"Hate Calls Swamp Herndon Town Hall," proclaimed the Washington Post Metro section headline above the fold in Saturday's edition, "Radio Host Had Urged Day-Labor Site Protests." Staff writer Lisa Rein penned the story on how a substitute talk show host for WMAL---a mostly conservative-programmed news-talk station which carries Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh---had succeeded in harnassing his audience's ire at a local Northern Virginia town planning to use tax money to build a jobs center for illegal aliens:
Herndon Town Hall unplugged its phone lines yesterday after listeners of a talk show on WMAL-AM flooded the switchboard with what officials said were hate calls against a proposed day-laborer site. The phones began ringing nonstop about 9:30 a.m., officials said, just after a substitute host on "The Michael Graham Show" called the proposed gathering spot for immigrant workers a "day-care center for illegal criminal aliens" and urged listeners to complain to Herndon Mayor Michael L. O'Reilly.
"You need to help... Mayor O'Reilly understand he's advocating breaking the law...and assisting criminal aliens who are in this country destroying this country, stealing jobs, running drugs, raping people. This is not an approved activity for the mayor of Herndon, Virginia," host Mark Williams said, according to an audio recording on the station's Web site. Williams broadcast from KFBK-AM in Sacramento. He then read aloud the telephone number of Town Hall dozens of times and urged listeners to "melt that switchboard" and picket O'Reilly's law office a block away.
This sounds fair enough. A talk show host raises an issue which ticks off the audience and then he announces the publicly listed phone number so they can call to complain. I'm sure it can be fairly annoying for local politicians who find their switchboards smoldering with constituent complaints, but that's par for the course. So, how then does the Post take the leap to say that the calls were all or mostly of a threatening or hateful nature? Apparently by parroting the rhetoric of the town manager and mayor:
"We didn't have any second thoughts about pulling the plug" on the Town Hall phones, said Town Manager Steve Owens, reached late yesterday on his personal line. "This was a tsunami." The volume of calls threatened to crash the phone system of the small building, he said, and the comments were offensive. "They were vile and resembled hate speech. . . . They were anti-immigrant," Owens said.
"Day laborers are not from another planet," O'Reilly said last night. "They're people. If people feel their borders aren't secure, they need to be talking to Congress or the president. I have a border with Loudoun County, not South America." He accused Williams of trying to "promote his ratings and excite his audience."
Rein, however, failed to produce any transcripts which conveyed hateful racial or ethnic epithets or to produce other, less biased sources to confirm the allegation that the volume of calls were by and large "hate" calls.
Just chalk this as example # 303,234 of a liberal newspaper accusing a conservative talk show host of inciting hate.