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Stuart Varney Connects in the Morning

The qualities that set Stuart Varney apart are priceless and sometimes rare for network business anchors to possess.

Rick Schultz

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Oh, the pain of selling your shares of Microsoft, only to have the stock proceed to hit record highs. Especially after years of proudly standing by the holding and proclaiming great pleasure in it’s slow, steady and safe growth. Such was the plight of the jovial, ever-informed and curious Fox Business anchor, Stuart Varney. (he has since re-purchased a chunk of Microsoft.)

On any given weekday morning, you’re likely to hear Varney mentioning his infamous sale, or discussing gas prices near his home in New Jersey and near his vacation spot in upstate New York. In Varney, viewers get exactly what so many of them are searching for as they reach for their next cup of morning coffee. Most notably, he is able to build a bond and a connection with his viewers. Yes, he knows the market. He knows trends, PE values and economic indicators. But you also feel as though you truly know him as well.

The qualities that set Stuart Varney apart are priceless and sometimes rare for network business anchors to possess. You start with knowledge. Sure, he knows his niche – the market and its impact on the everyday Americans who tune in to see him every day. He can tell you what the numbers say and what it all means.  He also matches that knowledge with a real-world persona that viewers can identify and connect with. 

For example, he sold that Microsoft stock too soon. 

“I did that too!,” says Joe Six-Pack. 

But he turned around and bought some shares of Boeing. 

“Ok, we’ll see,” you think.

During the prosperity of the Trump years, Varney was downright giddy, and happy to say so, about the falling price of gas. 

“Hey, I can fill MY truck up for a few bucks less too!”

He came to this country from the United Kingdom and learned the value of hard work by washing dishes in a restaurant. 

“I washed dishes at my first job too!”

Through his stops at other networks, including CNN and CNBC, Varney has always been able to connect – with the market and, more importantly, with people. He asks the questions we want answers to, and follows up with a non-pretentious curiosity. If he doesn’t understand how Peloton works, he asks for clarification. If he is still confused about Bitcoin, he asks for clarification from his expert guests. As a result, his morning program, “Varney & Co.,” has the feel of a gang of buddies, rather than some stuffy money show. 

In his role as the traffic cop, Varney spends his mornings discussing issues and stock trends with market analysts, network correspondents, CEO’s, political leaders, entrepreneurs and socialites. In one minute, he’ll be asking his correspondent, Susan Li, about the latest move on the big board. In the show’s next segment, he’s talking football with Joe Namath or economics with Art Laffer. 

Varney’s intellect and knowledge brings us in, but it is the connection that keeps us. That, and his unbridled pride in being an American citizen, which he became in November of 2015. 

“I became an American because I believe America is fundamentally good,” Varney told his audience in January of 2020. “Where else in the world can someone with a foreign accent go on national television and tell people what’s going on in their society?” 

And tell us he does. Legions of Americans wouldn’t start their day any other way.

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Pick a Lane: Talk Radio Host or Political Candidate

Talk radio shouldn’t be looking at politicians or wanna-be politicians as hosts, especially when you know they plan to re-enter politics at some point.

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A photo of Bill Spadea

There’s often a difference between what you legally can do and what you should do. Say you’re running a talk radio station and your morning host one day publicly announces that he’s running for governor next year. What do you do?

Do you immediately yank him from the air? Do you leave him on the air, because, since he hasn’t filed his paperwork to be an official candidate, there’s no equal time requirement yet?

My old radio station, New Jersey 101.5, is in that precise position now. The morning host has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor of New Jersey, something that’s been percolating for a while. The election isn’t until next year, but he’s been building his campaign organization and he’s made a public announcement.

However, since he hasn’t filed the paperwork yet, he can continue hosting his show until those petitions are filed. It’s all kosher, so no problem, right?

Well, now, let’s think about this for a moment. Allowing a political candidate to continue to host a radio show – not just any show, but the morning show on the biggest radio station in the state – is handing that candidate a megaphone that no other candidate can wield.

Again, it’s legal, he and the station can claim First Amendment rights, there’s no FCC rule prohibiting it, no equal time requirements involved, and, no, the Fairness Doctrine wouldn’t have prevented it either, so save that fantasy for misguided social media posts. They can do it, so they will.

But should they? The advantage and head start the host will get over his primary rivals for about a year is one issue.

Another issue is what it says about the station. When we started the format in 1990, it was apolitical. Oh, we talked about politics, but it was always from the position that we were on the side of the people and against any politician – left, right, centrist, whomever – who was up to things that weren’t in the audience’s best interest. We went after governors and senators from one party, and when the other party came into power, we went after them, too. And we talked about lifestyle stuff and pop culture, and we did very, very well.

Things change. Today, the morning man is running for governor and proclaiming himself “unapologetically conservative, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and pro-Trump,” thus describing himself as exactly like practically every other talk host on the dial. And it reflects on the station, which once prided itself on being exactly like nothing else on the radio. Now, it’s as partisan as the rest of ‘em.

They can do what they want, but having a candidate for the state’s highest office as your morning host is not just problematic as an ethical issue, it raises questions about exactly what the show is going to be moving forward, and whether it will be entertaining or just an extended campaign ad.

It also stresses that the host/candidate is not a talk show host or entertainer, he’s a politician. He’s far from the first to blur the lines (hey, Mike Pence was a radio host), but talk radio shouldn’t be looking at politicians or wanna-be politicians as hosts, especially when you know they plan to re-enter politics at some point. Talk radio is entertainment and opinion, and talk hosts should be talk hosts.

A politician ranting on the radio will get you that loyal core audience of 75+ men. If you want anything more, you need someone who’s committed to the job at hand, not dreaming of the State House or Capitol Hill or the White House.

It’s not supposed to be a radio station’s job to promote a candidate or allow a candidate to promote themselves with their own show daily. Judging by the state of talk radio in 2024, that ship sailed sporting a Trump flag, but when you’re in charge of one of the few broadcast megaphones around, you can and should do better.

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Dominic Carter Makes No Bones About What His Future Holds in Afternoons on 77 WABC

“The baton has been passed to me. I’m going to take it, I’m going to run, and I am going to dominate. Mark my words.”

Garrett Searight

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A photo of Dominic Carter and the 77 WABC logo

77 WABC host Dominic Carter has patiently waited his turn to nab a premiere slot on the New York news/talk station. And he has big aspirations for what he’s going to do in the 3-4 PM timeslot.

“The baton has been passed to me. I’m going to take it, I’m going to run, and I am going to dominate,” Carter told Barrett News Media. “Mark my words.”

Carter, who will continue to host his Midnight to 1 AM program on the Red Apple Media-owned station, takes over the timeslot previously helmed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Owner John Catsimatidis canceled Giuliani’s show last month after he continually ignored company edicts related to the way the station would discuss the validity of the 2020 presidential election.

Despite the avenue in which he came to take over the program, Dominic Carter is ecstatic to have the hour in afternoon drive.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “WABC is a powerhouse. I come from within the system, almost like the farm system of a baseball team. I worked at WABC part time for years. And when I got the assignment, it will be the biggest thrill of my life. I’ve been ready for this moment. I’ve been ready for quite some time.”

Carter has worked in radio in the New York market since graduating college in 1986. And like the famous line from the Broadway musical Hamilton, he’s not throwing away his shot.

“What my plan is, I have to be very honest with you, is to dominate the market. Nothing else will be acceptable. To know my character is to know that I plan on being the best and frankly destroying the competition.”

His competition in the talk radio space in the Big Apple includes a pair of nationally syndicated programs, the first hour of The Sean Hannity Show on 710 WOR and America First with Sebastian Gorka on AM 970 The Answer.

Despite the heavy-hitting competition, Dominic Carter is keenly aware of what winning that battle will look like.

“It will take nonstop work. I’m used to that. I’ve done that for almost almost 40 years. I understand what’s at stake,” said Carter. “For example, I spend sometimes two or three hours getting ready for a show and I gladly accept the challenge. This is what I want to do … It is time that somebody stands up and tells the truth, no matter what the truth may be. And the one thing I can assure our listeners, my plan is to dominate and to expand the audience; to bring people in.

“The one thing I can assure you is that yes, we know talk radio is opinion-based, but I’m always gonna give it to you straight. I’m gonna give you the facts. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it … We have to get back to basic law and order. We have to get back to the American way of life. And that’s my approach on almost every topic. That’s where I’m coming from.”

Hosting a program from 3-4 PM ET and then another live show from Midnight to 1 AM ET won’t be an easy task. Time management will need to be a key component to Carter’s success, but he shared that the example set by the station’s leadership motivates him to continue to host both shows.

He noted that John Catsimatidis — who hosts Cats & Cosby in the afternoon and The Cats Roundtable weekend show — will be working on holidays like Independence Day. And if the billionaire owner of the station can be in the office at inopportune times, so can Carter.

“After the three o’clock show is done, I try to immediately start working on the midnight show. And that’s done normally about 7:00 PM. I try — emphasis on try — to get a nap. That takes, maybe if I’m lucky, I might get 45 minutes to an hour and a half,” he shared. “But what that time is it feels like it’s almost eight hours of sleep because once midnight hits, and once I start preparing at about 9 PM I’ve got to bring it at midnight. Our listeners deserve nothing less than my absolute best.”

Outside of the top news headlines of the day, late-night 77 WABC listeners can expect a completely different show from Carter than the one that aired in afternoon drive.

“For me to do the same show at midnight as what I did at 3 PM? That would be absolute garbage and insulting to our listeners. So the shows are different … I guess one of the biggest challenges for me is coming from news, you’re trained not to give your opinion. And in talk radio, it’s all about your opinion. So that’s been one of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced but I think I’ve passed the test. Hands down.”

Dominic Carter was also incredibly complimentary of both John and Margo Catsimatidis, as well as Red Apple Media President Chad Lopez, for giving him the “opportunity of a lifetime.”

“Mrs. Catsimatidis has been the biggest supporter of my career. They sat me down early on and told me ‘Dominic, hang on. We’re gonna find a way to make things work.’ And it trickles down,” said Carter. “Chad Lopez has been enormously supportive of my career. Straight up, I could not do what I do without Chad Lopez, and certainly not without the Catsimatidis family.”

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How News/Talk Radio Can Rise to the Occasion During Presidential Immunity Conversations

You have never been more essential. You provide your opinions that help people analyze their thoughts, biases, and opinions.

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A photo of the Supreme Court

Very rarely does the United States Supreme Court have a ruling that can truly fashion the future of our Republic, but here we are. This is regarding presidential immunity. News/Talk radio needs to understand that the presidential immunity ruling is very important. I am going to give you the three scenarios and what I think about them. You may have different thoughts and feel free to comment.

Scenario #1

The Supreme Court punts and sends this down to a lower court. I think of this as the least likely of the rulings but here is why this could be plausible: The John Roberts Supreme Court allowed Obamacare by making a somewhat flimsy ruling saying that the health insurance mandate was based on the taxation and spending clause was legal. Obamacare enthusiasts felt a certain amount of pride and vindication over this ruling.

Judicial Conservatives thought Roberts was pressured and made this ruling upon an imaginary reason. Sending this back to the lower court is a Pontus Pilate washing of the hands move. 

Could it happen? I will give this a 20% chance of happening.

Scenario #2

The 2nd scenario is either eliminating or seriously weakening presidential immunity. I think that this would be the worst thing. You may not like Trump. That is fair and you are welcome to not like Donald Trump. This is America. Totally allowed.

If presidential immunity is weakened, this opens the door for prosecuting any former President.

Let’s talk about President Barack Obama. He approved the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Al-Awlaki was an American citizen. He was not on the battlefield. Al-Awlaki was denied due process that is afforded to every American citizen.

In the ordering of the killing of a U. S. citizen, corroding presidential immunity could lead to Obama’s prosecution. Obama made the right decision, but civil libertarians could argue that the legal process should be followed.

If you don’t buy what I am saying, you are living in a fantasyland. What crimes did Jimmy Carter commit in office? What about Bill Clinton? W? We could be prosecuting Presidents for decades. It has often been cited that political professionals are not our best and brightest. Clintonite Paul Begala once uttered that Washington D.C. was “Hollywood for ugly people.” 

Eroding presidential immunity will lead to weak Presidents who will shy away from making legitimate and difficult decisions. We don’t want that. Presidents are elected to make tough calls. If the USA is attacked, I want our President to respond immediately. I don’t want our President to meet with a team of attorneys to determine if a decision has legal ramifications after he/she leaves office. I know that agreement is often a difficult task in 2024.

If we can prosecute someone just because we don’t like them personally or politically, our nation is doomed. I give this a 40% chance of happening.

Scenario #3

Presidential immunity is upheld. I know that this may seem like a Pollyanna statement, but I want to believe that our presidents think of Americans first. If there is a unanimous ruling, this will protect all current and future presidents regardless of party. This would be the ideal position. Presidential immunity protects our country. There is no expiration date on prosecuting murder.

As I described above, Barack Obama ordered the killing of not just one American citizen but his children. Would some prosecute Obama for this? I would hope not, but the option should not be there. If presidential immunity is compromised, Joe Biden could and probably would pardon Obama.

As we know, pardons are often a political exercise instead of a principle of justice. I give this a 40% chance of occurring.

I am not a formally educated constitutional scholar, but I have read The Federalist Papers.  If you have never read these, you must. It gives you context for how the United States Constitution was crafted. We can all agree or disagree on various issues.

Some of my best friends, I agree with on very little. I enjoy their intellect and I hope that they say the same. I actually like the conversations with people I disagree with more than people that I actually agree with. It allows me to sharpen my thoughts.

Here is what this means for your radio show. You have never been more essential. You provide your opinions that help people analyze their thoughts, biases, and opinions. This ruling could be a match to already unprecedented times. If my first two options are the ruling, the United States of America could very well be neutered. It will create an isolationist nation that will create a void in the world where justice will no longer prevail. 

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