Ed Schultz: He's live and he takes 'em cold on his weekday radio program

2002-02-16T18:00:00Z Ed Schultz: He's live and he takes 'em cold on his weekday radio programLAUREN DONOVAN, Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune
February 16, 2002 6:00 pm  • 

Ed Schultz.

Ya gotta love him. Or, maybe, ya gotta hate him.

Either way, even on a five-minute spin on the radio dial, there's not a chance you're gonna be neutral.

To use one of his favorite phrases, "It just ain't gonna happen, folks."

Schultz is the biggest voice, some say the biggest mouth, on radio in North Dakota.

Until last March, he was well-known in eastern North Dakota, heard weekdays on KFGO radio in Fargo serving up the topic du jour with a hefty side dish of opinion.

Then, when KFYR also became a Clear Channel property, one of more than 1,000 nationwide, his morning "News and Views" show became a presence in west-central North Dakota.

Boom! Live on the line, with another call and another and another, mainly from guys who want to talk about the going topic, or something else.

Schultz listens, talks back, disagrees, agrees, rushes callers along if they're repetitive. The program's pace never stalls out.

He figures he's the first voice to offer a full connection, coast to North Dakota coast, with the ears of maybe 90,000 people and the highest ratings in the state.

It's a lot of voice and a whole lot of personality.

Lately, both Schultz the voice and the personality have figured almost as large as the political events that have rocked Gov. John Hoeven's office.

Schultz has been relentless.

First, he roasted Hoeven's plans for a security fence around the governor's mansion and a personal Highway Patrol escort.

Then, he called Hoeven's State of the State address "weak" - much ado and nothing much being done.

After that, he jumped all over the way Hoeven went about opening the pheasant season a week earlier than normal, calling his methods a "debacle."

For days now, he's been on a tirade about events that led to the firing of Hoeven's political director for covering up the unpaid use of Burlington Northern Santa Fe dining cars for a fund-raiser.

Hoeven said he doesn't have anything to say about Schultz, nor has he been invited to be a guest on the show. He has called in a couple of times in the past, the last time in December to talk about state costs of Homeland Security.

Now, with Schultz' recent programs, the ante's up some.

"If he invites me to come on, I would consider it," Hoeven said Wednesday.

But Schultz said the Grand Forks Herald reported that Hoeven won't go on his show. Hoeven, however, said he didn't say he wouldn't go on the program, just that he had nothing to say about Schultz.

"We are seeing John Hoeven's true character. I have called him an empty suit," Schultz said. "Why does he whine like a baby and say, 'I'm not going on his program.' "

Schultz typically is pretty conservative in his views. Based on the people who call, he appeals to whole lot of men, many somewhere to the right of Rush Limbaugh, a conservative with a national call-in show.

Schultz is an on-air chum with former Gov. Ed Schafer, a sometimes stand-in host for the show.

All that, coupled with strong support and frequent contacts with the state's all-Democrat national congressional delegation on the farm bill, has some Republicans wondering what on earth - make that the airwaves - has happened to their old buddy.

Public Service Commissioner Leo Reinbold recently called Schultz to publicly ask him why he was being so disrespectful to the governor.

"He's inferring that the governor has no guts. It isn't his place to pick those administrative decisions apart," Reinbold said about making the call.

Reinbold said it appears Schultz has been captured by the Democratic party.

"I don't know when the switch came," he said.

He said he accomplished his goal of expressing displeasure at how Schultz has been treating Hoeven, but it backfired when Schultz not once, but twice, reeled off his litany of complaints about Hoeven in response.

Reinbold said while the Democrats - especially North Dakota Democrats in Washington, D.C. - are probably delighted with Schultz, his abrasive personality makes him a less than desirable political bedfellow.

But if the Grand Old Party thought they had a friendly house pet in Schultz that inexplicably turned vicious on them, Schultz said they underestimated him.

"I've never been bought or sold by any political party. My personal beliefs have to take a back seat to the story. Part of the mix is how I feel," Schultz said.

Sen. Aaron Krauter, D-Regent, Heidi Heitkamp's running mate when she ran against Hoeven in 2000, said the party's pleased with how Schultz has been feeling lately.

"If he's on the right side of the issue, am I willing to talk to him when he calls? You bet," Krauter said. "We'll be there to provide the counterpoint."

Krauter said Schultz isn't being too tough on Hoeven. He invokes an old cliche, the one about having to handle the heat when you're in the kitchen.

There's no question that Schultz has hit the western North Dakota airwaves like a tidal force.

"Wherever I go, the Cenex, the cafe, or to basketball games, his name comes up," Krauter said.

Schultz said all he ever wanted out of "News and Views" is to have an impact and, judging from the flood of e-mails and contacts he gets, he has.

"I want to be there for the little guy, for the people," he said.

Two weeks ago, the Fargo Forum explored a rumor that Democrats are courting Schultz to run for office, with the bonus that the popular talk show host would beat up on Republicans during the campaign.

The Forum owns the competing WDAY radio station in Fargo and promotes the station and talk show host Scott Hennen on its pages. A recent Forum editorial obliquely referred to Schultz as a "gas bag."

Schultz said Forum management pushed their political reporter to write up the rumor, hoping to discredit him by questioning his political objectivity.

Forum management denies that charge.

"That is absolutely not true. (The reporter) in going about her work enterprised that story," said Forum editor Lou Ziegler.

Otherwise, Ziegler said, "I don't have anything to say for the record about Ed Schultz."

Schultz said the writer called him and asked him one question. "One question!" he said. His answer: "No one's ever talked to me about running for governor.

Then, because he's Schultz and he's indomitable, he played the 50-second interview on his own program.

"The whole thing was a complete setup," Schultz said.

As for Hennen, who goes up against Schultz in the morning time slot in the Red River, Schultz, still comfortably ahead in the ratings at No. 1, isn't fazed in the least.

"Hennen isn't even an issue," he said.

What Ed Schultz really loves is football, his wife, his faith, his son. That's not in order.

Some say his play-by-play football coverage of the University of North Dakota Sioux is the best in the region. He came in second in an announcer hunt for the 2001-2002 Vikings football season.

He's 48, still has a decent head of reddish hair and a physique that lays some truth to his claim that his wife, Wendy, is the best cook in the world.

He said he loves that woman, that she supports him, is his best fishing buddy, and that they share a deep marital relationship bound in fundamental, Bible-based religious beliefs.

"She's a hell of a wife," he said.

Wendy, who's a nurse, sometimes accompanies him on the road. She declined to be interviewed for this story.

Next on Schultz' list of life's loves are cigars, Crown Royal with Diet Coke, hunting and fishing.

Schultz worked 13 years, mainly in sports, at WDAY, the station that's now his main competitor in the valley. He went over to KFGO in 1996.

After 20 years in the business, he said he still wakes up at 5 a.m. with a fire in his belly, eager to get to the issue of the day and what he calls the best media job in the state.

He depends on phone and e-mail sources and the KFGO newsroom - the best in Fargo, he claims - to keep him in the know and ahead of the competition.

On the air, Schultz said he puts the people and issue first. "It's not me first," he said.

His callers are "sir" and most the exchanges end, "I appreciate your time, sir."

Why so few "ma'ams?"

Schultz said it might be the aggressive nature of his show. National call-in programs screen calls and if they want more women in the mix, they put them through.

"I take them cold. I don't know what they're going to be talking about," he said.

His pet peeve: Callers who hang up on him.

There are times, when being Ed Schultz feels like he's standing alone an an island.

"You get used to it. It takes steel guts and a great wife," he said.

He is supported by Clear Channel and said he's never been taken to task by management or had a higher-up run interference on the content of his show.

In fact, he said, there's talk by Clear Channel of his program being moved into national syndication. It's early days in the discussion, so he doesn't know what changes it might bring.

Mark Mazaheri, a salesman for the station, said not only does Schultz' program command top commercial dollar, the man himself is one of the hardest working people on staff and genuinely kind and compassionate.

"If he says it gets lonely, I believe that. I'm sure it's difficult.

"When we go someplace, he's mobbed by people. He can't stop in a bar for a drink and people don't get on their cell phones to call people say, 'Hey, guess who's here? Ed Schultz!' " Mazaheri said.

Schultz said there's only one thing he's ever said that he wishes he could take back. At one time, he characterized farmers as people with their heads in their mailboxes, waiting for their subsidy checks.

Today, it'd be hard to find a bigger advocate of a continued farm bill, unless it's the state's congressional delegation and about half his call-in audience, which probably partly reflects his newer, more rural audience.

"What really changed me was back in 1999, I took a bus tour of 10 small towns. I got there and I saw their life on the farm, their struggle, their depression and their love of the land," Schultz said.

He's embarrassed by those early words.

"I'm driven to win," he said, "but I've not always been right."

(Reach reporter Lauren Donovan at 888-303-5511 or scoop@ndonline.com.)

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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