Randi Rhodes (born Randi Buten on January 28, 1959 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American progressive talk radio personality, formerly featured on Air America Radio and currently featured on Nova M Radio. Her eponymous program, The Randi Rhodes Show, airs live Monday through Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm Eastern Time.
On April 9, 2008, Air America Radio CEO Charlie Kireker issued a press release stating that Rhodes was leaving the network, in the aftermath of an indefinite suspension following a live appearance at a San Francisco comedy club sponsored by one of her Clear Chanel affiliates, in which she made derogatory references to U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former Congresswoman and Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, specifically calling both "Fucking Whores." Radio station KKGN in San Francisco, California, one of the affiliates carrying her program, immediately announced it would continue airing her show.
On April 10, 2008, Nova M Radio announced Rhodes would join its radio network, and on April 14, 2008 the Randi Rhodes show returned to the airwaves from her old studios at WJNO (Clear Channel), West Palm Beach.
Rhodes was brought up in a Jewish household, but does not discuss her religious views publicly. Her father Norman was a mechanical engineer and World War II veteran and her mother Loretta worked in a dress shop. She had one sister who died of breast cancer. Her sister Ellen had a daughter Jessica who Randi and her husband Jim raised.
Randi grew up in the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs of New York, but her parents divorced when she was 15, and she and her father moved to Marina Del Rey, California. Her married name is Randi Robertson; Rhodes is a stage name chosen to honor Ozzy Osbourne's guitar player Randy Rhoads, whom Rhodes describes as "a consummate professional ... who practiced everyday and was one of the greats!"
Rhodes enlisted in the United States Air Force and worked stateside at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey as an aircraft mechanic, achieving the rank of Airman First Class. She served two years in the Air Force and one year in the reserves. Rhodes went through basic training in Lackland Texas. From there she went to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls and was being trained as a flight engineer. First she would become an aircraft mechanic. After she transferred to what would be her permanent station in New Jersey she decided to leave the Air Force, went Palace Chase and was honorably discharged after three years service (two active duty and one reserve) at the age of 21
Rhodes' radio career began in Seminole, Texas at a country music station. Her next job was in a larger market, Mobile, Alabama. While in Mobile, she was paired briefly with a male DJ (also named Randy) for the "Randy and Randi" morning show. This was her first experience with extemporaneous dialogue other than reading cue cards between records. Rhodes used this experience as a spring-board to larger markets. In the late 1980s, she was hired out of that medium market directly to New York by The Apple WAPP-FM, owned at the time by Doubleday Broadcasting. This was, and still is, considered an unusual leap. It was while working for The Apple that she took the name "Randi Rhodes," having previously used "Randi St. John."
While teaming with host Perry Stone at Milwaukee's WQFM, Rhodes was suspended in 1987 when their program offended the gay community and led several businesses to cancel ads.
In late September 1992, Rhodes started on WIOD in Miami, working the 8P-11P night shift.
The Miami Herald described her as "a chain-smoking bottle blond,...part Joan Rivers, part shock jock Howard Stern and part Saturday Night Live's 'Coffee Talk' lady. But mostly, she's her rude, crude, loud, brazen, gleeful self."
Air America RadioEdit
In 2004, Rhodes joined Air America Radio, bringing The Randi Rhodes Show to its largest audience to date. Rhodes' show on Air America consisted principally of monologue with comedic content and listener calls. Only occasionally did she do interviews. The show was punctuated with musical interludes, including the show's unofficial theme song, Pain by Stereomud. On Fridays, Rhodes opened the show with the song Bounce Your Boobies by Rusty Warren. With her distinctive Brooklyn-Queens accent, she would take calls spanning the political spectrum, aggressively promoting her views.
In 2007, Rhodes was recognized by the radio industry's well known periodical, "Talkers Magazine" as Woman of the Year
Departure from Air AmericaEdit
Air America suspended Rhodes from the network on April 3, 2008 after an Air America affiliate, KKGN, event in San Francisco, California, where Rhodes said:
<quote>"Geraldine Ferraro turned out to be David Duke in drag ... What a whore Geraldine Ferraro is! She's such a fucking whore! I want to see her have to stand beside her husband at one of those mandatory 'I have sinned against you; I'm a whore' kind of a press conference. Mr. Ferraro should have to stand next to his whore of a wife ... Hillary is a big fucking whore, too."</quote>
When a video of the event was made public the following week, Air America suspended her for "inappropriate comments". The event was billed as "An Evening with Randi Rhodes" and promoted on KKGN's and U.S Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama's websites.
Rhodes claimed that Air America breached its contract with her, and questioned the network's commitment to free speech.
On April 10, 2008, Rhodes went on Larry King Live to clarify her suspension from the network. Later that evening, she conducted an interview on The Mike Malloy Show in which Rhodes went into greater detail concerning the suspension. Air America had recently been sold. The new owner read her existing contract and wanted to amend two details: Rhodes's right to terminate at anytime, and a clause that said Air America could not terminate Rhodes for any reason without paying her. Rhodes refused to amend the contract, which she said took "seven months to negotiate with the previous owners."
Air America suspended her until a settlement could be reached concerning the contract which was still in place and had an additional year to run. In the interim, Air America management decided to conduct market research to assess her value to the company. According to Rhodes, it was Air America who released the press release that called attention to the video of her performance in San Francisco simply as a way to gauge her audience loyalty and her value to the Network. According to Rhodes, Air America soon asked her to return to the air, with an offer of more money but still holding to the condition that she had to change her contract "in order to get her mike back". Rhodes refused and left Air America because of the stalemate over the new contract.
Mark Green, President of Air America Radio said "Her abusive, obscene comments obviously crossed the line of what talent at a media company could say," and added that the comments "were in the Imus league," referring to radio host Don Imus, who was fired by CBS in 2007 after making racial remarks about female basketball players. According to a published account, Green said the company had asked Ms. Rhodes to apologize for the remarks. In the same account, Rhodes reportedly said that she did not refuse to apologize for the comment.
Air America Media was informed April 9, by Rhodes that the contract was terminated. In a statement by Air America president Mark Green, Green wished Rhodes well, and thanked her for her work with Air America. Meanwhile, KKGN announced on its website that the Randi Rhodes Show would return to Green 960 as of April 14, 2008.
Air America also terminated access to the Randi Rhodes message board, redirecting it to a statement by the chairman and president on the Air America site. Rhodes stated at 3:42pm, EDT on April 14th that she owns the URL name, not Air America. It is unclear whether there will be a legal fight to retain control of the board. The message board was reinstated on May 5, 2008.
Nova M RadioEdit
On April 10, 2008, Nova M Radio announced Rhodes would join its radio network, which also syndicates The Mike Malloy Show. During the first broadcast on April 14, 2008 Rhodes went into detail concerning the events surrounding her suspension. She described what happened as "a great radio story and I've heard some great radio stories in my day."The Randi Rhodes show returned to the airwaves on April 21, 2008 on 23 affiliate stations, compared to Air America's 60 affiliates. As of May 5, 2008, the show is heard on 28 stations, including XM 167.
She also said in this same episode that the issue with Air America was mostly about Air America's new owners demanding her contract be amended to remove her walk-away clause and that another issue was her high salary.
Rhodes regularly asserts she is not a journalist, but does analyze and comment on news reports with a journalistic eye. She proclaims herself to be a stickler for facts, and also claims to hold to many of the basic tenets of journalism ethics and standards such as corroboration, attribution and truthfulness. She offers citations to a wide array of newspapers, magazines, websites, government documents and radio/television reports. Rhodes takes on the roles of editorialist, satirist, comedian and news analyst. She is a leading activist for accountability and standards in the media, and has spoken at congressional hearings about creating a framework of national standards for what can be labeled news. She frequently tells her listeners to never trust anyone they hear on the radio, not even herself. She tells her listeners to do their own research after hearing supposed facts on the air.
Rhodes uses humor in her discussion of news and events and makes frequent use of sound effects and sound bites including the voices of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Segments often open with a "bit" such as an Official Talking Point For Good Republicans or a segment of "BS News". Some of her trademark sound effects are the cherry pop for first-time callers, the bong bubbles, the Howard Dean scream, and various bells and buzzers for indications of how she feels about any particular subject. Music relevant to her current topic of discussion is also featured as she goes to, and comes back from commercial breaks. Bounce Your Boobies, by famous cabaret singer Rusty Warren, is played following the show's opening on Fridays, with some commentary and sound bites during the song. Her show features comedians such as Barry Crimmins and Randy Credico, as well as comedy produced by her staff.
In 1994 Rhodes married Jim Robertson, an independent television producer and cameraman. They had been together for ten years prior to marrying. Rhodes and Robertson divorced in April 2004 but have remained friends. Rhodes took the name Robertson when she married, but continued to use her professionally known name, Randi Rhodes, on the air.
In 1998, Rhodes' sister Ellen died of breast cancer at age 44. Rhodes and Robertson raised Ellen's daughter Jessica.
On October 14, 2007, Rhodes sustained injuries that kept her off the air for several days. Air America host Jon Elliott claimed on his October 15 show that Rhodes had been the victim of a savage mugging. Elliott went on to speculate that this was perhaps not just a random event, and that it may have been politically motivated by conservative right wing factions. Elliott based his comment on an email Rhodes sent to Air America stating that: "I wrote a two sentence e-mail to the company that I was mugged." Left wing blogs and websites like DemocraticUnderground.com posted the information, speculating it was a deliberate attack by right wing extremists. Rhodes stated on her radio show she was drinking in an Irish Pub right before the injury and does not remember what happened to her.