SOUND WAVES

SOUND WAVES

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Thaddeus Matthews has never kept his opinions to himself. Since his radio rebirth this year, the talk-show host has unceasingly broadcast his disdain for the Shelby County Democratic Party, its effectiveness, and its leadership, thereby angering many of the city's political leaders. For the sound of Matthews in action, CLICK HERE

Matthews' show Express Yourself on Flinn Broadcasting's WTCK AM-1210 is, in his opinion, all about informing the public, specifically African Americans, of their rights as voters and the need for candidate accountability. "One of my strongest statements on the air is that 'the black politician or leader who is not working for the betterment of African Americans is more dangerous to us than any white politician could ever be,'" said Matthews. "We have a dumbing-down from our politicians. We only see them when they want to be elected ... and that's the large majority of our leadership. They come, they beg for our vote and for our money, then, once elected, they forget about the people who placed them there."

The daily program, which airs from noon to 2 p.m., has broached topics that Matthews says are not popular in the black community, such as allowing convicted criminals and recovering drug offenders to be reelected to public office. He cites the reelections of city councilman Rickey Peete after his conviction for taking bribes and county commissioner Michael Hooks after admitting to drug addiction. "I think that a lot of our black leadership has built their prominence on the backs of economically depressed people," said Matthews. "Most radio talk-show hosts, black anyway, will not say that, whether for fear of retaliation or whether they too are a part of the network."

But not everyone is a fan of Matthews' "truth in politics" broadcasting. Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Gale Jones Carson called Matthews' tactics "pitiful." Although she has never heard of Matthews or his program, she said his accusations are baseless. "[Matthews] can think what he wants to, but he should just ask the 16 Democratic candidates who ran August 1st. Get their opinion on the Democratic Party and how effective we were," she said. "This man needs to talk to some of the candidates before he gets on the air making blanket statements that he can't back up. Who even listens to 1210? ... He probably won't be on long this time either. People have a right to their opinion, but they ought to be based on facts, and his are not based on facts."

During her tenure as chairman, Carson said the party has raised more than $100,000 and run a coordinated campaign for 16 candidates. As a result, she said more African Americans voted in the August election than in any election in the previous five years. "Our candidates may not have won in the numbers that we would have liked them to, but they were closer than they have ever been before. Fifty-three percent of voters in August were Democrats," she said. "If all the Democrats who had voted had voted the straight party line, all of our countywide candidates would have won. We ran our coordinated campaign unlike we've ever done before."

Matthews is no newcomer to the radio arena. A lifelong Memphian and assistant pastor of a Whitehaven-area church, he began his radio career in 1985. He became known for his "shock jock" manner and shows with no topic off-limits. A 1993 show on bestiality ended his run on another Memphis station until his return three years ago. That show was canceled due to political content. This time, Matthews is taking no chances. Express Yourself has a solid, one-year contract and is self-financed, with Matthews selling his own advertising. "I think there needs to be someone on the air that is an advocate," he says.

Matthews has been joined by another self-proclaimed people's advocate, Jennings Bernard. Bernard, a long-time candidate for various Shelby County offices, is hosting his own program, following Matthews' slot. Bernard's Real Talk airs daily from 2 to 3 p.m. The program follows Bernard's infamous "Democratic Crackhead" phone line instituted after the August election. It contains a recorded message referring to various Shelby County politicians. The message tells callers that the Democratic Party will accept "crackheads," "thie[ves]," and "drug addicts" for the offices of city councilman, county commissioner, and county clerk. Callers are then asked to leave their "crackhead phone number."

"I looked at some of our elected and selected officials, and I began to wonder about their principles and those by which I was taught. Did they mean anything?" said Bernard. "The only way that I could bring attention to the situation and the principles that I was taught was through the 'Democratic Crackhead' number, to allow the people to know who they are selecting. In an imperfect world, we need to see as much righteousness as possible so we can send a message to young people who will one day seek to be Shelby County leaders. When you say that you can betray the voters' confidence and they will still reelect you, that's sending the wrong message."

Janis Fullilove, Bernard's county clerk opponent in the Democratic primary, considers the phone line offensive. "I was very offended because he makes reference to me as being a dope addict," she said. "I considered going to an attorney to bring slander [charges], but then I just dropped it. If he has any anger, it should be against the people who voted, not me." Fullilove, who is also the talk-show host of WDIA's Janis Fullilove Unleashed, denied alleged threats made against Bernard and also denied verbal retaliation of Matthews on her show, stating that her only target is fellow talk-show host Mike Fleming of WREC.

She and Carson agree. "Statements like these do not hurt the Democratic Party. They just make the person appear small-minded because polls now show that negative campaigning is not liked by voters," said Fullilove. "I'm sure if you look in the background of a Thaddeus Matthews or a Jennings Bernard, they probably have things that they don't want other people to know about either. Like my grandmother always said, the pot can't call the kettle black."

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Matthews' show Express Yourself on Flinn Broadcasting's WTCK AM-1210 is, in his opinion, all about informing the public, specifically African Americans, of their rights as voters and the need for candidate accountability. "One of my strongest statements on the air is that 'the black politician or leader who is not working for the betterment of African Americans is more dangerous to us than any white politician could ever be,'" said Matthews. "We have a dumbing-down from our politicians. We only see them when they want to be elected ... and that's the large majority of our leadership. They come, they beg for our vote and for our money, then, once elected, they forget about the people who placed them there."

The daily program, which airs from noon to 2 p.m., has broached topics that Matthews says are not popular in the black community, such as allowing convicted criminals and recovering drug offenders to be reelected to public office. He cites the reelections of city councilman Rickey Peete after his conviction for taking bribes and county commissioner Michael Hooks after admitting to drug addiction. "I think that a lot of our black leadership has built their prominence on the backs of economically depressed people," said Matthews. "Most radio talk-show hosts, black anyway, will not say that, whether for fear of retaliation or whether they too are a part of the network."

But not everyone is a fan of Matthews' "truth in politics" broadcasting. Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Gale Jones Carson called Matthews' tactics "pitiful." Although she has never heard of Matthews or his program, she said his accusations are baseless. "[Matthews] can think what he wants to, but he should just ask the 16 Democratic candidates who ran August 1st. Get their opinion on the Democratic Party and how effective we were," she said. "This man needs to talk to some of the candidates before he gets on the air making blanket statements that he can't back up. Who even listens to 1210? ... He probably won't be on long this time either. People have a right to their opinion, but they ought to be based on facts, and his are not based on facts."

During her tenure as chairman, Carson said the party has raised more than $100,000 and run a coordinated campaign for 16 candidates. As a result, she said more African Americans voted in the August election than in any election in the previous five years. "Our candidates may not have won in the numbers that we would have liked them to, but they were closer than they have ever been before. Fifty-three percent of voters in August were Democrats," she said. "If all the Democrats who had voted had voted the straight party line, all of our countywide candidates would have won. We ran our coordinated campaign unlike we've ever done before."

Matthews is no newcomer to the radio arena. A lifelong Memphian and assistant pastor of a Whitehaven-area church, he began his radio career in 1985. He became known for his "shock jock" manner and shows with no topic off-limits. A 1993 show on bestiality ended his run on another Memphis station until his return three years ago. That show was canceled due to political content. This time, Matthews is taking no chances. Express Yourself has a solid, one-year contract and is self-financed, with Matthews selling his own advertising. "I think there needs to be someone on the air that is an advocate," he says.

Matthews has been joined by another self-proclaimed people's advocate, Jennings Bernard. Bernard, a long-time candidate for various Shelby County offices, is hosting his own program, following Matthews' slot. Bernard's Real Talk airs daily from 2 to 3 p.m. The program follows Bernard's infamous "Democratic Crackhead" phone line instituted after the August election. It contains a recorded message referring to various Shelby County politicians. The message tells callers that the Democratic Party will accept "crackheads," "thie[ves]," and "drug addicts" for the offices of city councilman, county commissioner, and county clerk. Callers are then asked to leave their "crackhead phone number."

"I looked at some of our elected and selected officials, and I began to wonder about their principles and those by which I was taught. Did they mean anything?" said Bernard. "The only way that I could bring attention to the situation and the principles that I was taught was through the 'Democratic Crackhead' number, to allow the people to know who they are selecting. In an imperfect world, we need to see as much righteousness as possible so we can send a message to young people who will one day seek to be Shelby County leaders. When you say that you can betray the voters' confidence and they will still reelect you, that's sending the wrong message."

Janis Fullilove, Bernard's county clerk opponent in the Democratic primary, considers the phone line offensive. "I was very offended because he makes reference to me as being a dope addict," she said. "I considered going to an attorney to bring slander [charges], but then I just dropped it. If he has any anger, it should be against the people who voted, not me." Fullilove, who is also the talk-show host of WDIA's Janis Fullilove Unleashed, denied alleged threats made against Bernard and also denied verbal retaliation of Matthews on her show, stating that her only target is fellow talk-show host Mike Fleming of WREC.

She and Carson agree. "Statements like these do not hurt the Democratic Party. They just make the person appear small-minded because polls now show that negative campaigning is not liked by voters," said Fullilove. "I'm sure if you look in the background of a Thaddeus Matthews or a Jennings Bernard, they probably have things that they don't want other people to know about either. Like my grandmother always said, the pot can't call the kettle black."

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