This week Mark Levin was officially inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, and one wonders what took so long. His induction was presented by fellow Hall of Famers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and the three figures comprise what can accurately be described as the talk radio “Mount Rushmore.”
Known as “F. Lee Levin” by Mr. Limbaugh and as “The Great One” by Mr. Hannity for years, Mr. Levin emerged from behind the scenes to launch onto the national stage with his syndicated radio program running live from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time in 2006. His program became part of an unstoppable nine-hour block of syndicated conservative talk featuring him, Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Hannity. The three shows delivered unparalleled content from noon to 9 p.m. on America’s most influential radio stations.
Contrary to popular belief, Mr. Levin did not debut on hundreds of stations from coast to coast on day one. Unlike ill-fated and short-lived conservative talk show hosts of recent years (Mike Huckabee, Meghan McCain, Andy Dean to name a few) who began on hundreds of stations right off the bat without first proving themselves, Mr. Levin put in the hard work learning the craft in relative obscurity. For more than a year he broadcast on WABC in New York on Sundays. After a year of learning the craft, WABC moved him to the evening slot after Mr. Hannity in 2003. After proving himself as a bona fide star, he was elevated to national syndication and the rest is radio history.
In short, Mr. Levin worked his butt off, had nothing handed to him, and he earned every bit of success he has gotten. That’s the only way it’s done in talk radio. The only way.
In recent years, Mr. Hannity went on to include a top-rated cable news program and Mr. Limbaugh settled into a “elder statesman” kind of presence rivaled only by Johnny Carson in his final years on NBC. But Mr. Levin still attacks his nightly program with the same ferocious tenacity, preparation and execution he did when he began broadcasting. In fact, one could argue that Mr. Levin is more influential and effective now than he has ever been.
Just look at his efforts in exposing the scandal that is now known as “Spygate.”
It was Mr. Levin who started to put the pieces together in March 2017. He saw the multiple press reports featuring anonymous leaks from Justice Department officials detailing things that could have been learned only under a court-ordered surveillance operation. Mr. Levin took to the airwaves to proclaim that it was clear that the Obama administration had been spying on the Trump campaign.
“This is the case made by The New York Times, The Washington Post, McClatchy and the rest of them. I just put it together,” he said at the time.
“The evidence is overwhelming. This is about the Obama administration spying. And, the question isn’t whether it spied; we know they went to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] court twice. The question is the EXTENT of the spying,” he said in a Fox News interview.
President Trump tweeted his outrage that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower and the story blew up to be the dominant political narrative of the past two years.
All because of Mr. Levin.
And, of course, he was lampooned, vilified and excoriated at the time by the usual suspects in the mainstream media. Of course, now we know that he was absolutely right.
In May 2018, The New York Times “broke” the story more than a year after Mr. Levin brought the story to light: “The FBI investigated four unidentified Trump campaign aides in those early months, congressional investigators revealed in February. The four men were Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and [George] Papadopoulos, current and former officials said.
“The FBI obtained phone records and other documents using national security letters — a secret type of subpoena — officials said. And at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said.”
In other words, the Obama administration had multiple surveillance operations going involving figures in the Trump campaign. Just like Mr. Levin said.
But don’t expect the likes of Joe Scarborough or Brian Stelter to admit such a thing. Mr. Levin will have his vindication from those who matter most: his listeners. And there are plenty of them.
In sports, the Hall of Fame is reserved for athletes who have retired and are looking back at their glory days. Thankfully, in radio, the industry rewards legends while they are still doing what they do best. Mr. Levin is doing just that. “The Great One” is a perfect nickname, but these days, in the times we’re living in, I call him “The Indispensable One.”
• Larry O’Connor writes about politics and the media for The Washington Times and can be heard weekday afternoons on WMAL radio in Washington. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryO’Connor.
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