Tired of easy listening? If you're in Colorado Springs, you can tune into KVOR, where talkshow host Chuck Baker mimics the sound of a firing pin--"kching-kching"--as he raves against the government and talks to listeners about shooting members of Congress and forming guerilla cells.
Baker's three-hour talk show piggy-backs Rush Limbaugh, forming a solid bloc of conservative talk five days a week. But Baker's show took a radical turn to the right last summer, when he found that more callers were associated with the "patriot" movement than the Republican Party.
"Patriot" is a generic term for an anti-government movement that unites divergent groups across the country in a war against the "New World Order," seen as a conspiracy to create a single global government rooted in socialism. The movement ranges from Christian Coalition members, who are fed up with public education and legalized abortion, to AK-47-shooting militia members who believe that Clinton and liberals are disarming Americans to leave them defenseless against "Big Brother." (See Denver Post, 1/22/95.)
Suddenly, Baker began discussing the need for an armed revolution to take out the "slime balls" in Congress and bureaucrats "who are too stupid toget a job." The topics Baker addresses are the "patriot" movement's obsessions: the raid on the Branch Davidian Compound in Texas; the FBI's assault on Idaho tax-resister Randy Weaver; a secret national police force under Janet Reno's command; spying black helicopters, microchips planted in babies, finger-printed drivers' licenses.
Baker's guests read like a who's who of the armed right, including Linda Thompson, "adjutant general" of the Unorganized Militia of the United States; Arizona's Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack, waging a legal battle against the Brady Bill; Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America; Colorado legislator Charlie Duke, a self-proclaimed part-time revolutionary; and Rev. Pete Peters, who believes God wants gays condemned to death and warns against mixing with Jews and minority races.
Gloating over Sheriff Mack's lawsuit against the Brady Bill, and already counting on victory, Baker said, "We're not going to rest on that, and be assured that creeps like Metzenbaum and Kennedy are going to think thatwe're sitting back thinking, 'Well the Brady law has been defeated or declared unconstitutional.' You know how these slime balls operate. The only way you're ever going to get rid of Metzenbaum is when you're finally at a point that you can stand over there, put the dirt on top of the box and say, 'I'm pretty sure he's in there.'"
Baker discussed with callers the pros and cons of forming six- to eight-man militia cells for urban and rural guerrilla warfare; the host provided the phone number of the 500-member Save America Militia (now the El Paso County Militia). Since June, at least five militias have formed in Colorado Springs, along with the statewide Colorado Free Militia.
On Baker's show (8/29/94), Linda Thompson promoted her (later aborted)armed march on Washington to remove "traitors" from Congress:
"Linda, I've been told by every military person I've talked to that they would not stand there and take the side of government," Baker responded, broadcasting from the Monument Gun Shop. "They would come over to our side."
After the passage of the omnibus crime bill, callers on Baker's show raged against the restrictions on semi automatic rifles. "The problem we have right now is who do we shoot," a caller named Jacques said (9/6/94).
Baker seemed sympathetic to this proposal: "Am I advocating the overthrow of this government?... I'm advocating the cleansing," he declared. "If you combined everybody in the United States of America that you would even estimate to be on the other side, you would only have a drop in the bucket compared to the masses in rebellion," Baker said. "Why are we sitting here?"
A caller named Eva warned Baker (9/6/94) that he "was coming perilously close to advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government." Baker replied, "It's provided for in the Constitution.... It's well within my right under free speech."
"You can do many things under the First Amendment, but you can't shout fire in a crowded theater," Eva countered.
"An armed revolution," Baker corrected.
A Fan's Shooting Spree
One listener who didn't just sit there was Francisco Martin Duran. On Oct. 29, 1994, the self-professed fan of Baker and Limbaugh fired nearly 30 bullets at the White House. The pickup truck he drove to Washington bore the bumper sticker with the Bakeresque message, "Fire Butch Reno."
Duran, who was active in militia activities in Colorado Springs, had nearly two months earlier threatened to go "to Washington to take someone out" in a call to Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell's office in Colorado Springs.
But Duran's warning went unnoticed--mainly because he was far from alone. "Numerous calls? I would call it an avalanche," said Carol Knight, Campbell's press secretary. "Each call was more obscene, threatening and mean than the one before." Apparently, Chuck Baker's show (8/23/94) had urged listeners to vent their displeasure at the passage of the crime bill--and Duran was one of hundreds who responded (Denver Post,11/17/94).
When Baker heard about Duran's shooting spree, he cut short a board meeting of the National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts (NARTSH) in St. Louis. (Baker is a director on the association's 25-member national board and six-member international board.) He said his wife told him she'd been flooded with calls from the major television networks and news media. Baker recalled, "She said, 'They're blaming you.'"
After two weeks of news stories on the possible influence of Baker and Limbaugh on Duran, Baker dropped out for a while. He signed off abruptly (11/15/94):
In December, Baker returned ahead of schedule, to the relief of his fans. The station management said they had a new policy: Apparently their host would show more restraint and curb the name-calling. Baker confesses it's a bad habit he plans to break. Now, he gives militia phone numbers and contacts off the air.
Like all good resolutions, Baker's was put to the test. On Jan. 19, a caller complained that Baker had referred to two black state representatives as "the focus of evil." "You also referred to Pat Schroeder as 'Patsy Schroeder, a slime-sucking liberal feminazi,'" the caller said.
"No, no, never have," protested Baker. "I referred to Patsy as the Congress-thing, the womanoid."
Hate on the Air
Baker said if people don't like his show, "you reach down there to that little knob and turn it off, and then you become responsible for your own personal behavior."
"Listeners have a responsibility for their own lives," Baker told Extra!. "It's a cop-out to blame people on the radio or on the television or in the newspaper for something that you may do. Don't say that I did it because... Chuck Baker, Rush Limbaugh or Dan Rather told me to do it."
Carol Nashe, co-founder and executive director of NARTSH, was asked if Baker had stepped over any lines by discussing the murder of members of Congress. "You're trying to put a muzzle on free speech," she responded. "That's exactly what we do not want. Everyone has a right to their opinion. Chuck Baker is a good host and knows how to talk to people and calm them down."
Nash said she's unaware of any segment of the population espousing anger and hatred, forming militias and talking about revolution. Evidently, she hasn't tuned into Baker's show-- or to other similar programs, like Bob Mohan's on KFYI in Phoenix.
Mohan hurled insults at Sarah Brady, who lobbied for the Brady Bill on behalf of her husband Jim Brady, permanently disabled during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. "You know, she ought to be put down," Mohan said. "A humane shot at a veterinarian's would be an easy way to do it.... I wish she would just keep wheeling her husband around... wiping the saliva off his mouth once in a while-- and leave the rest of us damn well alone."
On the USA Patriot Network, broadcast on two Colorado AM radio stations, host Norm Resnick read excerpts from a religious right newsletter touting a new book about Hillary Clinton, Big Sister Is Watching You. "New book unmasks Hillary's Hellcats," Resnick proclaimed, naming Janet Reno (the "duchess of doom"), Jocelyn Elders ("condom queen extraordinaire"), Maya Angelou ("a former stripper, prostitute and madam"), Donna Shalala ("high priestess of hate"), Roberta Achtenberg (a "lesbo crazy") and Ruth Bader Ginsberg ("child molesters' best friend").
Watergate felon and talk radio host G. Gordon Liddy has expressed sympathy for the militias. An FCC complaint filed against Liddy charged that he had instructed listeners (8/26/94) in how to kill Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents (Indianapolis News, 9/2/94): "They've got a big target on there, ATF. Don't shoot at that because they've got a vest on underneath that. Head shots, head shots.... Kill the sons of bitches."
As for Rush Limbaugh, he has been characterized as too liberal by the growing "patriot" movement. In December, Denver KNUS talkshow host Peter Boyles featured John Schlosser, commander of the Colorado Free Militia and a former news director of the USA Patriot Network. Agreeing with a caller who deemed Limbaugh is "a Judas goat," Schlosser said Limbaugh is an entertainer, too commercial, and too cozy with the Washington establishment and corporate sponsors.
Who would have ever thought Limbaugh would be tossed into the den with liberal mainstream media? A favorite target of the right, the media are accused of perpetuating the New World Order, unfair reporting and skewing the truth. Because journalists can't be trusted, the patriot movement is turning to conservative radio talkshows on AM and shortwave stations for the "facts."
Groups like Citizens Project in Colorado Springs, which monitors Baker's show, have considered filing a complaint against Baker and KVOR with the FCC. But the First Amendment offers broad protection for speech; the FCC cannot take action unless it can be proven that "speech is directed toward inciting imminent lawless action, and is likely to produce such action" (Letter from FCC to Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith).
According to NARTSH's Nashe, there are no professional guidelines stricter than whatever the law allows. "FCC has guidelines regarding swearing or saying things inappropriate on the air. Our association does not set guidelines because we are proponents of the First Amendment," said Nash. "I don't think they're talking about the overthrow of the government. I think they're having fun!"
Leslie Jorgenson is a contributing editor for the Colorado Statesman newspaper.