God's Plan

At Dan Patrick's KPRC talk-radio station, it's politics with a capital G

He talked of Clinton having an operation "to make his eyes slanted." The performance was particularly galling coming from Patrick, who landed in hot water six years ago for referring to then-CBS correspondent Connie Chung's "Eye to Eye" interview show as "Slanted Eye to Eye" for a piece it had done.

It's not hard to be taken aback at times by the near-feral tone of voice KPRC callers and hosts use in regard to Clinton. Patrick insists, however, that his product cannot be labeled "hate radio."

"I took a position when we bought KPRC to not allow viciousness on the air, to not allow hateful callers on the air, to not allow extremists....and I think we do a pretty good job of following that policy," he says. "I don't think anyone can listen to this station and say there's a hateful sound."

Phillippe Diederich
Patrick's radio empire started in Tomball.
Patrick's radio empire started in Tomball.

And if Patrick has called the Clintons "pathological liars" and "Marxist-Socialists" who are determined to lead the country down the path to Communism?

"That's not hateful," he replies.

But wouldn't you hate such a person if those claims were true?

"You know, I don't hate anybody. I don't hate anybody. But those people who would do that to this country I think are very dangerous, and I don't want to see them in positions of power. But I don't hate them."

So what would be hateful?

"Hateful, a lot of it is the tone of voice. Hateful would be 'I wanna see something happen to this guy.' Hateful would be 'He's a murderer, he used to run drugs in Arkansas.' "

Claims that have been aired on KPRC more than once.

"It's all right for someone to bring that up and for that to be discussed, but it's a far different thing for a radio station to let that go on and people call in with it unchallenged."

But KPRC runs the Michael Reagan show at night, which wallows in such unchallenged claims.

"Mike Reagan -- the truth is, I don't listen to the station 24 hours a day, so I can't say."

Michael Reagan isn't the only person Patrick seeks to distance himself from. He eagerly opines that there are far-right-wingers who give Christianity a bad name. Patrick says he gets more complaints from people saying the station isn't Christian enough than from people complaining it's too religious.

"When people call in or write me a letter and say, 'Well, I'm a Christian,' I'm not so sure they really are, because they would never be that hateful to begin with," he says.

Some on the far right are too rigid, he also says. Winning political offices requires some compromises. "I don't have much patience for people in the Christian movement who would rather lose and be able to be high and mighty about where they stand on something while the country is going to hell," he says, citing as an example Gary Bauer, the GOP presidential hopeful and hard-line conservative activist. "The stridency in his campaign platform turns people off."

Governor George W. Bush, on the other hand, is someone who understands common sense.

"I think George Bush is a person of true faith. I think he is born-again, as I am and millions of people have been," Patrick says. "I think he is pro-life, but I also think he is smart enough to understand, as some pro-lifers don't understand, that the object is not to convert America....The object is to get 51 percent to vote for you."

Patrick's desire to not be broad-brushed as a Christian Right station is understandable -- advertisers might be scared off by overt proselytizing.

Talk-radio expert Michael Harrison, publisher of the Massachusetts-based Talkers trade publication, says a growing number of outlets nationwide are addressing religious issues but don't want to be tagged as church or religious-right stations.

"The trick for any radio station, with any kind of format, is to get a big enough core audience but not to cater to them so much that they don't get other listeners," he says. "You always have to piss off your core some, maybe by not doing as much of what they want as you like. That's the game you have to play."

Hosts at stations like Patrick's "sound a lot like Rush Limbaugh or Gordon Liddy or Oliver North, but they'll cite the Bible every so often." "Sometimes you can't tell if you just listen casually, and much of the radio audience is casual, so they just hear the conservatism and not the religion," Harrison says.

Patrick insists that he brings up religion simply for discussion purposes, not to propagate the word.

"I would not use this radio station as a vehicle for my Christian faith. My first responsibility as the general manager and programmer is to the shareholders of the Clear Channel company Š to do the best I can to have the highest ratings and the biggest revenues, make the most money. That's what my job is," he says. "I have not been shy in sharing my faith, but I don't think we're trying to convert or preach, I just think we're talking about a fascinating subject."

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