As noted in an earlier item, an iconic and controversial Mahoning Valley political figure is headed back to the Youngstown area.
"Beam him up"...the one and only James A. Traficant, former Congressman, released felon, has his post-prison life ahead of him starting today. The Youngstown Vindicator notes that he's not expected to show up at his suburban Poland home until the weekend, after a "short vacation", but today is his official date of release.
His supporters in the Youngstown area have organized a "welcome home" party for Traficant, to be held at a local banquet center Sunday. (From various media reports we've read, including the Vindicator report linked above, it doesn't appear there's much of a chance Traficant will show up in person...though he certainly is known for loving a supportive crowd, so who knows?)
And in the nexus of this swirling controversy, radio-wise, is Clear Channel talk WKBN/570 Youngstown.
We haven't heard his show, but one of our readers is already taking WKBN program director/midday host Dan Rivers to task for giving "free promotion" to the "Welcome Home" event. We had to clip the comment our reader posted for (relatively mild) language reasons, but he's more than welcome to add it here without language that could cause workplace web surfing filters to block this item.
In our previous item, we noted that WKBN had once apparently considered offering a show to Traficant, before his stint behind bars would have made it impossible. And we downplayed the idea that the offer could still be on the table.
Did we speculate too soon?
Our item prompted Clear Channel Youngstown market manager and OMW reader Bill Kelly to write in, unsolicited.
And here's what he has to say about this situation, with various high-profile local leaders weighing in about Traficant's release:
I find it fascinating that community leaders and politicians are making all this comment about the former Congressman. In fact, all their comments have made more out of his prison release than maybe there should have been. I also find it fascinating that all these people are on the defensive.
Like it or not, the former Congressman is still a folk hero in our area. He has a fan base similar to that of former Providence, Rhode Island mayor Buddy Cianci, who, I believe, is still on WPRO in Providence following his prison release.
So........we shall see what happens.......Yes, indeed, we will see what happens.....as we say in our business...."STAY TUNED"
Does this sound like a man getting the press release ready for "The Jim Traficant Show on 570 WKBN"?
The above-linked Vindicator article quotes former Traficant chief of staff Paul Marcone, now a Washington DC-based lobbyist, as saying his former boss "would do a great job as a radio or television talk show host".
But we'd like to make a few things clear here.
We have no indication that such a move is imminent...either in the above comment from Bill Kelly, which he cleared for us to reprint verbatim, or in any private conversation we've had with the CC Youngstown boss about this.
What he said above is what he's told us, aside from the brief mention that the Traficant "Welcome Home" event is close to selling out, and about Dan Rivers talking about it, "it's news".
There also remains the possibility, if there's anything to this, that the ex-Congressman could have some other role on WKBN, such as being a regular talk show guest, providing brief commentaries, or the like. (That speculation is just guessing on our part, and isn't prompted by anything Bill Kelly has said. See above - that's what he's said to us.)
So, don't read too much into this.
Certainly, Traficant is already, and will continue to be, talk show topic fodder in a region which embraced his maverick (pre-Sarah Palin) style of politics for many years.
And yes, Mr. Kelly, you're correct...former Providence RI mayor Buddy Cianci is indeed still doing a midday show on Citadel talk WPRO/630 (and its FM simulcast at 99.7).. In case you're not familiar with Cianci's troubled legal history, or Rhode Island politics, this Wikipedia page might provide a refresher.
But we'll have to see if any of this means that ex-Congressman Traficant gets "beamed up" to Clear Channel's South Avenue complex...