In response to unspecified complaints, WLW-AM'S right-leaning overnight America's Truckin' Network show has eliminated all talk about politics, the Confederate flag and the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on Memorial Day.
"Suffice it to say we’re going to avoid such topics," host Steve Sommers told listeners early Monday morning.
"There are some things we’re not going to talk about anymore."
Originally a show about and for truck drivers, the American Truckin' Network show airs midnight-5 a.m. seven days a week on WLW and on Sirius XM radio. Dave Martin hosts the weekend show as Ridin' The Wave With Dave. WLW staffers often boast the station can be heard in 38 states at night.
In recent months, the show had been a hotbed for far-right political conspiracy theories. When Martin has hosted, I've heard talk about "China and the Democrats" making fraudulent ballots to rig the 2020 election; Joe Biden picking Hillary Clinton as vice president and then (if elected) resigning in 100 days so Clinton could become president "and reverse the 2016 election;" and claims that the COVID-19 vaccine is being delayed by Dr. Anthony Fauci so he and Bill Gates could market their own vaccine and make millions.
D.J. Hodge, WLW-AM general manager and market manager for iHeartMedia; or Scott Reinhart, operations director; and Sommers have not responded to my questions about what led to the ban.
Sommers, 55, who took over the show in 2004 from his father, Dale "The Truckin' Bozo" Sommers, told listeners early Monday morning:
“My father told me that many years ago the least you can deal with your boss the better off you are because if the boss isn’t having to pay attention you’re not in trouble, right? Typically anytime you hear from the boss if you’re not doing contract discussions you’ve probably done something wrong. Suffice it to say, some things are going to change starting right now this morning," according to Radio Insight.
"That’s where you (listeners) are going to be helping to participate because there are some things we’re not going to talk about anymore. We all know in this country for whatever reason in recent months, I guess you can say it all started with George Floyd and the atmosphere has become so politically charged, so divisive talking about the race issues, the Confederate flag, bringing down monuments and statues - everybody has opinions. Everyone’s entitled to differing opinions. I feel that I’ve always tried to give a balanced approach to my content on the program. Some apparently don’t feel that is the case. But just suffice it to say we’re going to avoid such topics,” Radio Insight reported.
Radio Insight said Sommers "believed that his job was on the line and that they needed the callers help to keep the show focused on issues related to trucking."
This week, Sommers has done the show with a co-host. He has talked mostly about trucking issues and the weather conditions which could impact truck drivers. On early Thursday/late Wednesday, he did trivia with frequent guest Ed "Mr. Motorkote" Gibbs of MotorKote engine lubricants, a major sponsor.
The Enquirer, which broke the story, reported that Sommers was called by his boss after his Thursday morning show July 16 to inform him that complaints had been made to iHeartMedia's corporate headquarters in San Antonio. His boss "held him responsible for an unspecified comment made by a caller, saying that the comment should not have been aired," and gave him a warning, the Enquirer said.
On Friday, Sommers was told that more complaints had been received by iHeartMedia, which resulted in the ban on political talk.
"Steve's show got the complaint," Martin told me Wednesday. "The bosses with iHeartMedia wanted to check my podcast shows and Steve's. So that is why I was under review."
In posts on his Ridin The Wave With Dave Facebook page this week, Martin told his fans: "Hi guys. Yes everyone wants to know if Da Wave is A-OK???? Good news. Yes… The show and myself are under review because of complaints by anonymous sources. Stay tuned for updates."
The next day he posted: "Hopefully I will be back. Don't need a co-host. Callers are the best. Just have to tighten things up. Dave." Later he wrote: "Thank you everyone for the nice comments and support. Yeah, bad people want to cause trouble. I am always being attacked… Stay tuned. Hopefully back soon. Peace. DaWave."
Sommers, of Colerain Township, hasn't posted on Facebook about his troubles. But it's clear how he feels about facial coverings during the pandemic. On July 10 he wrote: "Mask Mandates are "ABSOLUTE BULL-SH--!!!!"
On Wednesday morning July 22, hours before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's statewide mask mandate, Sommers told listeners that masks "drive me nuts. I hate it."