Guy W. Farmer: In defense of Jon Ralston

Jon Ralston, Nevada’s best known political columnist and commentator, doesn’t need a defense from me or anyone else, but I find it odd and disturbing our state’s two public television stations canceled his popular “Ralston Live” interview show for being “too controversial.”

This questionable decision tells us a lot about our nation’s Public Broadcasting System (PBS), which is partially supported by taxpayer dollars. Obviously, Ralston’s in-your-face interview style offended some rich public TV donors who are afraid of their own shadows. They should be ashamed of themselves and we should ask why taxpayer dollars should continue to flow to cowardly PBS stations. If they can’t compete for viewers, they shouldn’t be on the air.

The irony about public TV’s decision to dump Ralston is he’s a card-carrying liberal Democrat who can always be counted on to defend the Democrat establishment and trash those hated Republicans. He and newspaper columnist Cory Farley specialize in demonizing Republicans. So why did Nevada’s two left-leaning PBS stations, KNPB Reno and Las Vegas PBS, get rid of Ralston? A KNPB insider recently told me Ralston probably offended Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a major contributor (somewhat surprisingly) to public television.

According to the stations, they didn’t have enough money to continue paying Ralston. While calling Ralston “one of Nevada’s most knowledgeable and informed political commentators,” station managers Kurt Mische in Reno and Tom Axtell in Vegas said they could no longer afford Ralston. But the feisty commentator replied he was fired for political reasons.

“They (the station managers) said it was about money,” Ralston said, “but later on they claimed that donors were upset about my interviewing style — that I wasn’t impartial and didn’t fit with their PBS brand.” Baloney! Political commentators and columnists aren’t impartial. They express opinions and always manage to offend someone, as I well know.

Fortunately, my Appeal editors and publishers have never asked me to tone it down, which I appreciate. My opinions are mine and mine alone, and don’t necessarily represent the opinions of Swift Newspapers. My editors and publishers don’t tell me what to write, so I’ll keep writing these occasionally irritating columns.

PBS television specializes in bland political fare and British accents, and they don’t want to offend anyone, especially big donors who tend to be liberal Democrats (Adelson is a notable exception). For many years left-wing commentator Bill Moyers was their political standard bearer. PBS dumped moderate Republican commentator Juan Williams after he said bearded Muslims wearing tribal robes made him nervous. Me too, Juan.

“Did they not know what they were getting a year and a half ago when they hired me?” Ralston asked. “Yeah, I can be a jerk sometimes, but I’m trying to get information out of people and I’ve done it the same way for 15 years.” In these politically correct times, however, politicians don’t like to be asked direct and/or potentially embarrassing questions.

For example, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump insulted popular Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly when she questioned his disparaging comments about women. Meanwhile, Democrat standard-bearer Hillary Clinton usually blames a “vast (or half-vast) right-wing conspiracy” for her own missteps and shortcomings.

Trump attacks Ms. Kelly and the media for asking him tough questions, but that’s their job. The Donald and most other politicians would rather be asked why they’re such wonderful people. “Please tell us why you’re so wonderful.” “Well, Guy . . .”

Ralston was just being his opinionated self when he was fired by Nevada’s public TV stations. Viewers should respond by refusing to donate to such bland, timid stations.

Guy W. Farmer has worked in and around the media for more than 50 years.


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