This column ran in Dome Magazine.
If Donald Trump thankfully doesn’t end up as the 45th president of the United States, do you really believe he’ll disappear from the public eye?
Of course not. A shameless press hound and self-promoter, Trump will probably just return to his hit reality show, “The Apprentice,” and make NBC (and himself) gobs of money. It’s a win-win.
So should we really be surprised that the Michigan Legislature’s former terrible twosome, Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser, still haven’t gone gently into that good night?
No, they’ve both been rewarded with their own radio shows on WFDF-AM in Detroit. It’s a seemingly curious fit –– two white outstate Republicans headlining a station with a largely African-American audience best known for its ministerial programming.
Maybe owners of the “Superstation” recalled that Courser and Gamrat were elected in 2014 as religious right warriors. Though they were married to other people, the Republicans soon became inseparable –– and it wasn’t because they joined a bible study group. Their canoodling, which included Gamrat tucking Courser in for naps at her office, started getting in the way of their jobs. A House Business Office investigation found they abused their offices.
That earned Gamrat an expulsion in September 2015, while Courser resigned at the 11th hour, presumably to save his law license. Nobody was sorry to see them go.
Naturally, both ex-legislators tried to win their seats back during the special election called –– even campaigning together with their spouses’ apparent blessing –– but they both failed miserably.
Then in February, Attorney General Bill Schuette charged Courser with four felonies and Gamrat with two, which could mean five to 15 years in jail.
You’d think the ex-lovebirds would keep a low profile, but nah. Courser filed last month to run for Lapeer County prosecutor and won his radio gig. And now Gamrat is set to join the station’s roster.
“She’ll have a press card. She’ll get to go up to Lansing, bring a microphone and ask hard questions,” CEO Kevin Adell told the Detroit News.
That will doubtlessly go well. Who wouldn’t want to be interviewed by the most reviled woman in Lansing?
But it’s all just par for the course for WFDF, where public notoriety and even a rap sheet can earn you a time slot. (Hey, E! has done well with shows about Hugh Hefner’s concubines and the Kardashians, who are famous for no apparent reason).
“If I just took a normal person and put them on the air it would be boring. We’re the go-to station for controversy. And there’s no shortage of scandals,” Adell bragged to the Detroit Free Press.
The station’s quirky personalities include combative Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, whose term-limit extension gambit prompted Macomb Daily columnist Ken Kish to recently compare him to a “foreign dictator changing the rules to stay in power,” and Krystal Crittendon, who was fired as Detroit’s city attorney.
WFDF also features Ward McCree, the “No shame in my game” selfie-taking judge bounced from the bench for sleeping with someone whose case was before him. Former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, who retired amidst a sex scandal, is on air. And there’s Christine Beatty, who served jail time for lying about her affair with now-former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
With the addition of Courser and Gamrat, the station’s holiday party will surely be amazing –– and will probably be aired live for ratings, baby.
Now it’s not clear that the station will make a fortune –– this all reeks of desperation –– but at least WFDF has netted the headlines its management coveted.
And sorry to be a buzzkill, but these controversial hires have attracted far more attention than the Michigan Radio Network shutting down in March.
People have been listening to the MRN’s quick, informative reporting on the Capitol for decades on their local news station. Most probably didn’t even realize it, just political junkies who recognize Tim Skubick’s manic newsman pitch.
News Director Rob Baykian, who put in 35 years covering Lansing, hosted his weekly “Capitol Pressroom” with newsmakers. Now he’s been laid off, along with at least three other journalists.
Will the 60-odd stations that carried the MRN find some other way to report on state politics and government? In an era of hemorrhaging budgets and shrinking staff, I think we all know the answer to that.
But never fear. Cindy Gamrat will soon be armed with a microphone and media pass. She’ll undoubtedly get to the bottom of what’s really going on in Lansing –– and put the rest of the dwindling press corps to shame.
Susan J. Demas is Publisher and Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, a nationally acclaimed, biweekly political newsletter. Her political columns can be found at SusanJDemas.com. Follow her on Twitter here.