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First Mediaworks


TRN Responds To Savage's Critics

NEW YORK -- July 24, 2008: Talk Radio Network is standing behind nationally syndicated host Michael Savage, with a statement explaining the remarks about autism Savage made on his July 16 show and saying TRN has concluded that it would not be appropriate to suspend or fire the host.

In an audio clip widely circulated by watchdog group Media Matters, Savage said autism was "a fraud, a racket." He said, "I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is."

Reports of his remarks led to widespread protests and calls for Savage's firing by various autism groups, and brought statements critical of Savage from Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), who are members of the Congressional Autism Caucus.

In a long statement on the matter, TRN said it began an investigation "into the particulars and circumstances" of the comments shortly after they aired, and Savage discussed the matter with TRN CEO Mark Masters. Savage also explained his remarks on the July 21 and 22 broadcasts, saying he did not mean to disparage people who suffer from autism, but to criticize what he sees as widespread overdiagnosis of the condition.

TRN's statement said, "Dr. Savage has clarified that his July 16 statements concerning autism were not directed at those who are in fact challenged by this horrible affliction, but were instead addressing efforts to broaden the concept of autism beyond those who truly are autistic to a broader 'autistic spectrum' of behavioral symptoms which are also manifested by persons who do not suffer from autism, and his concern that many children are being misdiagnosed as autistic due to the subjective nature of autism diagnosis (due to the lack of known biomedical indicators, such as blood tests, to definitively confirm or deny the actual existence of autism)."

TRN said Savage also explained that he believes that there have been efforts to expand the diagnosis of autism for "various reason" and that he is concerned that this "victimizes and stigmatizes children who are misdiagnosed as autistic."

The statement reads, "In the context of his broader concerns, it is clear that Dr. Savage's comments were intended to suggest his opinion that, in the vast majority of cases, most children throwing tantrums, or refusing to communicate, are not autistic. Unfortunately, by condensing his multifaceted concerns into 84 seconds of commentary, the necessary context for his remarks was not apparent, and the few words he used to express his concerns were, in this instance, inartfully phrased."

The network also acknowledged that the comments did "facially appear to be directed at children who suffer from autsim, and clearly could be perceived as such," and apologized to families dealing with the condition.

TRN went on to say that, in light of Savage's views on children and "those dealing with special challenges," the network is "satisfied that he did not mean any disrespect to autistic children or their families but was instead reiterating his long-standing concerns on public health issues."

Masters said, "I have known Michael Savage for nine years now. Over those nine years, we have had occasion to disagree on many issues. However, I have always respected Michael as a man of conviction, and I have noticed throughout our relationship that he has always been passionate and intense in his opposition to persons who he perceived to be disrespectful of persons dealing with special challenges.

"I once asked him about his passion in this area, and he noted that it was because he had a brother who was disabled, but that he did not want to discuss it. Michael never shared any particulars on this with me until he shared with his audience on Monday that his brother never spoke during his lifetime, was institutionalized at 5 or 6 years old, and died in that institution in his 20's.

"My observations of Michael's consistent opposition to what he viewed as abuse or disrespect of persons dealing with special challenges, and of his interest in children, as well as his 1982 book, Healing Children Naturally, are completely inconsistent with Michael attacking children who are truly autistic. In contrast, his belief that misdiagnosing children as autistic will damage those children who are misdiagnosed and stigmatize them for life, his aversion to what he sees as improper medication of young children, and subjecting them to a lifetime of chemical straigtjackets, and his recent sharing of his belief that the medical profession failed to properly care for his brother prior to his brother's death, do explain his passion in challenging what he sees as improper efforts by some in the health care industry to brand and treat as autistic persons who are not."

TRN's statement also raised the issue of the source of the complaints, saying Media Matters "regularly tapes broadcasts of The Michael Savage Show for the purpose of finding sound bites which could be used in an effort to remove him from the airwaves for their own political ends."

TRN continued, "In this case, the network does believe that there has been an effort by Media Matters to take advantage of an inartful lapse on the part of Dr. Savage in failing to supply full context, caveats and explanations in the 84 seconds of comments at issue. While the network and Dr. Savage regret any pain to families of autistic children as a result of inartfully phrased comments intended to enhance the welfare of children, it does appear to the network that Media Matters and others now seek to cynically exploit this particular sound bite, out of context, to harness the pain of parents with truly autistic children, for their own self-serving agenda, in a broader political effort to remove a voice they politically disagree with from the airwaves.

"In this context, the network does question, if such efforts were to be successful with respect to Michael Savage, which other hosts will be the next targets. This is not the first, nor will it be the last, attempt by Media Matters to exploit any issue for their own self -serving political and social agenda."

TRN is making time available for PSAs on autism available on its shows and inviting organizations to submit announcements.

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