A/K/A:”The Lone Washington General”, “The Doormat” “LTBD”
HOME BASE: New York, NY
RELATED ITEMS: Replace Alan Colmes
Sellouts. They are everywhere in our culture. They can be conservatives of color, they can be women who fight against women’s rights, and they can be Log Cabin Republicans. Now when we are talking of sellouts that share political beliefs, one often means someone who concedes and capitulates to the other side to benefit themselves or otherwise keep themselves from being hurt. We are tempted to put Alan Colmes in this category, but if we did we might be just short of the reason why this guy was such a dick. Cartoonist Ted Rall might have it right however. Appearing on the now-defunct Air America in 2004 and discussing his appearances on the Faux News Channel’s Hannity and Colmes, he calls Colmes a “faker”. That may be the best way to characterize the onetime so-called liberal counterpart to Sean Hannity’s conservatism. Colmes isn’t just someone who makes concessions and allows Hannity to run roughshod over him during their alleged debate program. Alan Colmes may not be what they paint him to be. Either that or he is just the epitome of milquetoast.
Consider this: There aren’t too many people out there on the left or right that are politically astute enough to score a nationally televised talk show that hasn’t been active in the field fighting for their beliefs and causes, especially if they do score such a forum. Hannity has been to his share of right wing rallies and functions, even speaking at many of them. One would be hard pressed to find a function, conference, rally – anything that Colmes might have participated in. That would make Rall’s characterization of him as a faker spot on, so who the fuck was he and where did he come from?
Well for starters, Colmes was basically a radio personality. He started doing talk radio in 1979, just as Iran took over the US Embassy in Tehran. This is where Colmes did something the Alan Colmes of today probably would never do; he called the embassy and scored an interview with “Z”, one of the Iranian students that took the place over. Shortly after this, the U.S. State Department banned all calls to Iran. Sadly, this is as good as it gets with Colmes. He bounced around the New York City and Boston radio dial over the next decade, earning a place in music trivia in the process. He is the radio host that can be heard on Public Enemy’s “Incident at 66.6 FM”, which can be found on their album Fear of a Black Planet. “Chuck D of Public Enemy took an interview we did on (Howard Stern’s former and now-defunct radio station) WNBC and sampled it,” Colmes said in an interview. “I was upset that I hadn’t been asked permission and felt I was taken out of context and made to sound smarmy. I wanted to sue but WNBC was Emmis Broadcasting and then Infinity, and they owned the material and didn’t want to proceed. Chuck and I now laugh about it. He claims he made me internationally famous.”
Somewhere in the midst of this Colmes tries his hand as a stand-up comedian, failing miserably, but then came a chance to really make people laugh. In 1996, the Faux News Channel started up and they had an idea to do a program that would basically rip off CNN’s Crossfire. Being right-wing it wasn’t hard for Faux to find the conservative voice for the show. That would be Sean Hannity whom they brought in from Atlanta’s WGST-AM, and soon after would find himself taking up Bob Grant’s time slot at WABC-AM in New York after Grant was fired for wishing that former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was killed in a then-recent plane crash (he was). Despite the fact that they were part of a media that conservatives constantly charge with being full of liberals, they could not find a liberal voice to “counter” Hannity, and the working title of the show was Hannity and Liberal to be Determined (LTBD) After auditioning a number of prospects, Colmes got the job after Hannity expressed his preference for him, and for the first few months Colmes’ nickname at Fox was “LTBD”. Soon after, Colmes scored a radio slot at WEVD-AM, a station named for famed socialist leader Eugene V. Debs. He would stay there from 1998 to 2001, when the station was sold to ABC/Disney for its ESPN sports format.
Immediately the conservative agenda of the Faux News Channel was apparent to viewers of the fledgling station, and Colmes was not seen as someone who balanced things out as station execs try to suggest. Indeed in a USA Today article a year before he went to Faux, Colmes said, “I think I’m quite moderate” We should note that this was published in February, 1995, when the Republicans were just coming into power in Congress. Colmes would later clarify this quote by saying this was meant to say that he thinks his views would be considered moderate if not for the nation’s rightward shift in recent years.
Colmes’ main thing on almost every program was to begin with a disclaimer that would distance him from whatever positions the liberals took on a topic. If the liberal or progressive guest is particularly strong in their defense of that position, Colmes will chastise that guest on the air, often interrupting them while they are making their point. They would often be framed as asking if it is “appropriate” to approach a position a certain way, or if it is the “right time” for those positions to be expressed. In an article on their website featuring Colmes, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) noted that one gem of his was to concur with Hannity and their guest, anti-feminist lesbian writer Tammy Bruce (i.e., a good definition of a sellout), when they blamed the left for declining values. “Rather than putting up some kind of resistance to this left-bashing–as one might expect a left-of-center host to do,” FAIR noted, “Colmes instead concurred: ‘I think in some respects you’re right. And you and I have talked about this before.'”
There was also the time he complained to Leslie Cagan of the anti-war group United for Peace and Justice about her role in organizing protests against the then-upcoming Republican National Convention, but demonstrations from the left of any kind are going to be met by Colmes with this kind of response, him saying that it makes “our side” look bad. To be real, what makes “our side” look bad is when you stand down and then boast about standing down to those you are standing down on. That is what he did when he appeared as a guest on Bill O’Reilly’s show in April, 2003 on the occasion of the Iraq War. According to the FAIR article, O’Reilly (who Colmes laughingly cited in his book as one of the other liberals at Faux in an attempt to defend himself against the charge of him being the only one) gave him praise for not criticizing the White House during the Iraq war. “I put forth that once the shelling starts–and you did this–you kept quiet, OK,” FAIR quotes O’Reilly as saying. Colmes responded like a little lap dog: “Well, look, I’ve kept quiet. My choice has been–I have not criticized the administration or this war effort while there are men and women in harm’s way, and I will not, and that is my –that’s a choice I make.” This stance wouldn’t be so much of a problem were it not for how he treated Nathan Britton of California Peace Action when he came on the show to discuss his opposition to the war. After being grilled heavily by Hannity, Colmes joined in the attack asking him under what circumstances, if any, would he support military action against Iraq. Britton was a pacifist and would never support war, but Colmes persisted with the same kind of grilling Hannity gave him. To viewers it was as if Colmes supported the war but didn’t want to say so.
He really didn’t like how the aforementioned Ted Rall made “our side” look when ex-President Ronald Reagan became worm food. On the show broadcast June 8, 2004, he went after Rall for not showing any traditional signs of respect and instead taking the opportunity to call Reagan out on the crimes conservatives took the opportunity of his death to either whitewash or ignore by painting him as the God of America. To Colmes, Rall was wrong because his position “make those on my side look bad by showing know grace, no compassion, no sense of humanity for a man who served this country, whether or not you agree with the things he stood for.” Rall was not moved. “I have more sympathy for the 290 million Americans who are living worse lives under a worse economy, being paid less with worse health care, with more homelessness and more poverty than there would have been, had Ronald Reagan never become president.” Rall said. “So for me, you’re right, I don’t have much sympathy for him.”
Now to be fair, how to deal with not only the death of someone not worthy of praise but was getting it anyway is subject to debate, and has been (of course, we were on Rall’s side, considering at the time we sold buttons and t-shirts for that said “Ronald Reagan Rots in Hell”), but Colmes didn’t stop there. Rall mentioned also how President Bush should not be given tribute in death because he was not legitimately elected and Colmes was not happy with that. “That’s where I have problems with my fellow liberals who can’t get over the election of 2000,” he told Rall. “They should be focusing on winning 2004.” This is not the first time he has tried to distance himself from the contentions raised about the 2000 Election. In the FAIR article, it was noted that in 2003, when New York City council member Charles Barron called George W. Bush a “selected” president on the show, Colmes scolded him with almost the exact same line. Look, my problem with my fellow liberals is they keep arguing the election of 2000,” he said. “Let’s move forward. If you want to win in the future, stop talking about the past. “Sorry Alan, but when the man who wasn’t elected is the one that occupies the office, that’s a little hard to get over without a resolution, and if there isn’t one, you can’t move forward without worrying about seeing the same screwy results.
Now when the Democrats indeed lost 2004, Colmes joined his conservative friends that frequent the program in the sentiment that it was due to the left being so mean-spirited towards Bush. In December 2004, he had a guest on the show to discuss the protests that will be held during the inauguration – which he predictably did not support. He also did not support the guest’s work in contesting how 2004’s election was conducted. No, Colmes did not like that at all, nor did he like the guest calling him out at that point for being soft of progressive issues to begin with and being nothing more than a parrot for the Faux News Channel. Upon that, he proceeded to admonish the guest for dissing Faux which gave him a forum that to be real about it, this guest had in other, less biased outlets in the past. In contrast to all of this. Hannity does not concede anything on the air to his opponents, let alone admonish fellow conservatives.
As soft as he was on defending what he (no one else except maybe the conservatives who use him) calls his “fellow liberals”, the flip side of that makes him even more pathetic. He had a nasty habit of giving glowing praise to those on the right, even when they fucked up so badly. There was his praise of Condoleeza Rice, saying she was “credible and articulate” after her testimony before the 9-11 Commission. There was his declaration of a “political masterstroke” regarding Bush’s surprise Thanksgiving 2003 dinner at the Baghdad airport, further asking if the trip will make it harder for Democrats to criticize him on the mess in Iraq. There was also him saying one night that he was happy to do all he could to help Sean Hannity sell as many copies of his book as possible, “Deliver Us from Evil : Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism”. If Hannity was half as charitable when Colmes was when his book Red, White and Liberal came out, this would have made sense. Hannity wasn’t however, not that it would have done much good. No one wanted to buy Colmes book anyway, liberal or otherwise.
According to FAIR, Colmes tried to gain GOP cred by making it known that he voted for New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who despite all of the accolades he received after Sept. 11, is still remembered as one of the most divisive and racist mayors in recent times. “Reminding Fox viewers that he voted for Giuliani is a sort of Colmes on-air mantra,” FAIR reports. “According to the show’s transcripts, he’s done it at least eight times since 1998.”
FAIR noted another pathetic defense – that of Trent Lott when he was called out for praising Sen. Strom Thurmond’s racist 1948 presidential campaign at Thurmond?s 100th birthday party. “Oliver North appeared on the show to defend Lott,” FAIR reported. “When North blamed ‘Alan and all of his colleagues’ for Lott’s downfall, Colmes corrected him: ‘By the way, Ollie, I defended Lott and said he should not have had to step down.’ When North responded, ‘Because you wanted him there so you could continue to kick him around,’ Colmes cited his own pattern of defending Lott: ‘Absolutely not. Absolutely untrue. You haven’t been watching our show.'” FAIR notes that he also made his defense of Lott clear a month later when Laura Ingrham came on the program. When Lott himself appeared on the show to complain about Democrats conducting a filibuster to stall confirmation of Bush judicial nominees, Colmes again played the “this makes ‘our side’ look bad” card again. “I agree with you,” he told Sen. Lott. “I don’t think the Democrats should be doing that. I think they’re viewed as obstructionist when they do that.”
For the record, when it comes to racial politics and those connected to the Faux News Channel, don’t look for Colmes to call them out. We saw that with Lott, who was a frequent guest on the show. We also saw that when for some stupid-ass reason he defended radio talk-shit host Rush Limbaugh when he left ESPN behind his remarks that a Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb African-American football star was overrated by the media because he was black, saying he was commenting on the media not McNabb’s race. “We in talk radio owe Rush a debt of gratitude, no matter what side we’re on, because he made it possible for us to do what we do, liberal or conservative, because he paved the way for so many of us.” Rush Limbaugh is a friend of both Sean Hannity and then-Faux News president Roger Ailes, who was also the executive producer of Rush’s now-defunct television show.
Bottom line: Colmes knew what side his bread is buttered on. He defended Ailes, who was (some may argue still is) a Republican operative and strategist that worked with Nixon and Reagan. “So what if my boss is a Republican?” he asks in his book Red, White and Liberal, further pointing out others such as Michael Eisner and Richard Parsons give money to the GOP. While it is good that he points this out – indicating that the media is not as liberal as conservatives try to paint it – it’s a hell of a stretch to say that someone who throws money at a party trumps a party strategist. But again, Colmes knew what side his bread is buttered on. He also knew who he had to go home to. He was married to the sister of conservative talk-shit host Monica Crowley.
That brings us to something real curious. So far in this entry, we have only mentioned a relationship with only one other person that is on the left, Chuck D, and he originally wanted to sue him! Everyone that surrounded Colmes was right of center, or just flat out as far right as they come. It’s just as well, because judging from the sentiment expressed by many from the left side of life, they would rather him not be anywhere near them. One anti-Colmes website had sprung up featuring a blog where people express their displeasure with Colmes; spineless approach to his alleged beliefs. Salon called him “unbelievably toothless.” Sen. Al Franken, who in his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them puts Colmes’s name in tiny typeface in every reference to the show, called him a number of names in the book: “a moderate milquetoast”, a “liberal on-air punching bag”, and the “Lone Washington General”, a reference to the team that always plays the Harlem Globetrotters and loses, and one reference that comes up often as it stands with Colmes. There are those who praise him however, and almost all of them are conservatives. Word to the wise: If you are on the left and you were getting props from corrupt Republican House Whip Tom DeLay, Rev. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Watergate thug and overall fascist G. Gordon Liddy and Sen. Trent Lott, you are doing something very wrong.
Apparently the critics got to Colmes just a bit, because during the election season, one could see a rather slight uptick in his involvement. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for example did not slide by easy with their bullshit about how John Kerry wasn’t a real war hero. At least one website, Al Giordano’s Big, Left, Outside, credited Al Franken’s attack for making Colmes think about how he comes off. “Al Franken is, among other things, a surgeon,” Giordano wrote. “He transplanted a backbone into Alan Colmes, long distance. And put FOX News on the defensive to the point where it has to give Colmes more maneuvering room.”
Again, too little too late. The only way Colmes helped people get an understanding of the political scene is by showing just how craven the right is. In Colmes they found a way to promote their ideals, disparage ideals they disagree with, and pretend to be fair and balanced while doing it. No one has bought this stunt however. Eventually his services were not needed as much and Hannity went on to host their program by himself while Colmes fluttered in and out of various Fox programs being the liberal foil for other conservative hosts on the network until he died of lymphoma in 2017. Most people tune into Faux because it is provocative and sensationalist, pretty much the same reasons why they tune into Jerry Springer. And when Colmes died, his BS was not forgotten. “Colmes was the most absurd, useless, and mocked television personality in America for many years,” Isaac Chotiner wrote in Salon, “precisely because he was nice. In the context of Fox News, being a nice guy—and a “liberal” nice guy at that—meant being a buffoon, and a patsy. Colmes not only played the part to perfection—he defined it.”