Political consultant-cum-pundit Dick Morris has spent recent months as national laughingstock. After predicting a landslide victory for Mitt Romney in Fox News appearances several times just before Election Day, Morris went on a retraction tour that attracted a Morrisian amount of media attention. Then he got dumped by Fox News — and earned more derision. Then he talked about it all on CNN — yet more derision.
When asked about that whole episode, Marc Rayfield, senior vice president and market manager of CBS Radio and CBS Digital in Philadelphia, says, “Find me a Republican that wasn’t wrong in the 2012 election.”
Someone still likes Dick Morris.
On Monday, Morris will go to work for Rayfield and Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Philadelphia, a CBS station. He’ll be on live from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Morris’s arrangement with WPHT requires him to be in Philadelphia a couple of days per week, as part of the station’s commitment to going all local (as opposed to syndicated) and all conservative. Michael Smerconish, a non-ideological or center or center-left or left radio host (depending on whom you ask), left the station’s lineup today for a gig at SiriusXM, about which the Erik Wemple Blog will have much more later.
WPHT, says Morris, isn’t eager for a repeat of the “landslide” thing: “I think they like me to be controversial,” he says. “I don’t think they like me to be wrong.”
On his show, says Rayfield, Morris will take on a mix of local Philadelphia stuff and national issues, plus those precious staples of local talk radio: host pitches for auto dealerships and auto-parts outlets, a task that Morris — at heart a showman — should have no trouble tackling.
Rayfield cites a number of positives that Morris will bring to his airwaves:
• “What was attractive to us was this guy helped run the United States of America. This guy has helped officials from all over the world get elected,” says Rayfield.
• “Dick Morris is one of the most brilliant men of our times, and we were thrilled to have him,” says Rayfield.
• Morris knows Pennsylvania: “He has spent a lot of time here over the years” in his political consulting career, says Rayfield. Morris says he has worked on the Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaigns of Robert Casey, Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell.
• Morris knows media: According to Rayfield, he did upward of 3,000 segments while at Fox News. That’s no coincidence. “Smarter people than me,” says Rayfield, “agree that Dick Morris is a talent.”
And those people cashiered the guy, too.
No question, though: A talking Morris can hold your attention. The Erik Wemple Blog would still be questioning him if he hadn’t cut me off after an extensive chat. “It’s not the smartest guy in the room — that’s not what we’re looking for, although he is one of them,” says Rayfield. “But we are looking for smart people with strong opinions who are compelling speakers, and Dick exemplifies this.”
Morris says that “the transition from TV to radio is a wonderful one, it’s the transition from five-minute sound bites to four-hour discussions. It really gives me an opportunity to elaborate my thinking in a way haven’t been able to do in the TV format.”
That thinking, says Morris, will be focused on doing for the Republicans in the 2010s what Morris claims to have done for the Democrats in the 1990s — “without having them abandon their core principles, help them elaborate them and implement them in a way that does not alienate 40 percent of the country before the first vote is counted.”
Though Morris has spent a career talking politics, he’s spent little of it talking politics on radio. He says his experience in the medium is limited to being a guest on various shows.
Blabbing into a microphone will supplement Morris’s already considerable book of business. He says he’s “working pretty constantly” as a political consultant in Mexico, Spain, Poland and Hungary—gigs for which he commonly charges $25,000 per month. And don’t forget about DickMorris.com and his political e-mail list consisting of 560,000 names, both of which generate revenue for the non-dot-com Dick Morris. And he has a column at The Hill.
Is CBS radio concerned about Dick Morris Inc.? His far-flung business interests, after all, have a knack of intersecting with his work as a commentator, as Media Matters has documented. That is, Morris has plugged on several occasions outfits and candidates from which he has received checks, often without telling viewers and readers about the overlap.
“He has disclosed everything to us, so I am not concerned,” says Rayfield. “That’s my simple answer.” Talk radio’s self-cleaning oven can be relied upon to address any such missteps: “It’s an open-book format,” he says. “We don’t filter out questions. If the audience is interested, they’ll ask questions.”
A two-tiered set of considerations governs his self-disclosures, says Morris. Tier No. 1: Entities that advertise on his website or rent his e-mail services don’t require on-air conflict-of-interest disclosures, he says. Those are routine transactions of which he may not be aware, he says, and do not merit the clutter of on-air disclaimers. Tier No. 2: Entities for which Morris has done political consulting do indeed deserve full disclosures. “If I accept a consultancy, then I think I should [disclose], and if I haven’t, it’s an oversight,” says Morris.