In the past twenty-four hours, numerous conservative political blogs have posted stories quoting popular radio host Howard Stern as saying that “Democrats are communists” and asserting that he would never vote for the party again. This revelation has led conservative leaning members of social networks like Twitter to explode overnight with claims that Stern, a longtime democrat, has abruptly switched sides. But a deeper look into the nature of the quote in question reveals that while he did indeed say those words, he did so several years ago – and he appears to have since fully backed down from them.
Alongside the explosion of newly published stories suggesting that the Howard Stern quote is brand new, one can find a few stories dated 2010 and earlier which reference the same quote. Stern appears to have made the remarks on-air during his morning talk show, relaying a conversation he had with his “liberal democrat” agent in which he vented his frustrations at the Democratic Party’s scrutiny over the then-proposed merger between Sirius and XM, the two top satellite radio providers at the time; that merger was ultimately approved by the Bush administration in the summer of 2008. Stern’s resentment toward any democratic opposition to the merger may have been driven by the fact that his show aired on Sirius, and the merger with XM expanded his built-in audience dramatically.
So while Stern’s “Democrats are communists” remark was made somewhere around that timeframe, as did his vow to never vote democrat again, he has stepped back from that vow. In 2012, Stern publicly endorsed Barack Obama, a democrat, for Presidential reelection. Stern also called his republican challenger Mitt Romney a “demon” on-air, suggesting he still has little affinity for the Republican Party.
However all of Stern’s on-air political comments have to be placed within the context of his talk show format, which is a no holds barred comedy show which has little to do with politics, and his famous penchant for making overstated remarks in order to drum up publicity. As such his remark about democrats being communists, as well as his remark about Romney being a demon, can be taken with a grain of salt.
Howard Stern’s approach to incorporating his personal politics into his professional life appears to be somewhat of a compromise; while he’s clear about who he supports, he rarely turns his own talk show into a platform for it. That’s in sharp contrast with former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, for instance, who despite telling political jokes every night in his monologue has long been careful to straddle the middle and has frequently bragged that none of his audience members would ever be able to guess where his own political allegiances lie. On the other end of the spectrum is Real Time host Bill Maher, who uses his comedy skills to make the case for liberalism, and has even gone so far as to recently announce his intention to target a specific republican congressperson for defeat in November.
Stern has never gone that far. But as for his personal politics, he publicly backed Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, Hillary Clinton in 2008, and Obama two years ago – all democrats – suggesting that if he’s ever seriously flirted with the idea of supporting a republican, that flirtation hasn’t lasted long. That may come as a surprise to readers of conservative blogs who have woken up today to a torrent of stories claiming that Stern has just become a republican.
The question now is whether Stern will respond publicly to this outbreak of mistaken stories about him once he takes the air again on Monday morning.