MIAMI – (CBS4) – Tuning into Joyce Kaufman’s radio program Thursday afternoon, an old, sickening feeling crept over me. For the better part of a year, back in 2008, I hosted a talk radio show on WFTL immediately following Kaufman’s program. Back then, driving to work each day, I would tune into the station, curious as to what my lead-in was discussing.
When I went on air, I would typically spend the first 15 minutes of my show correcting the myriad of factual errors I would hear Kaufman make. Kaufman is a dour woman who has spent years on local radio exploiting the fears of others by peddling ignorance and mistrust. I always thought the best way to counter her ravings were to present facts.
One time I recall how she relentlessly railed against Congressional Democrats in Washington for gerrymandering the Congressional districts in Florida so that Democrats like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ron Klein would stay in power. It was the fault of corrupt Democrats, she would exclaim, that the elections are rigged.
At the start of my show, I simply pointed out that it is the Florida Legislature that draws the Congressional boundary lines. And the Florida Legislature is dominated by Republicans.
Nevertheless her supporters would call in furious with me for correcting Kaufman’s mistakes and mocking her ignorance.
I have little doubt that Kaufman, while decrying the mainstream media, loves the attention she is now receiving from them.
Kaufman was always pulling stunts to get on TV or her name in the paper. In 2007, in advance of an anti-immigration reform rally in Washington, she collected shoes from people who couldn’t make it on the trip. I never understood why she collected old shoes, or what the old shoes represented, but she managed to gather 5,000 of them. The shoes were driven by semi to Washington and dumped in the Capital amid much fanfare. She got herself a lot of TV time with that stunt.
The next year, when I was working at the station, she wanted to call even more attention to herself. This time, to protest government spending, she collected old wallets and purses. This protest made even less sense to me. If people were broke why would they throw out their wallets and purses? They would have to just go out and buy new ones.
The wallet/purse protest was a media failure – although several of the women who worked at the station did say they took home a few lovely handbags that folks had dropped off at the station.
In advance of Mother’s Day that year, Kaufman was hyping the perfect Mother’s Day gift – a krav maga class. For those of you who don’t know, krav maga is a form of hand-to-hand combat used by the Israelis military. The notion of a Mother’s Day krav maga extravaganza fits perfectly into Kaufman’s paranoid view of the world as being full of dangers.
Kaufman was convinced that hundreds of women would show up for the class, brought by their loving husbands and children. She hyped it on air for weeks. At one point she even convinced the owner of the krav maga studio to open up a larger room for the overflow.
Alas, Kaufman’s Mother’s Day Mayhem Marathon was not to be. Only a handful of people showed up. Seems most women would prefer to spend Mother’s Day at home with their families, eating breakfast in bed rather than learning how to gouge someone’s eyes out.
Sometimes though, Kaufman garnered the kind of attention the station didn’t want.
I remember one time, one of Kaufman’s sponsors, the owner of a local gun store, was arrested by federal agents for illegally selling automatic weapons to a Mexican drug gang. The station’s general manager called me on the phone before my show begging me not to mention the arrest or Kaufman’s link to the guy because it would embarrass her and the station. It would have been easy to turn the story against Kaufman and her extremist views, but I let it go.
The bile spewed by Kaufman and others eventually proved to be too much. I grew weary of dealing with birthers calling in to tell me Obama was a Muslim. I didn’t want to argue the meaning of the Second Amendment or continually have to explain why comprehensive immigration reform wasn’t a secret plot by Al Qaeda sympathizers to weaken our borders.
So rather than continue at the station I left and started working full-time here at CBS4 News.
Since leaving WFTL in 2008 I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to Joyce Kaufman. Every once in a while in the car I would play a game. I would turn on her show and see how long it would take for her to say something factually wrong or just plain stupid. I would click on the station and start to count. Rarely would I make it past 30 before she would come through with something truly nutty.
But on Thursday I forced myself to listen for more than 30 seconds. She was explaining why she was withdrawing as Congressman-elect Allen West’s newly appointed chief-of-staff.
“I will not be used in an electronic lynching by proxy,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman took offense to the fact that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had played a video clip in which Kaufman, at a Fourth of July rally, tipped the scales of the whacko meter. Speaking to a group of Tea Party activists, Kaufman vowed violence if the election did not turn out the way she wanted.
“I don’t care how this gets painted by the mainstream media, I don’t care if this shows up on YouTube, because I am convinced the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was, they gave me a Second Amendment,” Kaufman said during the rally. “And if ballots don’t work, bullets will.”
She then vowed to lead a violent resistance movement.
“When I say I put my microphone down on November 2 if we haven’t achieved substantial victory, I mean it,” Kaufman screamed. “Because at that point I’m going to go up into the hills of Kentucky, I’m going to go out into the Midwest, I’m going to go up in the Vermont and New Hampshire outreaches, and I’m going to gather together men and women who understand that some things are worth fighting for and some things are worth dying for.”
Now let me just say this is classic Joyce Kaufman. She is equal parts bluster and false bravado, mixed together with a whole lot of crazy. I have no doubt she was looking for her own, viral YouTube moment that would launch her into national syndication as a female Rush Limbaugh – something she has always wanted but has never been able to achieve.
But what I love most about the entire affair is that she starts off her YouTube designed diatribe by saying, “I don’t care how this gets painted by the mainstream media, I don’t care if this shows up on YouTube.”
And yet when it does show up and people in the mainstream media point out that what she says is scary and dangerous, and that it reflects badly on her new boss, she takes offense and blames the media for quoting her accurately.
“There will be no lynching with my participation,” Kaufman declared. “I’m gonna expose you for who you are and in the end, the victory will go to the righteous, it always does.”
It was about that time that I did what I always do with Kaufman. I changed the channel.