Last week, AM 760's David Sirota circulated a comment made by KOA's Mike Rosen during a debate, in which the latter appeared to call for hijackers to crash a plane into a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero -- a bon mot that later prompted MSNBC's Keith Olbermann to brand Rosen the worst person in the world. But Rosen says the remark was meant as satire and blasts his Clear Channel colleague for distorting it into an Internet frenzy.
According to Rosen, the audience attending the face-off involving him, Sirota and KHOW's Peter Boyles earlier this month understood his tongue was in his cheek when he said, "I think they should be allowed to build it, following the hijacking of an Iranian plane right into that building and blow it to smithereens." And there was a good reason for that, he believes.
"The people cheering or laughing after I said that were mostly my listeners," he says. "And that surprised me. There were 400 people in the room, and I thought Sirota's left-wing minions would dominate the hall. But there were so many more of my listeners than I'd expected, and they knew I was being ironic."
Sirota apparently didn't. In the complete recording of the debate, Sirota can be heard saying, "That's sick. That's some sick shit" -- with the "shit" bleeped on the audio clip. Rosen didn't catch this reaction, though. "He mumbled it under his breath," he says, "and we were sitting on the opposite ends of the stage" at Comedy Works South, where the event happened. "Only the people up front could hear that."
As for Sirota's spotlighting of the comment on the Huffington Post, Rosen says it was worse than a violation of collegiality; he and Sirota both work for Clear Channel stations. "It was grossly unprofessional," he maintains, in part because "he attacked me on his radio show personally. He wasn't talking about the merits of any disagreements. He talked about my divorces, my financial losses, my plastic surgery. It was so obviously a petulant, sore-loser, childish rant on his part, no doubt because everyone in the room knew that I made him look like a monkey that night.
"Peter and I were having a lot of fun" at the debate "even though we disagree on a lot of things. We were high-fiving when we scored with a good one-liner, which is what the evening was all about. But Sirota is so humorless and so programmed. His program is a repetition of all his simplistic, left-wing screeds. And the format lent itself to witty repartee, which is not his strength. He can't ad-lib."
At this point, though, the question of winners and losers has been subsumed by the chatter about the Islamic Center line, which Rosen pins on Sirota.
"He launched this Internet attack and completely misrepresented my position," he says. "On his Huffington Post piece, the headline over it made it sound as if I'm actually endorsing that policy."
This spin led to the item on MSNBC's Countdown, during which host Keith Olbermann identified Rosen with the Denver Post, not KOA. That seemed wrong to Rosen, who notes that "I'm known primarily by my radio show. The fact that I write a once-a-week column in the Denver Post is nice but tangential. It goes to show that Olbermann and his people didn't do any vetting on this. They didn't make any attempt to find out if it was the truth. Maybe Olbermann believes that was my actual position, in which case Sirota is responsible for that misperception. But you'd think the staff would spend at least a few minutes to find out if that could be taken at face value or not."
Rosen lays out these and other arguments in "It's Satire, Stupid," his latest Post column, published today. He pointedly avoids mentioning Sirota by name in the offering, so as to not stoop to his rival's level, although he concedes that he has used the moniker while talking about the issue on the air.
From Rosen's perspective, Sirota is like the doctrinaire Tom Courtenay character from the classic film Dr. Zhivago. "He reminds me of that character," Rosen says. "He's sullen, grim, humorless, ideologically committed."
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As for a potential sequel to their verbal fisticuffs, don't hold your breath. Back in April 2009, Rosen and Sirota jousted about Barack Obama's first hundred days in office, with Colorado Pols subsequently declaring that Sirota bludgeoned Rosen -- a point made visually with a photo from the first Kennedy-Nixon debate. Months later, Rosen said he wouldn't get into the ring with Sirota again.
Obviously, he changed his mind about that -- but he sounds firm today. "Frankly, I have no interest in doing anything with David Sirota again," he says.
Page down to see the Olbermann segment -- and to read David Sirota's response, click here: "David Sirota apologizes to Mike Rosen -- but not for attacking comments about NY Islamic center."