(CNSNews.com) - Supporters of Barack Obama made thousands of calls and sent thousands of e-mails Wednesday in an organized campaign to intimidate a Chicago radio station – WGN-AM – into canceling the appearance of a conservative writer on one of its long-time popular talk shows.
The campaign did not work, according to the talk-show’s producer.
“We’ve probably had 4,000 to 5,000 e-mails,” said Zack Christenson, producer of “Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg.”
“There’s no way to measure the calls. The only thing I can tell you about the calls is that from about 7:30 p.m. to about midnight that night, the phone calls did not stop coming in,” Christenson added. “We have five or six phone lines and they were lit up the entire night.”
The e-mails, which were prompted by an action alert called “The Obama Action Wave,” which The Chicago Tribune attributed to the Obama campaign, were all “very negative,” Christenson told CNSNews.com
“They were all using the same talking points that were sent out in the original Obama e-mail. They were all the same boilerplate e-mails,” Christenson said.
It was clearly an attempt to punish the show, which has been on the air for more than 30 years.
“I got the feeling they were trying to intimidate us,” Christenson said. “I definitely think that directing the phone calls and the e-mails of supporters was definitely an attempt, not to shut us down, but to intimidate us.”
The “call to action” read: “Tonight, WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears. He's currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and University of Illinois professor William Ayers.
“Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse.”
Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and a former fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, told CNSNews.com that he has drawn fire from Obama supporters in recent weeks over articles he published in the National Review and Weekly Standard, both conservative publications, examining what ties – if any – Obama has to former Weather Underground radical leader Bill Ayers when both were part of an association with an education reform group in Chicago in the 1990s called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
He agreed that Obama supporters were out to intimidate the station Wednesday night.
“They were trying to keep me from going on the air,” Kurtz told CNSNews.com.
Obama, now the Democratic presidential candidate, was chairman of the board of directors of the Annenberg Challenge.
Christenson said when the station found out Tuesday night that Kurtz was in Chicago to examine documents that had just been released purportedly linking Obama and Ayers, they jumped at the chance to interview Kurtz.
“The following day, about noon, when I got into the office that day, I called the Obama campaign, let them know that we were going to be having Stanley Kurtz on the show, and offered them a chance to come on the show as well to rebut anything that he said,” Christenson said.
Kurtz was invited for the full two hours, which is customary for the show, and so was Obama’s campaign, he added.
“We do one topic for the entire two hours, and we offered the Obama campaign a chance to be on for the entire two hours as well, sort of a debate format, if you will,” Christenson said.
He continued: “The Obama campaign’s response was, ‘This guy is a liar. If you want to talk about the Annenberg Challenge, he’s not the guy you want. I can’t believe that you’re going to give this guy a forum.’
“And I said, ‘That’s why we want you on the air as well, to give your side of the story. So he asked who the program manager was on WGN. So, I told him, and gave him the number. That’s when he hung up on me,” Christenson added.
By 7:30 p.m. – a half-hour before the show began – thousands of calls had already come in, according to Rosenberg, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, who told his listeners the response was something “which in my over 30 years experience with the program ... has never happened before.”
He read one e-mail on air, commenting as he read: “‘I am disgusted that WGN is giving two hours to a vicious, racist crackpot’ – I didn’t know that Ph.D’s from Harvard turned out that way very often. ‘Kurtz is tied to that vile traitor Bill Krystol’ – spelled K-R-Y-S-T-O-L. ‘Why are you providing a platform to this character assassin?
“Do you have a regulator like that FCC, where I can file a complaint about the lack of balance, since my understanding is that there is no opportunity for the Obama campaign to present their correct version of events? Disgraceful. Please provide the correct address for a formal complaint,’ ” Rosenberg went on.
Kurtz, meanwhile, told CNSNews.com in an interview on Friday that the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Ayers still teaches, had initially blocked access to the documents and he is just reviewing them.
But Kurtz said he did not make – and has not made – formal accusations that there was an actual link between the Democratic presidential candidate and the one-time member of the 1960s radical terrorist group.
“The Obama campaign accused me the previous night when I was on Greta Van Susteren’s show (on the Fox News Channel) of telling a flat-out lie – in their words – that Obama got his job on the board of the Annenberg Challenge from Ayers,” he said.
“I did not state that as a certain fact,” Kurtz said. “We do have evidence that points in that direction – that Ayers must have had some involvement. But we can’t know it yet as a fact – and I said that very clearly on the Milt Rosenberg Show, and when I was on Greta, I did not state it as a certain fact.”
He said he spoke about a panel that Michelle Obama put on at the University of Chicago on juvenile crime, where Ayers and Obama took part – and about a book that Bill Ayers had written on that topic which Obama had endorsed.
But Kurtz said he now also has evidence that both Obama and Ayers were on the board of directors for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, with Obama as chairman of the board and Ayers as the co-chairman of the foundation’s “Collaborative” wing.
“Each of them headed the two wings of this foundation for a number of years, so they had to have some kind of working relationship – (Ayers) couldn’t have been just ‘a guy in my neighborhood’ as Obama has claimed,” Kurtz said.
Except for a computer-generated e-mail, the Obama campaign has not responded to e-mail or telephone requests from CNSNews.com for comment in connection with this story.
The computer-generated e-mail says only: “Thank you so much for your interview request. It is now in our system and our communications team will follow-up with you when we have a better idea of your request’s status. We understand the difficulties a delay in response may cause and certainly appreciate your patience.”