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HOWARD ROSENBERG

Herschensohn--politics And Protests At Kabc

July 24, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG

He's Bruce and he's loose.

Or as Tom Snyder mockingly announced on his KABC-TV Channel 7 talk show Tuesday: "He's back. He's big. He's live. He's on Seven."

Like a boomerang, Bruce Herschensohn has returned, the conservative steamroller and whipped senatorial candidate right-winging it once more on Channel 7's "Eyewitness News" and KABC radio.

Herschensohn the human temblor made a tumultuous reappearance Tuesday, registering a 10 on the Richter scale. He was repeatedly celebrated on the air by his radio and TV colleagues and vilified by a new, leftish media watchdog group called Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which picketed Channel 7 to protest its "lack of balance" in commentary. FAIR plans to picket KABC radio for the same reason.

The questions of the hour:

-- Should Herschensohn be allowed to resume his commentaries so soon after losing the Republican senatorial nomination to Ed Zschau in the June primary?

Sure. Why should Herschensohn be temporarily exiled from broadcasting merely because he wanted the chance to unseat Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston? There is no established period of mourning for defeated political candidates.

--Should Channel 7 and KABC radio stop Herschensohn from commenting on issues pertaining to the Zschau/Cranston race?

Yes. You had to admire Herschensohn's public geniality in defeat. No display of bitterness. He was the loyal soldier, vowing to support the party's candidate.

But doesn't his pledge to back Zschau compromise him as commentator on matters related to the senatorial campaign? He has an ax to grind, a partisan agenda. Although Herschensohn has never tried to hide his rigid allegiance to Republicanism, his public endorsement of Zschau disqualifies him as an observer on campaign issues.

If Herschensohn is allowed to comment on the race, there is a way to handle that. As someone trying to sell viewers a partisan bill of goods, he should be introduced each time as a Republican propagandist rather than as a commentator.

--Doesn't Herschensohn's return create an imbalance of political opinion on KABC radio and "Eyewitness News"?

Yes, and sort of.

Yes on KABC radio, which bumped Murray Fromson--who is politically liberal on most issues--to accommodate Herschensohn's return to the "Ken and Bob Co." Fromson, who was hired as a regular commentator following Herschensohn's resignation to seek the Senate nomination in January, did not go gently, using his own final commentary Friday to blast the station for its political imbalance.

In his Tuesday radio commentary, Herschensohn--who favors supporting any nation friendly to the United States, regardless of its internal policies--questioned liberals' criteria for relations with other nations.

"Why?" he repeatedly asked. He got no answer, of course, because there was no one from the other side of the political fence to reply.

Fromson's departure means that KABC radio's lineup now includes political conservatives Herschensohn and evening talk show hosts Ray Briem and Dennis Prager. To the left of them is morning talk-show host Michael Jackson.

To suggest that "Ken and Bob Co." hosts Ken Minyard and Bob Arthur help balance Herschensohn is preposterous, for their delightful program is devoted almost entirely to whimsy, rarely to political debate.

And if you're looking for a boggling quote of the week, try George Green, KABC president and general manager, who told reporter William Chitwood that he would have returned Herschensohn to the air "even if he had won."

And what about Herschensohn on "Eyewitness News"? He sort of tips the scales there, too, but for different reasons.

Channel 7's other full-time commentator is liberal Bill Press, a wittier, far better and more incisive writer and speaker than Herschensohn, who manages to be effective despite communicating in rambling, convoluted sentences. Unlike Press (and Fromson, too), moreover, Herschensohn rarely comments on all-important regional and local issues.

In the past, though, Press' single commentary on the 5 p.m. newscast has been sandwiched between Herschensohn commentaries on the 4 and 6 p.m. newscasts, giving him half the exposure that Herschensohn gets.

Channel 7 gets around that, though, by serving former Democratic Sen. John Tunney to Herschensohn a couple of times a week on its 6 p.m. newscast.

Debate? Slaughter is a better word.

Tunney may be a real tiger off the air. On TV, though, he is a wimp, ill-prepared and no match for the agile-minded, jugular-sniffing Herschensohn, who always does his homework and consistently grinds his more liberal foil into dust by sheer force of personality.

Press, Fromson and a slew of other liberals would be better tests for Herschensohn, but so what? A better idea is to scrap all TV debates--whether mini or maxi. They're pure show biz, proving only who is the better debater and ad-libber. In this case, it's Herschensohn in a breeze.

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