The 'Rants' of Talk Radio

Writing in the January 18 Washington Post, staff writer Manuel Roig-Franzia begins a story about New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's apology with a reference to talk radio:
NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 17 -- An avalanche of criticism, stoked by heated talk-radio rants, forced Mayor C. Ray Nagin to apologize Tuesday for declaring that God wants New Orleans to be a "chocolate city."

Nagin, who is black, had said during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech that "this city will be an African American majority city. It's the way God wants it to be." He also said "God is mad at America" and "is sending hurricane after hurricane" because He disapproves of the United States invading Iraq "under false pretenses."

Nagin's remarks drew a furious reaction from white and black leaders, as well as residents, in New Orleans, prompting him to tell reporters Tuesday that the comments were "totally inappropriate." The dustup is the latest in a series of controversies over remarks made by the mayor, a former cable television executive elected in 2002 without experience in elected office....

The opening-sentence phrase "stoked by heated talk-radio rants" leads the reader to believe that talk radio plays a not-insignificant role in the story the Post is about to tell. What's more, use of the word "rants" (whose definition, according to dictionary.com, includes "1) Violent or extravagant speech or writing; 2) A speech or piece of writing that incites anger or violence"), implies that certain elements of the talk radio community were over-the-top in their criticism of Nagin's remarks.

Sound interesting? If you think so, you are out of luck, at least if you limit your research to the Washington Post. The story cites a political analyst and a New Orleans CNN affiliate, but no talk radio stations, hosts, callers or their affiliated websites are cited or quoted. Furthermore, no evidence whatsoever is given that the mayor apologized because of talk radio.

So did talk radio "rants" ("heated" ones, no less) really play the key role in "forc[ing]" the mayor's apology, as the Post claims? Based on the Post lede, we're led to believe talk radio was the cause, but based on the evidence the Post actually provides, the apology may well have been a sincere one, "unforced" by anyone.

What's more, the criticisms against Pat Robertson by left-wing groups were certainly not labeled as "rants" by the MSM.