Cumulus Media, one of the largest broadcasting companies in the country, blocked one of its country radio station hosts from airing his interview with 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Blair Garner, whose self-titled Nash FM radio show is syndicated nationally across more than 150 radio stations, interviewed Buttigieg on Wednesday while the Democratic candidate visited Nashville, Tennessee, as part of his campaign tour.
“It’s important to Pete to reach voters everywhere,” Buttigieg campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith told HuffPost in a statement Sunday. “We’ve made it a point on this campaign to go outside the traditional political media bubble ― that’s why we reached out to Blair about an interview.”
“[Blair] has a big audience,” she added. “And it’s an audience that doesn’t typically hear directly from Democratic candidates for president.”
In his roughly 20-minute interview, Buttigieg discussed meeting country music icons Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw and called on the Democratic Party to reach out to more communities traditionally viewed as right-leaning.
“I think that our base tends to be more conservative,” Garner told Buttigieg of his program’s listeners. “And the fact that you, from the Democratic ticket, are the singular candidate to reach out and to say, ‘May I please be on your show?’ That you are reaching out to our listeners ― I think we all have to embrace that and be appreciative of that.”
But Cumulus Media decided to spike the interview, blocking Garner and affiliate radio stations from airing any part of it, the radio host announced Friday.
“My employer decided I couldn’t air it,” he tweeted with a link to the interview published on his personal Soundcloud account.
Garner had intended to run the interview beginning Monday, a source close to the radio host told HuffPost.
In an email sent to affiliates Friday morning and obtained by HuffPost, Garner said he planned to include two segments of the interview in his show and broadcast the full exchange in a subsequent podcast.
“It is not, in any way shape or form, my intention for our show to become political,” the host of “The Blair Garner Show” wrote in the email. “But because someone clearly saw the value of our listeners, I felt secure in affording him this opportunity.”
Garner said his show’s producer would provide alternatives to the Buttigieg interview segments should any affiliate prefer not to air them.
But hours later, Garner followed up with another email to affiliates in which he announced he had been prohibited from airing any part of the interview on his show.
“I’ve been told that the interview cannot air,” he wrote in the second email, also obtained by HuffPost. “I was very proud that a presidential candidate of any party valued our show to the degree that they would ask to be a guest.”
Just to be clear, I would have also enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to have any candidate, including President Trump, as a guest.
“Just to be clear, I would have also enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to have any candidate, including President Trump, as a guest. It was simply that Mayor Pete showed up, and made the ask,” Garner wrote.
A spokesperson for Cumulus Media told HuffPost that programming managers decided not to air the interview “because of the large number of political candidates currently in this race.”
“The decision was made by local programming management based solely on concerns related to the application of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday, “The effects of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule are widely understood and considered whenever these types of issues arise.”
Buttigieg’s team said they are “obviously disappointed that Blair’s listeners won’t have the opportunity to hear” the interview.
Kurt Bardella, creator and publisher of the country music newsletter “The Morning Hangover,” said he was in the studio during Garner’s interview with Buttigieg. He slammed Cumulus Media for pulling the plug on it.
“It is an incredible act of cowardice for a company who’s slogan is ‘Where Every Voice Matters’ to censor an interview with someone who, for the first time ever, thought it was worthwhile to engage the country music audience in a conversation about the future of our country,” Bardella said in a statement to HuffPost.
“I hope the executives at Cumulus reconsider their directive to censor Blair’s interview with Pete,” he continued. “Country radio should be on the frontlines of breaking stereotypes and promoting diversity of thought.”
This article has been updated with comment from Cumulus Media.
REAL LIFE. REAL NEWS. REAL VOICES.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.