rochelle.  Thus we dislike – intensely – being on opposite sides of any proposition from the College which is an ornament and more than that – an icon – of our City.

This we know: there’s sure to be one hell of a ruckus in the City Council Chambers next Tuesday at 7:00PM when residents of Beechmont express their concern as well.

They’ll be singing the song of “Neighborhood Preservation.”

Theirs.  And yours as well.

This is a lot more than a little backyard zoning issue.

 

# # #

 

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, the national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the Foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent stations in the New York area, for 56 years as president and editorial director.

 

He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, another anthology. He has also completed “Mario Cuomo:  Remembrances of a Remarkable Man,” a tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo which has just been published. 

 

 

Contact

Cindy Gallagher

914-235-3279

cindy@wvox.com