WKBN RADIO Traficant says he'll stay mum on case
About 50 protesters greeted the congressman outside the radio station today.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
BOARDMAN -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. went back on his vow today to discuss his criminal indictment on the radio, saying to do so would force the case to move from Cleveland.
Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, had built up his four-day appearance as host of WKBN-AM's morning show, which began today, saying he would talk about the 10-count indictment as well as his own investigation of the U.S. Justice Department.
But Traficant said the information he has on the case would result in the trial's being moved elsewhere, such as Detroit or Chicago.
"Jim Traficant wants to challenge the undefeated U.S. attorneys in Cleveland in their own back yard," he said.
The radio show was simulcast nationally on C-SPAN. Traficant, who used "The Eye of the Tiger" for his theme song today, said he would take national calls over local ones. The first call he received was from a supporter in Tulsa, Okla. Traficant said he would take local calls during the next three days he's on the air.
The congressman said he didn't screen any of the callers, most of whom voiced support for him. However, a woman from Clarksburg, Pa., made it on the air.
"Everything you've done has been on the shady side," she said. "You're guilty. You don't have a brain."
Protesters: About 50 people protested Traficant's appearance outside the South Avenue studios of Clear Channel Youngstown, which operates WKBN. The protesters were permitted on Clear Channel property because of radio management's concern that they could be hurt standing on busy South Avenue, said William E. Kelly Jr., the company's vice president and market manager. "I don't think they should give him the air time," said Jim Zupanic of Youngstown, a protester. "I think it's important that this not go completely unchallenged."
Sam Moffie of Boardman, another protester and an unsuccessful 2000 Mahoning County commissioner candidate, said Traficant's appearance is strictly a ratings scheme by Clear Channel right down to letting those opposed to Traficant's appearance on radio property.
James B. Callen of the Citizens League of Greater Youngstown urged Clear Channel to cancel the appearance.
"As a licensed public broadcaster, Clear Channel has a duty to serve the public interest of this community," he said. "Meeting this duty requires more than simply pandering to sensationalism and broadcasting whatever programs will generate the highest ratings regardless of content or harmful consequences."
No objection: Traficant said that he had no objections to the protesters' being there and that he wished them well.
Traficant said his case "may serve as a microcosm" regarding bureaucracy in America. "I'm not cocky. I'm afraid, but I'm ready to go after them."
Traficant said he would release affidavits today regarding his allegations of local corruption by the Justice Department in the Mahoning Valley for the past 50 years.
Topics of discussion: During the broadcast, Traficant discussed a number of his legislative priorities including a national sales tax, a bill to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, a proposal to reform the Justice Department, and criticism of former Attorney General Janet Reno and China.
A Democrat who often votes with Republicans, Traficant praised President Bush's job performance.
"The president is trying to bring together a split Congress," he said. "He's trying to do what's right. He's trying to succeed."
Traficant also said he misjudged Ronald Reagan, who served as president during Traficant's early years in Congress.
"I didn't vote for many of Reagan's policies, but he was right," he said. "He tore down the Berlin Wall and destroyed communism. Now communism is being reinvented and it's being subsidized by America. I couldn't imagine the Chinese tell The Gipper what to do."
During breaks: The congressman, who wore a red sweat shirt during the broadcast, would leave the studio for a minute during commercial breaks to chat with C-SPAN employees and to ask his staff to remind him to bring up certain topics when he got back on the air.
Traficant said he plans to put together a book of the one-minute speeches he has delivered over the years on the House floor. The speeches traditionally include his signature catch phrase, "Beam me up," from the TV series "Star Trek."
Cboss Community Network announced that it will provide an audio archive of Traficant's shows each day this week at www.traficanttapes.com. In addition, people can respond to the congressman's remarks in a special message forum area.