Craig Silverman, Trump, KNUS and Media Confusion Over Firing Question

In addition to being a radio personality, Craig Silverman is an attorney who's currently part of the Springer & Steinberg firm.
In addition to being a radio personality, Craig Silverman is an attorney who's currently part of the Springer & Steinberg firm.
Editor's note: Late on November 18, Craig Silverman's podcasts, including the one pertaining to the November 16 episode when he was removed mid-show, have now been released. Get more information about that, as well as the absence of a hinted-at announcement by KHOW host Dan Caplis, in "Craig Silverman Was Cut Off By KNUS While Talking About Being Terminated." Continue for our previous coverage.

Among the biggest media stories in the country involves attorney and longtime radio host Craig Silverman, who was yanked off the air during his weekly Saturday radio program for 710 KNUS on November 16 while talking in negative terms about President Donald Trump. But the reporting surrounding the incident has shifted over the past three days, with the radio station disputing local and national items stating that Silverman was sacked for being pro-impeachment. Indeed, station personnel appeared at a news conference last night, November 17, to insist that Silverman hadn't been fired at all and could keep doing his program — though an internal email shared below muddies those waters considerably.

There could be additional developments as soon as this afternoon. Last week, attorney Dan Caplis, Silverman's former radio partner, offered a tease about possible changes related to his 4 to 6 p.m. show on a rival station, 630 KHOW, and speculation is rife that he'll announce a new team-up for the pair. Indeed, KNUS maintains that a disagreement over talking about a planned guest spot with Caplis, and not Trump-bashing, was the real reason Silverman was removed mid-show on November 16.

Silverman spoke to Westword this morning prior to and after his appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe — an indication of how interested cable news networks are in the tale. (He's currently scheduled to join Don Lemon on CNN this evening, a day after talking to Brian Stelter on the news purveyor's offering Reliable Sources.) When asked if he was fired for being more critical of Trump than his colleagues at KNUS, whose programming is consistently conservative, Silverman replied, "I don't know what would have happened if I was a top supporter of Donald Trump and I did other media — if the attitude would have been the same. But what I can tell you is, I don't know why I was taken off the air. I know what I was saying during that segment. I know that they cut my mic. And that's what I told reporters. But you won't find any cut from me saying I know they did this to squelch Trump impeachment-inquiry talk. I've never said that."

That's not the way things were laid out initially. The first journalist to weigh in was CBS4's Brian Maass, who Silverman says was listening to the show when a discussion about newly convicted Trump associate Roger Stone and his connection with dark McCarthy-era fixer Roy Cohn, complete with trailer audio from the 1992 James Woods movie Citizen Cohn, abruptly flipped to a news feed. After speaking with Silverman, Maass tweeted, "Sudden end to @craigscolorado show on @710KNUS today. He says management pulled plug mid show after he laid out anti Trump case and did same on another station. Says he was told ‘You’re done’ and they cut to other programming. Station leans conservative."

click to enlarge Craig Silverman chatting with Brian Stelter on CNN circa November 17. - CNN VIA @CRAIGSCOLORADO
Craig Silverman chatting with Brian Stelter on CNN circa November 17.
CNN via @craigscolorado
Before long, other news sources were on the case, led by the Denver Post, whose story soon went out over the Associated Press wire under the headline "Denver Radio Host Says He Was Fired for Criticizing Trump." This theme was struck by subsequent pieces from the New York Times ("Denver Radio Host Fired in Mid-Show After Criticizing Trump") and Time ("Denver Radio Host Says He Was Fired Mid-Show After Criticizing President Trump").

The verbiage underwent alterations after the Sunday news conference, during which KNUS general manager and vice president Brian Taylor said, "We never told him what position to take on President Trump. ... I look forward to Craig continuing his program." The headline on the original Denver Post item was tweaked to state, "KNUS radio host Craig Silverman says he was taken off air mid-show after criticizing Trump," and the label on a followup maintains, "KNUS disputes Craig Silverman’s claim his show was canceled over Trump comments, says he’s welcome back on the airwaves."

At this writing, neither Taylor nor KNUS operations director Kelly Michaels have returned multiple interview requests from Westword. However, Silverman told us that he had appeared on Caplis's KHOW show last week alongside one of his clients, United pilot Andrew Collins, who received a $300,000 settlement from the City of Denver after his arrest while naked in a DIA hotel room last year. Afterward, Silverman stuck around and talked impeachment with Caplis — and he had hoped to do so again after public testimony began. But KNUS personnel found out about the KHOW plan because Silverman hyped it on his Facebook page, and ordered him not to do it.

This edict frosted Silverman, who stresses that his contract allows him to appear on other media outlets. He met with Taylor and Michaels on November 14, when Silverman says they reiterated their objections and told him that if he insisted on chatting on Caplis's program, his Saturday show would be history. He took a couple of days to mull over the situation, he adds, then decided to talk about the beef on his show.

KNUS has not published a podcast version of the program and has removed all of Silverman's previous shows from its website — more than five years' worth. But a station source provided us with a brief snippet in which Silverman says, "I've been in the media for a while. I like to express myself. You can hear it today. These things fascinate me, and I speak from the heart. I tell you what I think, I tell you what I feel. I feel a lot of emotion this hour because I'm going to talk to you honestly about me and this radio show. I love this show. It's my baby. I love it with all my heart and soul. But this could be my last show on 710 KNUS, because I've been asked to appear on other radio shows, with people I respect, people who disagree with me, people who I'd like to debate on a regular basis, and I'm inclined to do so. I did a little bit of it this week, and I liked it. Three hours isn't enough for me. I need more and I've been offered more. And I'm very grateful for that opportunity."

Here's the clip.


A close perusal of these comments makes it clear that Silverman doesn't explicitly say that he's been asked to join the show to which he alludes on a permanent basis. Neither did he expressly tell us that such an offer had been made, though he confirms that Caplis "has made no secret that he wants me to go over to do afternoon drive with him again, and he's wanted it a long time."

Like Taylor and Michaels, Caplis hasn't replied to a Westword interview request. However, during the second hour of his November 15 show, Caplis followed the normal lead-in to the program by saying, "And that may well be the last time you ever hear that show intro." He added, "I'm not at liberty to say more today, but I fully expect there are going to be some very happy people across the state, starting with the people in this studio. ... I expect Monday afternoon is going to be, in the words of Joe Biden, a big blanking deal. ... I do think there may still be an 'i' to be dotted; I'm not clear on that. But I do fully expect that is the last time that show intro will ever be played."

Continue for the podcast from Caplis's second hour on the 15th. The key section is right up front.

Listen to "191115 Hour 2 - Dan with more on Yovanovitch testimony going flat; NFL talk on Kaepernick, Myles Garrett" on Spreaker.
If Silverman doesn't join Caplis's show this afternoon or in the near future, he appears to have options at KNUS based on an email Taylor sent to him at 8:05 p.m. on the 17th. But as the text makes clear, there's definitely plenty of tension between the various parties.

The text reads:

In spite of what I'm hearing you say in the media, you are not fired. As we discussed on Thursday your agreement allows you the freedom to appear on other shows like Dan's. However, our position remains that we will don't want you [sic] to promote those appearances on our air. Or to approve a host of your caliber to enhance a competitor.

Either you or Salem can terminate our agreement on 30 days' notice at any time, and your agreement currently remains in place. Given this weekend's events, we are evaluating whether or not we will elect to continue or terminate the agreement, and will provide you with notice if we decide to terminate it. We trust that you will do the same if you decide to do so.
Could Silverman be back on KNUS this Saturday, even after everything that's happened? He doesn't reject the possibility.

But he's also clearly frustrated that his entire library of podcasts has been removed, and urges the station to make the November 17 installment available — "release it right now. KNUS would get a record number of hits from my tens of thousands of new Twitter followers. They never would have had so many visitors to their website if they post that podcast."

After all, it could be the final Silverman show for the station — for one reason or another.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts