WASHINGTON – Cumulus Media blocked a Nashville country music host from airing an interview with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
In a statement to HuffPost, the company said it was concerned about the implications of the FCC’s equal time rule had the interview aired.
Blair Garner, who hosts a self-titled radio show that airs on more than 150 radio stations, interviewed Buttigieg, who is openly gay, last Wednesday when the Democrat was in Nashville for a campaign stop. Buttigieg reached out to Garner to set up the interview.
Garner’s radio show has a mostly conservative audience.
Garner announced Friday that Cumulus blocked the interview from airing on the show.
“My employer decided I couldn’t air it,” Garner wrote in a tweet. Instead, Garner posted the audio of the interview to his personal SoundCloud account and provided that link on Twitter.
According to HuffPost, Garner had said in an email to the 150 affiliate radio stations that he was going to air the Buttigieg interview as two segments on his show and then broadcast the full, nearly 20-minute interview in a podcast. He said he was also going to provide alternatives to the Buttigieg segment if affiliates chose not to air it.
“It is not, in any way shape or form, my intention for our show to become political,” Garner wrote in the email, which was obtained by HuffPost. “But because someone clearly saw the value of our listeners, I felt secure in affording him this opportunity.”
However, Garner, in a separate email to affiliates, said that he was told the interview cannot air.
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“I was very proud that a presidential candidate of any party valued our show to the degree that they would ask to be a guest,” he wrote in the other email, which was also obtained by HuffPost. “Just to be clear, I would have also enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to have any candidate, including President Trump, as a guest.
“It was simply that Mayor Pete showed up, and made the ask,” he continued.
In a statement to HuffPost, Cumulus Media said its concerns with the interview were based on the FCC’s equal time rule.
“The effects of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule are widely understood and considered whenever these types of issues arise,” the statement said.
Quoting a spokesperson for the company, HuffPost also reported that Cumulus “programming managers decided not to air the interview ‘because of the large number of political candidates currently in this race.’ “
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Kurt Bardella, creator and publisher of the country music newsletter “The Morning Hangover, praised Buttigieg’s decision to reach out to Garner to be on his show.
“For all the lip service politicians give us about reaching out beyond our comfort zones and being more inclusive, here was a leading presidential candidate putting his money where his mouth was,” Bardella wrote in an op-ed published on USA TODAY. “I can’t recall a time where I saw any presidential candidate, especially a Democrat, think to reach out to country radio to ask for an opportunity to have an open conversation with that audience.
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Bardella also expressed his disappointment with Cumulus Media for not airing the interview and hoped that after Cumulus listened to the full interview, it would reconsider letting Garner air the segments.
On its website, Cumulus says it is “a leading audio-first media and entertainment company delivering premium content to over a quarter billion people every month — wherever and whenever they want it.” Cumulus says it owns and operates 428 radio stations across 87 markets and also delivers nationally syndicated radio programming through nearly 8,000 affiliated radio stations.
“Bottom line, Cumulus censored an interview with a Democratic presidential candidate who thought it was worthwhile to engage the country music audience in a conversation about the future of our country,” Bardella wrote. This is an incredible act of cowardice for a company whose slogan is ‘Where Every Voice Matters.'”
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