Surviving the 'Cauldron'; Always Up for a Fight, Radio Host Leads Nation

Article excerpt

Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The battle rages.

Shouts, warnings, directives, threats, a stray explosion or two. There's sudden silence, eloquent commentary, a plaintive oath - then a fierce laugh born of old New York. It is tough and merry, both wise and wise guy.

Batten down the hatches. Duck and cover. Michael Savage is on the airwaves, delivering his rapid-fire message over 400 radio stations, three hours a day, five days a week. He has fought the good fight for 15 years, flanked by his 10 million weekly listeners who now consider themselves the Savage Nation.

Savage Battalion, more like.

They rally behind the laserlike takes on immigration, white males, cheeky liberals, wimpy conservatives, media bias, cultural wars, porous borders, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, same-sex marriage, corrupt Hollywood, junk science, big medicine, big government, scurrilous officials. Mr. Savage is generous with personal memories. He pouts. He is giddy.

The loyal audience steps to the Savage drumbeat, they salute a man who is often at the center of a lawsuit, a boycott or public outrage.

I do it because I do it. I speak, therefore I am, Mr. Savage says.

And that is it, the whole battle plan.

People come to me because they know I will tell them the truth. The price is that you give your heart and soul every day. Every day. And in order to get there, you get thrown in the cauldron, he continues. And a man emerges from that cauldron, and he is case hardened.

Mr. Savage has been in many, many cauldrons over the years.

This is a man who has described himself as right of Rush Limbaugh, and left of God. He invented the phrase compassionate conservative 15 years ago, though it later became a rallying cry in the Republican quest for the White House.

Gay advocates continue to call him a bigot or a fascist. Mr. Savage has wrangled with the Roman Catholic Church for its humanitarian support of illegal immigrants. He accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations of maintaining ties to terrorists (CAIR), then sued them. The group in turn organized an advertising and listener boycott - a favorite method among Savage critics to defame him.

The cauldron du jour, though, is the entire British government. On May 4, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith included Mr. Savage on a list of 22 terrorists, criminals and other undesirables who were no longer welcome in the country. She claimed that the radio host was fomenting hatred and could prompt intercommunity tension.

The event galvanized the press, not to mention a slew of free-speech advocates and the Savage Nation itself.

Their hero was primed to be savage, though. Mr. Savage called Mrs. Smith a lunatic, witch, Bolshevik, low-life and a tin-pot dictator among other things - then sued her for defamation of character, calling upon his listeners to cancel travel plans to Britain and boycott British goods.

She painted a target on my back, he says.

Mr. Savage is appealing to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to have his name stricken from the list, using the Thomas More Law Center as an intermediary. Meanwhile, defenders emerged, including the American Radio Free Speech Coalition and - curiously - CAIR. …