My very own Nuclear Option.
I pick on Chicago Furlip, Mike Agnello of 58Live, quite a bit. Of course, he is an easy target. A target who should, by virtue of his position in the media, try and restrain himself from being a jackass. A target who should, by virtue of his position, show a bit of objectivity and consistency in the issues he discusses, because the public, has a right to hear these issues debated properly, and God knows our politicians do a pathetic job of keeping the public informed.
However, the events of the last week or so, have increased the idiocy that comes out of Agnello's mouth, by about a magnitude of ten, or maybe a hundred. From his dogged defense of Wanda Carney, to his pushing (again) of the Fairtax.org plan, to his constant harping on lowering the food tax with the surplus, to his reticence of supporting state employee pay raises (while unabashedly supporting the judge's pay raise, that would directly benefit his buddy, John Hey), the past few days have been some of Furlip's most ridiculous. It is with this increased level of idiocy, that I feel the need to bring out my nuclear option. I've had the information I'll share below for quite some time, but because I decided that to actually use it, would be the equivalent of climbing in the gutter and simply slinging mud. I tried to limit my criticism of Furlip to what he said on the radio, and limiting it to the issues at hand, and I think I've done at least a fair job in those regards to this point.
However, after today, Furlip clearly opened the door for me to use the nuclear option below. He read an email on the air today, from someone criticizing him for not being a "compassionate conservative." The email, as read by Agnello, seemed a bit disjointed in its attack on Agnello, and it seemed hard to understand the actual specifics of the email, partly because Agnello stumbled his way through reading it on the air. Maybe the email actually was disjointed and barely coherent, but it wouldn't change what I'm going to do below. One of the attacks it leveled against Agnello was (as I could understand it) that a "good" Christian wouldn't be advocating some of the positions that Agnello does, and that his ethics and morals as a Christian should be called into question based on these positions. The email tried to take him to task on things like simply rah-rah-ing the President's positions and positions of other Republicans. And in this regard, the email has a point. Agnello is loathe to criticize anything the Republicans do. Never mind, that a Republican should be appalled by the borrow and spend policies that the President has implemented. Agnello sees no problem with this, AND he tries to spin ANY news, in a light most favorable to the Republicans. He is a Republican apologist, who acts like he's objective. And in being so, he does a complete disservice to the public.
But, in responding to what he said was an attack on his ethics and/or values as a Christian in that email, he became even more sanctimonious, even more self-righteous, even more condescending, even more bombastic, and even more insulting that he normally is. I know, I didn't think such a thing could be possible, either. It is with this in mind, that I feel compelled to bring out what I've been holding as my "nuclear option" with regard to Chicago Furlip.
I came across this little gem, tucked away in an old issue of Graffiti. It's an article about 58Live and Agnello (spelled "Agnelo" in the article) by Micheal Lipton. Because it was in Graffiti, I'm pretty sure many out there didn't see it. It's so old, the actual page doesn't exist, but Google has cached it. The weird part is, that if you search for "Michael Agnello," you won't find it, because for some reason, Lipton, refers to him as Michael Agnelo.
If your ideologies lie anywhere left of Attila the Hun, listen to talk radio - across the dial and across the country - and it won't be long before your blood pressure's on the rise. Let's face it, the "liberal-controlled media" is now officially just a convenient myth that gives the Limbaughs of the air one more topic to rail about.Evidently, he picks up on the condescension, and foreigner status I've alluded to before with regard to Furlip also. Maybe I'm not far off the mark.
West Virginia - and its capital city - are certainly no exception. If you listen to talk radio in Charleston (let's see... what are the other choices?), you've most likely heard Michael Agnelo and his cohort Rick Johnson on WCHS 58, tagteaming, mocking and trivializing anyone that dares question the motives or deeds of the Bush regime.
In particular, Agnelo, who seems to have wrested the reins from Johnson and who, as they say, "ain't from around here," is blessed with a voice so naturally condescending, he can make you despise him in a matter of seconds.
Day after day, he's an unabashed apologist for everything the Republican administration does, and a bush league (so to speak) Limbaugh wannabe (as are most conservative talk radio hosts) who does little more than parrot the master's bluster - sans his radio savvy.Gee, where have we heard that that before?
Not recalling his history (more about that later), I presumed Agnelo, not a particularly eloquent speaker, was a lawyer who simply enjoyed the vanity of spouting off on-air.This would almost be appropriate, if it wasn't so insulting to all the lawyers out there.
That, I'm sorry to say, is how Agnelo comes off on the radio.Now, the fun begins. Hang onto your hats, faithful readers, this is going to be wild.
But in person, it's a very different, interesting - and rather perplexing - story.
Never, for example, would I have thought that the guy who scoffs and chortles at anyone who questions the wisdom or motives of the war in Iraq would support legal rights for gay couples.Agnello supports legal rights for gay couples? I wonder how many of his faithful listeners know about this.
Nor would I have thought that he would favor the decriminalization of marijuana;This is also kind of hard to believe, when every 15 minutes on Furlip's show, we are hearing about some new meth seminar he hosted with Mike Rutherford. Agnello is actually FOR smoking dope? I wonder if he just manages to suppress that pro-dope smoking position, as long as he's making money doing those "What's up with Meth?" seminars.
be a passionate believer in a "safety net" for those who cannot take care of themselves or say, "automatic weapons are not necessary in our society."Yet, he rails against high taxes? He's constantly pushing for lowering the food tax. How can you have a safety net for those who cannot take care of themselves, without aggressively taxing the public to provide the money for those services? He wants government money to throw at these problems, but he doesn't want to pay any taxes? Or maybe he just wants that government money funneled to churches and other religious organizations and then let THEM provide the services. You'll see why this might be his preference below.
What's more, a few years ago, he had to weather a couple of serious work-related accidents and a gall bladder surgery without health insurance.Yet, he was/is an insurance salesman. But he doesn't have insurance? I wonder if he'd sign on to comprehensive health care? You know, kind of like the one Hillary was in charge of 10+ years ago? Agnello agreeing with Hillary? Whodathunkit.
And being from Chicago, when he gets a chance, he likes to play blues harp.That means, when it comes to Agnello personally (needing health insurance, for example) he's got absolutely no problem spending YOUR money to provide it. Or like the new ballpark. Because it was for "his" area (Charleston) all those millions of economic development grant money, was an ok expenditure. Because it benefited something he wanted (a new ballpark).
By rights, you'd think this self-described, 53-year-old "working stiff" should be a yellow dog Democrat. Not quite.
"On talk radio, we often paint in broad strokes that may sound very firm," said longtime talk radio host Stephen Reed, who worked with Agnelo in the '90s. "But when you get into how you're going to fix these things, the solutions get more reasonable.
"Michael has a very compassionate side," he added, "but, like a lot of us conservatives, he sees runaway costs and the downside of the government having its hands in everything. But there are certain situations where you'll be glad someone was there for you. And if that someone is the government, you may have to start rethinking some of your ideas."
Agnelo is hardly some blue blood who grew up in the insulated comfort of suburbia. On the contrary, his childhood, on the tough west side of Chicago, was peppered with violence, run-ins with the law, drug and alcohol abuse and doing his best to avoid the gangs - the Latin Kings, the Blackstone Rangers and the Latin Counts - that ruled the streets in the mid-'60s.Sounds like he was one of them hippie, anti-war protestors to me. He probably hung out with Jane Fonda. But now, he calls her a traitor. Directly below, is where the fun REALLY starts.
"It was a greaser neighborhood - leather jackets and baggy pants," he said. "But when the gangs took over, it went from fists and fights to knives and guns."
To date, of the circle of friends he hung around with as a teenager, 11 are dead.
"Out of the 13 or so guys from my group, only two are alive," Agnelo said. "One is in parts unknown and the other is in prison."
The son of a second generation immigrant from Sicily, Agnelo's dad, a decorated veteran of the South Pacific, put in 30 years with the Chicago Police Department. Still, his parents' attempts at discipline - including sending him to an all-boys parochial school - didn't quite take.
"We were on the street, drinking and experimenting with drugs," he said. "After high school, I embraced the youth movement. I had long hair and I was against the Vietnam War - I saw my friends coming back messed up mentally and emotionally and on drugs."
Then, when he was 25, he stumbled upon Team Thrust, a ministry based in Atlanta, IL, that was working the mean streets of Chicago. It was a chance meeting that would change his life.He finds "God" and marries a preacher's daughter, and has a kid.
"They talked to me; they wanted to pray for me," he recalled.
He was intrigued enough to accept an invitation to their church later that night.
"When they prayed for me at the church, I didn't know exactly what I was saying 'yes' to," he added. "But it was life changing - like an Army field jacket came off."
A week later, he was on his way to his first Team Thrust crusade in a Puerto Rican neighborhood of New York City. Not long after his conversion, he married a preacher's daughter and had a daughter.
For the next eight years, he traveled across the country, working in troubled, inner-city neighborhoods from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Miami.Sounds like he found a racket he could manage to make a living at, and he ran it to the hilt.
"It was one of the more unique ministries," said Agnelo. "They were very patient and tolerant. It was a non-judgmental and loving approach - a lot of it was listening." He eventually became vice president of Team Thrust.
In the spring of 1985, while doing "special event evangelism" during Derby weekend in Louisville, KY, Agnelo appeared on a television show with charismatic preacher and televangelist Davy Joe Hissom. It was another chance meeting that would alter the course of his life.Yes, Agnello was a televangelist. Just like Jim Bakker, or Jimmy Swaggert, except without the millions, the PTL scandal, Jessica Hahn, or being caught in cars with prostitutes. Why does the Genesis song "Jesus, He Knows Me," keep bouncing around in my head?
"It was instant brotherhood," Agnelo said. "We connected instantly."I bet it was more than just "instant brotherhood." See below.
Hissom invited Agnelo to come to his church in Charleston to help him minister at the Sternwheel Regatta. The following year, Agnelo moved to Charleston and became a pastor evangelist for Hissom's New Life Church.
When, in 1987, Hissom and three church members were killed in a plane crash, Agnelo was in line to take over his mentor's ministry.Peter Principle. Exhibit A.
The next decade wasn't easy. His decade-old marriage had been on the rocks for some time and, at the same time, Agnelo and Rhonda Hissom, Davy Joe's widow, had grown closer. He stepped down from the church after confessing to the congregation that he had committed "adultery of the heart""Adultery of the heart?" What the fuck is that? Is that like saying "I did not have sexual relations with that woman?" Or is it like saying "that depends on what the definition of the word 'is,' is?" He had an affair with Hissom's widow, while still married to his first wife. Hell, Hissom's body wasn't even cold before he essentially started his own version of "Team Thrust" with Hissom's widow. And this putz, can't just admit, "Yeah, I was unfaithful to my wife." He calls it "adultery of the heart?" What bullshit. Clinton basically pulls the same semantical gymnastics, and Agnello crucifies him on a daily basis. What a self-righteous hypocrite. And this jackass gets three hours a day, to pollute the airwaves? It's no wonder this country is about three quarters fucked up.
and, as a result, [he] was all but ostracized by much of the congregation.Translation: He essentially kept up the affair after his church (or the church he inherited on Hissom's death) booted him out.
He moved back to Louisville where he sought counseling, then to Chicago for a time, and then to Michigan where he fell into a painting business. All the while, he and Rhonda kept in touch.
Finally, in late 1990, he moved back to Charleston and they've been together ever since.Yay! Back in Charleston, after 3+ years of "finding himself" and now fully shacking up with Hissom's widow.
Agnelo, who had worked various jobs in contracting and sales, began his talk radio career in 1995 with WQBE (now WVTS), serving as a guest host for full-timer Jack Kane. Then, in 1997, he teamed up with fellow conservative Stephen Reed to kick off WCHS' afternoon talk show. He was let go the following year because of differences with the station's management.Maybe the station's management was on to something.
"When Stephen and I were doing the program, we thought it was going good," said Agnelo. "Then, one day they walked in and said, 'Things aren't going the way we want - thank you for your work.' That was my last day."And the current daily punishment of the valley's listeners continues.
Early in 2004, the station's producers asked Agnelo to give it another shot. He and co-host Rick Johnson took over the show in May.
These days, Agnelo's life has fallen into routine, albeit a hectic one. Up at 5:30 a.m., he begins his day by scanning news reports, admittedly relying on sources like the RNC, Drudge and Smoking Gun.Just goes to show you, it doesn't take much to get a radio show. Another reason to not take idiots like Agnello and Limbaugh's words as the gospel.
"I'm not a journalist, I'm a commentator. They asked me to do commentary and that's what I do. I'm limited in my education and facility," he said, adding that he never could afford to attend college. "But I really try to do my homework."
Next stop is Ficon Insurance Agency where he works as an agent. After lunch, he heads over to the radio station to prepare for his show, which runs from 3-6 p.m.But he doesn't have health insurance? Doesn't make much sense.
Hoppy Kercheval, host of MetroNews' statewide Talkline show, carried in Charleston on WCHS 58, recognized Agnelo's conviction. "Professionally, Michael has a lot of passion. He loves to do research, call people and turn up something that perhaps hasn't been on the air before. From listening to him, I can tell he's more conservative than I am. He's a true believer. I'm much more cynical."Well, Hoppy's probably close to right. I think Agnello has drank the koolaid alright (ie, a "true believer") but I also think he modifies his views, to make a buck. See the anti-drug/anti-meth stuff, but he admitted to the interviewer that he's for legalizing pot.
In an effort to balance the show, Agnelo said he has called a number of people in the Democratic party, extending an invitation to appear on his show.That's because they know he's a paid republican party hack, and he's ultimately got control of the show. He can frame the issues to his liking, and steer the issue to where it best suits his side. He does it all the time. Plus, after the guest would leave, Agnello can then go on unfettered, attacking (without rebuttal).
"I've said, 'please bring someone down.' Many of them haven't even returned my calls."
With his outspoken, on-air persona, Agnelo finds himself in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand, he invites scrutiny by being a "radio personality." On the other, he appears to be a reticent guy who, at least at this point in his life, shuns the spotlight and cherishes his privacy.Well, here's that scrutiny.
"Most of my life has been about service to people," he said. "I've worked in flood relief and drug rehab - because I think those things are important in life. But I don't stand in the spotlight about it."I wonder if their continued "unmarried" status has anything to do with social security widow's benefits she'd receive from Hissom being killed? Or maybe there was an annuity or something Hissom had set up to provide for his wife and kid(s) if he should die, that would terminate on his widow remarrying.
The contradictions go deeper. He's deeply concerned about not having health insurance, as both he and his partner, Rhonda, have had health problems. He also grapples with the fact that he and Rhonda have lived together as an unmarried couple for more than a decade.
He also doesn't favor other conservative platforms such as mandatory sentencing and "zero tolerance."Gotcha. Government excess = bad. Unless its for something Agnello wants. Then it's A-OK.
When pressed, his reasons for stumping for the Republicans seem to waiver, having more to do with generalities - like the pitfalls of government excess - than specifics.
Still, he assured me, he's not simply playing to his audience when he goes on-air.The hypocrisy of Agnello is mindblowing. Like I said, the decision to reprint this article was one I decided not to make simply out of spite towards Agnello. I could have done that many months ago, if I so desired. Only after he took the sanctimonious angle of "how dare you question my ethics or morals or my Christianity" did I feel compelled to call his bluff on just who exactly he is.
"I don't think I fit any one slot," he said. "I'm a realist, not a purist, and I try to be honest and open-minded and look beyond how each issue will affect me personally - I've never pulled the 'R' [voted a straight Republican ticket]. I identify the same problems [as a liberal] - it's the solutions on which we differ.
"Sure, part of talk radio is entertainment and sometimes we may have fun with something and exacerbate it. But I try not to be a bomb thrower - it's too easy to push people's buttons."
Listen to Michael Agnelo on WCHS 58 from 3-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri. To air your opinion, call 304/345-5858.