Today’s Talkers’ Scandals Are Reminiscent of the 1980’s Televangelist Sleazefest
Oh, the mendacity: Another day, another new controversy about a rightwing talk show host. This time it’s Jay Severin III, a former GOP operative who worked on the presidential campaigns of George I and Pat Buchanan, among others, and who hosts a radio show in Boston that is (was?) set to go national.
Severin has been exposed for lying about his achievements, including claiming several times on the record that he had won a Pulitzer Prize. He has also been the target recently of allegations of behavior unbecoming of a married man and father that cast a new light on statements he made in the 1990’s about the moral fitness of others.
The revelations of extreme resume padding came on the same day that Infinity Broadcasting announced they had signed a deal with Severin to host a nationally syndicated talk show. Oops!
According to Media Matters, Severin – whose real name is Jimmy Severino – operated a political consulting firm, Severin Aviles Associates, whose clients included George H.W. Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign and his political action committee (Fund for America’s Future); Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign; the Republican National Committee; and the Reagan White House.
He caused a stir in April 2004, when, on the air, he said about Moslems: “You think we should befriend them; I think we should kill them.” (He later said he meant that only extremists should be killed.) He also had a brief, ill-fated run sitting in as the conservative pundit who provided balance on conservative Tucker Carlson’s MSNBC show, “The Situation.”
(And it may come as a surprise to his fans in Boston that Severin doesn’t broadcast from Boston, but rather from a studio close to his home in Sag Harbor, N.Y.)
Severin brought his current woes onto himself last Friday, Sept. 16, 2005, when he claimed to have won the Pulitzer Prize. That claim brought scrutiny from a reporter, Scot Lehigh at the Boston Globe.
First, here’s what Severin said on the air:
”But since journalism began, and up until the time at least that I took my master’s degree at Boston University — and may I add without being obnoxious, up till and including the time that I received a Pulitzer Prize for my columns for excellence in online journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism, the highest possible award for writing on the Web — right up to and including that in 1998, you still had to practice journalism to be a journalist.”
So Scot Lehigh called the Pulitzer’s world headquarters, and guess what?
”We looked at the records and there is no record of him winning a Pulitzer Prize,” says Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzers. Nor is there a Pulitzer for excellence in online journalism.
Wait! There’s more:
Interesting, a Google search turns up two mentions of Severin winning a Pulitzer for online journalism. They come in student newspaper articles covering a November 2003 appearance at Boston College. ”Currently, Severin is a featured columnist on MSNBC.com, for which he has won the Pulitzer Prize for online journalism,” The Heights reported. Severin ”was the first recipient of Columbia University’s Pulitzer Prize for online journalism,” the Observer wrote. Both accounts also call him a graduate of Harvard Law School. He is not, Harvard says.
There’s also a hint of seamier goings-on in Severin’s past. Although he was reportedly fired from the Tucker Carlson show on MSNBC earlier this year, he told a New York newspaper that he quit because he didn’t like the commute from Sag Harbor to the channel’s studios in Secaucus, N.J. However, an insider at MSNBC said that the suggestion that Severin left voluntarily is a “complete absolute lie”:
In fact, he’s been banned from the network: “You won’t see him on MSNBC again,” the source says. (And based on Severin’s actions in Secaucus, “we were shocked to read in Page Six that he has a wife and daughter,” the insider adds…)
This from the man who famously said:
On whether a woman in a sexual harassment test case video had said “no”: “That’s not the big ‘no.’ And our job as guys is to convert a succession of ‘nos’ into one ‘yes.’ And to try and be as persuasive as possible in making that happen. The fact is my job, my right, my duty as a guy is to persuade girls to say yes.” [NBC's Dateline, 10/24/97]
Which brings us to our first introduction to Jay Severin. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he was one of a horde of rightwing pundits who appeared daily on MSNBC to excoriate President Clinton’s morality.
Oh, the hypocrisy!