Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sykes' Slandering Should Cost TMJ Their License

Sometimes one comes across an article so good, you can't really improve on it. This week's Expresso in the Shepherd Express is one of those. With permission, here it is:
620 WTMJ doesn't own the airwaves.

It rents a frequency from the public, which owns the airwaves.

WTMJ's broadcast license is a privilege, not a right.

That's why it's so shocking that WTMJ's star talker, Charlie Sykes, continues to use the public airwaves to smear those who disagree with him and profit from the potential recall of Gov. Scott Walker.

Sykes, along with Brian Sikma of conservative phony “watchdog” group Media Trackers, pushed a false story about Sen. Lena Taylor's alleged role in aiding a felon to vote in the April election.

Sykes and Sikma didn't just allege it. They claimed the Taylor-as-accessory-to-a-crime story was true and ran with it.

Other Journal Communications properties followed suit. Four of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's ace reporters fleshed out the story, as did WTMJ-TV's Charles Benson.

The problem is that the story was false. The felon in question was able to vote in the spring election, as Dan Bice, who worked on the original Journal Sentinel story, finally reported this weekend.

Taylor is demanding an apology, and she should get one.

But Sykes and Sikma aren't backing down.

In fact, they're digging in.

Although Sykes and Sikma attempt to pose as credible pundits just looking out for the little guy, they are anything but credible. Their job is to hype stories, no matter how false, to inflame their audience. That gets ratings and attention in other media outlets. It also promotes their political agenda.

Sikma is a conservative agitator who uses social media to demonize Democrats. Media Trackers is an offshoot of the national tea party group American Majority, which gets some of its funding from the uber-conservative Bradley Foundation.

Many just argue that Sykes is hopelessly morally corrupt. Sykes and his wife are both bought and paid for by the Bradley Foundation, which has propped up Scott Walker's career through thick and thin. The head of the Bradley Foundation, extreme right-winger Michael Grebe, chaired Walker's campaign. Sykes doesn't care if his story about Sen. Taylor is incorrect because it feeds into the biases of his listenership, keeps listeners tuning in and drives traffic to his website, where he provides links to pro-Walker, pro-Charlie Sykes merchandise. We kid you not. Sykes is selling T-shirts, hoodies and other swag with the slogan “Unite to Reward Scott Walker: Charlie Sykes Radio Show. 8:30-Noon—620 WTMJ.”

If spreading outrageous lies and “uniting” with a political candidate for profit isn't enough of a reason to terminate WTMJ's license to broadcast on the publicly owned airwaves, then what is?
OK, there are two things to add after all.

One, not only was Grebe Walker's chair during the campaign, he is also pulling the strings on Walker's recall campaign as well. He's the one behind those false advertisements that have been bombarding our TVs for weeks already.

Secondly, if you want to help reclaim our airwaves, you can learn how here.


  1. Taylor would never be able to get a lawsuit filed because she is a public figure.
    The only reason you have never been sued by Walker for all the false things and your hyperbole against him in your blogs is because Walker is a public figure.
    And pulling a license for an opinion? When was the last time that has happened?

  2. Let me educate you, Dan, on some facts.

    Even a public figure can sue when the slander takes form of knowingly making false statements involving the commission of a crime. Sykes knew that what he was saying is a lie, yet he doubled down on it. So Taylor has legal grounds.

    If my reports were false, then please explain why Walker is both the subject of a John Doe investigation and a recall. In other words, just because you don't like what I have to say doesn't make it false.

    Lastly, what Sykes said wasn't an opinion. He didn't say he thought she committed a felony. he outright accused her of it. TMJ is letting him do it, so yes, they can lose their license for that.

    But thanks for playing.

  3. Well, the standard for a public figure to sue is indeed high, at least until the Roberts court undoes NY Times v. Sullivan. To prevail in a libel suit she would have to prove that Sykes published false information he claimed was true, that either he knew it was false or demonstrated "willful disregard" for whether it was false or not, AND... that she was damaged in a way that can be made better through compensation.

    If other JournalCo. reporters also were reporting the same thing, Sykes will probably get a walk regardless of how poorly they did their jobs. He can say he was relying on their professional work.

    That it took Bice a long time to actually contact the Sheriff and read the law is a serious indictment of the McNews we are fed in Milwaukee. But that is a bigger thing.

    You won't get TMJ's license pulled. Read the FCC regs if you doubt me. They can show an overwhelming record of "positive public service" regardless of what their talkers do or say.

    And focusing on the radio station misses the point: all those people listenting to the radio station. That is where the real fight is.

  4. Your story fails to quote the allegedly slanderous statements in the first instance. After he learned they were false, what specifically did he say? Your post doesn't include this information. It just says he "doubled down."

    As for anonymous - what motivation would the Roberts court have to overturn NYT v. Sullivan? I'm not really sure I understand your point. It's a pretty lame non sequitur.


  5. Really, J?

    Sykes stated that Senator Taylor abetted a felon to vote fraudulently, even though he knew that to be an incorrect statement.