On his second day back from vacation after the FCC cited him in a $495,000 indecency fine against Clear Channel, Howard Stern declared that a "cultural war" is raging in America and accused key figures in the Bush Administration of leading the battle. Fed up with being the main target in the war, Stern has suggested that Infinity should no longer edit his show, saying it gives credence to the FCC's indecency argument.
"I firmly believe this company should no longer censor this program," said Stern. "I think we should do exactly what we have been doing for ten years. Every time you hit the button, you are saying the FCC is right. Every time we hit the button, we are saying we're doing something wrong. And I suggest to you there is nothing wrong about this show. We are in a war. It's a cultural war. The Republican Party used to stand for -- and I supported this -- less government in your life, less intervention in your life, less control of your bedroom and your private life. They no longer stand for that. [Attorney General John] Ashcroft is out of control. He's looking to invade your bedroom. He doesn't want you watching porno. He doesn't want you looking at statues. He doesn't want you watching HBO. He doesn't want you to hear this show. It's absolutely out of control."
Stern's allegations were in response to recent comments by the U.S. Attorney General that he intends to crack down on the porn industry, and not just hardcore porn, but softcore porn such as HBO's Real Sex and adult movies offered by cable companies and hotel chains. Currently, an FBI field office in Washington, D.C. employs 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents with the intention of finding and filing anti-obscenity cases across the country, according to the Baltimore Sun. The paper also reports that the Justice Department intends to send "ripples through an industry that has proliferated on the Internet and grown into an estimated $10 billion-a-year colossus profiting Fortune 500 corporations such as Comcast, which offers hard-core movies on a pay-per-view channel."
"Eight-to-ten billion dollars a year is spent on porno in this country and John Ashcroft is saying 'It's invading my life,'" Stern said, continuing his attack on the Attorney General. "It's not invading your life. We're inviting it in. We like it. Why can't we admit that we're a country that likes outrageous humor. That likes to poke holes in society. Who are these people that are taking that away from us? It's Bush. It's Ashcroft. It's Colin Powell, Jr. They're winning. Fight them. I am going off the air. I look forward to the day, because those guys will make me bigger than life. Pass that Senate bill as quickly as you can. Do it now. Get me off the air. I am ready to be bigger than I've ever been. I'm ready to accept the responsibility."
Escalating his war of words against Clear Channel, Stern said he received a letter from the company that stated "they are no longer going to pay me, because now they fired me and I breached the contract. Which, clearly I didn't. They said I breached the contract because I failed to tell them how I was going to comply with FCC rules."
Stern says his contract states that stations are supposed to give him a courtesy call before taking his show off the air and alleged that call was never made by Clear Channel. "They violated my contract," he countered. "They've been going in the press saying 'Howard Stern has violated, breached the contract.' I want to see them prove that in court, that I breached the contract. They didn't even give me the courtesy of a call like it said in the contract. They just took me off the air and suspended me. Don [Buchwald] didn't get a call. Mel [Karmazin] didn't get a call. I didn't get a call. I heard about it when it happened in the paper."
"One hand in that company doesn't know what the other is doing," Stern continued. "One guy is sending me checks and the other is sending me letters saying we're not paying you...and by the way you can't go on any other [stations in those] markets. [The contract] clearly states 30 days after we don't have you on the air, you can go across the street and do whatever you want and we still have to pay you, even if you get another job in those markets. That's what is says. They signed it."
Stern has now been off of Clear Channel's radio stations for 34 consecutive business days.
Clear Channel had not responded to FMQB requests for comment on Stern's allegations by the time this story was posted.
"[Clear Channel] are trying in the worst way to make me look like some kind of criminal, but up until Janet Jackson showed those ugly boobs of hers, everything was fine," added Stern, who has also said he is now on the offensive in preparing for a court case against Clear Channel -- "I will crush them in court" -- asking his listeners to find out any dirt they can on Lowery Mays and his sons "Willie" and "Gomer," even mentioning that he has heard from some of his musician friends about the company's alleged misdealing in the concert business.
"I've been talking to music artists who say they will never do business with Clear Channel, but these are guys with established careers already," said Stern. "The young guys coming up, like Staind or Train, you name them, have to deal with Clear Channel. If you don't do business with Clear Channel, they take your music off the radio. It is a monopoly. The monopoly that they control, strong arming music artists, strong arming small musicians and the promoters who are trying to get their foot in the business -- it's all got to be looked at. It all has to be investigated. I beg of you, if you can avoid a concert that is sponsored by Clear Channel -- avoid it. Crush them! They are the evil empire."
Clear Channel has repeatedly stated that it doesn't use the threat of reduced airplay to force musicians to tour with its concert promotion division, or retaliate against competing concert promoters by failing to promote their shows on the air.
Before he signed off for the day, Stern played a clip from last night's Late Night with David Letterman Show in which Letterman asked CBS Television COO/President Les Moonves "Don't you think [Stern]'s being victimized? Don't you think he's the object of a witch hunt?" Moonves tried to stay away from the subject, suggesting he was in charge of television and not radio, but when Letterman pressed him, Moonves had a ready made reply: "I think Howard Stern does a terrific job. I think some of the treatment he has received has been unfair."
"Les is such a fake," said Stern in response, who then had kind words for the late night talk show host. "I want to thank Letterman for bringing up my name and bringing up this issue."