"I'm going to treat every guest with respect and civility,"… (Adam Eschbach / Idaho Press-Tribune…)
Reporting from Washington —
In the wake of the controversy facing conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh, with the calls for his advertisers to depart his program, for radio stations to pull his show and for conservatives to distance themselves from his rhetoric, Mike Huckabee -- the former Arkansas governor and onetime presidential candidate -- is throwing his hat into the ring Monday and directly facing Limbaugh on the airwaves.
Huckabee’s three-hour show will debut on nearly 200 stations, lining up alongside Limbaugh on the 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. time slot from Monday to Friday. Limbaugh, in spite of recent controversies, is currently broadcast on more than 600 stations across the country and is heard by as many as 20 million people each week. Republican presidential candidate and presumptive nominee Mitt Romney will be among those taking part in the first show.
“Our tagline is, ‘More conversation, less confrontation,’” Huckabee said in an interview with Politico. “I’m going to treat every guest with respect and civility. Nobody is going to come on and get into a shouting match with me. That’s just not my style.”
But it doesn’t seem as though “The Huckabee Show” and its more genteel style is concerning Limbaugh’s syndicator, Premiere Networks.
"Historically, lukewarm, ‘safer’ content isn’t what attracts and retains audiences,” said Julie Talbott, president of Premiere Networks.
Bob Pittman, the CEO of Clear Channel, which owns Premiere Networks, is also unfazed by the challenge.
“It basically says Rush is the king,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Rush is certainly the leader, and we’re delighted to have him.”
Premiere Networks also syndicates “The Glenn Beck Program,” Fox News radio and “The Sean Hannity Show.”
Huckabee isn’t the first high-profile conservative to try to face off against Limbaugh. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly’s radio show, which ran from 2002 to 2008, made it to the top tier of listenership, pulling in more than 3.5 million listeners weekly and was broadcast by 430 stations before shutting down.
O’Reilly also sought to differentiate his show from Limbaugh’s.
"I knew my show couldn't be ideological. Going up against Limbaugh, that would be suicidal,” he said. “Why would a listener who's already got Rush turn to someone else to hear the same things?”
As for the possibility of a vice presidential candidacy derailing his new show, Huckabee vaguely told “Fox & Friends,” “don’t buy the corsage for the prom until you get the date. It’s just not good form.”
The show marks a big step for Huckabee, who at this point a year ago had still not announced he would not be running for the Republican presidential nomination, after rampant speculation given his unexpected success in the 2008 primaries. He has since served as the host of “Huckabee,” a talk show aired on Fox News Saturdays and Sundays at 8 p.m. EST.
[For the record, 6:20 a.m. PDT April 9: An earlier version of this post incorrectly spelled talk-show host Bill O’Reilly’s name as Bill O’Riley.]
Original source: Mike Huckabee to challenge Rush Limbaugh with ‘safer’ alternative