The Future of Conservative Media is in Danger, Fired Cumulus Talk Host Tells Starnes

So why did Cumulus, the left-wing media conglomerate that controls most conservative talk radio, fire Amber Athey? Was it because she told a joke about Vice President Kamala Harris or was it because she spoke out against transgenderism? Amber, a former co-host at radio station WMAL answered that question on the Todd Starnes Show.

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The following is a rush transcript from The Todd Starnes Radio Show. Listen to the program live Monday – Friday from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m. Click here to listen to the full interview.

TODD STARNES: [01:03:48] I heard about what happened to Amber Athey at the radio station she used to work for. I reached out on social media, and it’s just appalling. She wrote an essay about what happened, and we have a link to that up on our live show blog. But in a nutshell, she was fired, terminated from her position at WMAL, a Cumulus owned radio station. Amber is also The Spectator’s Washington editor and a senior fellow at The Steamboat Institute. She is a very well-known individual in conservative circles and an incredible journalist and a great American patriot, and she is also right now on the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line. Amber, good to have you with us today. [01:04:44][55.7]

AMBER ATHEY: [01:04:45] Thank you so much for having me. [01:04:46][1.1]

STARNES: [01:04:46] Amber, I want you to take us through what happened. What led up to your firing at Cumulus? [01:04:54][7.3]

ATHEY: [01:04:56] Definitely, so during the State of the Union address on March 1st, I decided to make a tweet making fun of Kamala Harris’s outfit, which was pretty unpopular. I think it’s safe to say that most people didn’t find her brown pantsuit to be very attractive. So, the tweet in question said Kamala Harris looks like UPS employee. What can Brown do for you? Nothing good, apparently. Obviously, just the use of the UPS slogan, which refers to the companies uniforms to just say that I didn’t like the pantsuit. And a few days later, you know, the tweet didn’t really catch any attention or at least any negative attention at first. It was a few days later when I got into another spat on Twitter with some left-wing activists over their protests of an event at the University of North Texas that called for banning medical transitions for children who claimed to be transgender. It was after I spoke out against that, that these left-wing activists had to go back and find something that they could try to silence me over. And they settled on this tweet about Kamala Harris’s out outfit, started to redefine it as racist, and sent a whole bunch of e-mails to my various employers trying to get me fired. And unfortunately, Cumulus was the one employer that actually complied with the request and fired me on March 9th. [01:06:20][84.0]

STARNES: [01:06:20] Now you were a part of Larry O’Connor’s show. Is that right? [01:06:23][3.1]

ATHEY: [01:06:24] That’s correct. [01:06:24][0.3]

STARNES: [01:06:25] Alright, and how long were you a part of the station there? [01:06:29][3.5]

ATHEY: [01:06:30] I was officially on board for six months, but I’ve been a frequent guest host for about three years now, and I first started appearing as a co-host on O’Connor and Company around last spring, so I had been on air for quite a while and, you know, never really had any problems with anyone there. And I do want to say that Larry has been very outspoken in his support for me. He has actually talked about the situation on his show, and this was clearly a corporate decision, because nobody at WMAL even knew that I was going to be fired until I got the phone call from these corporate executives. [01:07:07][37.0]

STARNES: [01:07:08] And in fairness, Amber, yesterday during the White House ceremony, you had Obama and Biden and Harris wearing that same brown outfit. And you’re right. I mean, she looks just like a UPS driver. And again, I see nothing racist about that. And I saw nothing racist with what you wrote. And I’m wondering, what did they tell you? So, I mean, you didn’t realize there was a problem until you got a phone call? [01:07:35][26.9]

ATHEY: [01:07:37] Exactly. I actually hosted the show that morning, it was a Wednesday morning, and I was on the show every Wednesday and Thursday, and I received a phone call a few hours after I got off the air from Jeff Boden and another man, who are both with Cumulus. They both hold executive level positions. They told me that that they had been made aware of this tweet and that they believed it was racist and that I had violated the company’s social media policy, and they were terminating me effective immediately. I wasn’t offered the chance to defend myself, and the phone call ended after I asked them if I could at least make a statement just to put in the record. But you know, their response was basically too bad so sad, and we’ll send you your last pay stub. And that’s that. [01:08:25][47.7]

STARNES: [01:08:26] Amber, I know it had to have been a shock, and I’m wondering now that you’ve had a chance to decompress and analyze what happened, what’s the takeaway for you from what happened? [01:08:37][11.4]

ATHEY: [01:08:39] Well, there’s a couple of things. First of all, I think it’s really unfortunate that we live in a country that clearly is not very free or democratic if you can’t criticize the most powerful woman in the country. And I’m also really concerned about the future of conservative media because, if we are, you know, having our outlets sit under these huge corporations that are no different than places like Disney or Coca-Cola or these other corporations that speak out under activist pressure, then all of us can be fired at a moment’s notice for not doing anything wrong. There would be no Rush Limbaugh. There would be no Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, Dan Bongino. All of these people would be driven off the airwaves if all it takes is some dishonest activists on the left calling you a racist. [01:09:28][49.6]

STARNES: [01:09:29] Yeah. Try not to say Dan’s name here. We’re actually competing in the same timeslot, Amber. Jeezaloo! [01:09:34][4.7]

ATHEY: [01:09:34] Oh yeah, sorry. [01:09:36][1.1]

STARNES: [01:09:36] I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Let me call H.R., Amber. [01:09:39][3.3]

ATHEY: [01:09:41] Oh no, no, I’m going to get cancelled again! [01:09:43][2.6]

STARNES: [01:09:46] Amber Athey is on the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line. You know, Amber, the other component of this, and I know they’re saying it’s about the tweet, but I’m wondering if it really is about the transgender issue, because I can tell you at Fox News, especially, they really frown on that kind of stuff. It’s very sensitive and a lot of, like you said, these conservative media outlets are getting really woke on some of these issues. [01:10:15][28.4]

ATHEY: [01:10:16] You’re exactly right, I mean, it definitely could have been that. I’ve heard from former Cumulus employees actually who have told me that apparently the CEO has a transgender child, so it’s highly possible that some of these emails got up to her, and she saw what I was arguing with people about and decided that was the reason. But I mean, if that’s the case, if they weren’t really firing me over the Kamala Harris tweet, then not only are they cowards, but they’re also liars, too. [01:10:46][29.3]

STARNES: [01:10:47] Well, I wouldn’t put it past them, and they have done some pretty despicable things over the past year and a half or so, going back to the mass firings over the vaccine mandates. And they got rid of a lot of good conservative talk hosts. And it’s my understanding that some of the hosts have actually been told to steer away from some more controversial issues out there. I mean, it’s really disturbing that this is happening and especially to conservative talk radio. [01:11:15][28.4]

ATHEY: [01:11:17] I completely agree. The vaccine mandate was a huge issue. It was around the time that I started working there that they implemented that policy, and there were some very talented people and not just hosts but also, you know, board operators and producers and bookers who had to leave the company, because they had reasonable objections to getting the vaccine. And, you know, I thought that was a really sad thing. And unfortunately, just a sign of what was to come for my own future at the company. [01:11:44][26.4]

STARNES: [01:11:44] So, let’s talk about your future. I know you’re on Tucker’s show. Have you heard anything else from Cumulus? Have they reached out at all to try to fix this? [01:11:55][10.9]

ATHEY: [01:11:57] I’ve heard nothing from Cumulus. I know a lot of media outlets have reached out to them trying to get their comment on the situation, and they have ignored all the inquiries. I certainly don’t expect at this point that they would want to have me back. I blasted them pretty publicly and, you know, I haven’t really held back and so I don’t blame them for that. I don’t even know if I would want to go back to work for them at this point after what they did to me. I just thought that everybody needed to know about it. And I mean, I’m going to be fine. I still have my job at the Spectator. I’m actually finishing up a book on cancel culture, ironically enough, at the moment, so I have plenty of projects ahead of me. And you know, if another station wants to pick me up, I’d be thrilled. But if not, it’s not the end of the world either. I just thought this was an important story that I had to share. [01:12:41][44.1]

STARNES: [01:12:41] Well, and I’m glad you did. And Amber, we’re going to talk beyond this conversation about that. I own the news talk station here in Memphis, Tennessee, and we’ll see how things go there, but certainly, we’re going to do our best to help you find a platform. And like you said, I mean, you’re an amazing writer, and you’re going to you’re going to be just fine. But I think it really says a lot about the state of the corporations that control most of the conservative talk radio world. [01:13:11][29.8]

ATHEY: [01:13:12] Definitely, and corporate media is not just a leftist problem. This is a right wing problem too, and we have to make sure that we are, you know, rewarding people who do good work and also building our own platforms so that we don’t have to worry about people who don’t understand our values and our politics making these decisions that ultimately affect our ability to speak freely on the air. [01:13:34][21.7]

STARNES: [01:13:35] Alright, Amber, we’re going to leave it there. Where do you want us to direct people? Where can folks go to get more information about what you do? [01:13:40][4.8]

ATHEY: [01:13:41] Sure, people should go to to check out my articles and my reporting, and I’m also on Twitter at Amber_Athey. [01:13:48][7.1]

STARNES: [01:13:50] Alright, Amber, best of luck to you, and you hang in there. I know it’s tough right now, but you’re going to be just fine. Add let us know how we can be of help. [01:14:00][10.3]

ATHEY: [01:14:01] Great. Thank you so much, Todd. [01:14:02][0.9]