WSPD radio personalities Fred Lefebvre, left, and Brian Wilson.
Controversial libertarian talk-show host Brian Wilson is no longer a voice on WSPD-AM 1370, announcing Monday afternoon that he had “parted ways” with Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.
Details on his departure were not available, and he could not be reached for comment. Mr. Wilson had been program director, news director, and afternoon drive-time host for more than seven years on the conservative radio station.
He posted the announcement on his Facebook account: “I am glad to have had the opportunity to preach the gospel of freedom and liberty to Northwest Ohio. Wish I had the chance on the air to say thank you and good-bye to my listeners. I will continue to make every effort to spread the message of free markets and liberty.”
Andy Stuart, WSPD’s vice president and regional market manager, declined to comment on Mr. Wilson’s exit, except to say it was effective immediately. He said Clear Channel is “just now launching a nationwide search” to find a replacement for Mr. Wilson and that WSPD will “put together a patchwork lists of local and national substitute hosts” in the interim.
Mr. Wilson leaves behind a legacy of controversy thanks to his acerbic tone, a perceived negativity toward Toledo, and at least one stunt that featured him trying to force his way into a news conference by pushing through a door barred by a city employee.
Several public officials said they are glad to see him go.
“WSPD will not be hard-pressed to find someone who has a better wit, greater charm, and a far deeper knowledge base than Brian Wilson had,” said former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, whom Mr. Wilson referred to as Mayor Pant-Load. “He was one of the most boring talk show hosts I ever had the opportunity to briefly listen to.”
Mr. Wilson came under fire last year when he used the term “little monkeys” in reference to Toledo Public Schools students, and for a radio host who relied on local support for his show, he seemed to have contempt for area residents.
“I have never seen — and I’ve said this in public, on air, and in print — an accumulation of ignorance among a group of people centered in one geographical area until I came to Toledo. It’s astounding, absolutely astounding,” he told a Law and Media seminar of attorneys and journalists hosted by the Ohio State Bar Association in Columbus last year.
Former Mayor Jack Ford was on the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education when Mr. Wilson made the “little monkeys” comment, which the radio host said was in reference to learning and was not racially motivated.
“We found it offensive, but frankly it was kind of part and parcel what kind of things that [Wilson] had said at certain times before,” Mr. Ford said. “So it wasn’t too surprising it came out of his mouth.”
In 2006, Mr. Wilson and fellow WSPD personalities Fred LeFebvre, who is still with the station and is host of a morning show, and Kevin Milliken, a former morning news anchor at the station, tried to push their way into a news conference called by Mr. Finkbeiner at One Government Center. The stunt was part of a feud between the mayor and WSPD that resulted in name-calling and a long-running battle.
Despite frequent criticisms of Toledo and Lucas County leaders, Mr. Wilson broadcast the show from his home in Smith Mountain Lake, Va., which he did not reveal until 2010, telling listeners that the air in Toledo made him ill. His Perrysburg home was foreclosed on that same year.
Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party and a frequent target of Mr. Wilson’s barbs, laughed off the criticism by Mr. Wilson, but said he found his decision to live in another state particularly offensive.
“Brian Wilson clearly didn’t like Toledo or Toledoans and it’s a great day now that he’s gone,” Mr. Stainbrook said. “I think he was very dishonest leading people to believe he was broadcasting out of Toledo when he was really broadcasting out of a basement in Virginia.”
However, Springfield Township Trustee Andy Glenn said Mr. Wilson’s departure is a loss for the Toledo area because it takes an important conservative voice off the air.
“With his strong libertarian views, that was something we hadn’t heard in Toledo ever before,” Mr. Glenn said. “Although I don’t subscribe 100 percent to the extreme libertarian view, I do think it highlighted those conservative issues that we need to focus on and that are important.”
Mr. Wilson frequently had conservatives such as Ann Coulter on his show, in addition to Walter Williams and various people from the Libertarian think tank the Cato Institute.
Mr. Milliken also praised Mr. Wilson as a strong mentor who helped him make the transition from television journalism to radio, where he was a talk show host, reporter, and news anchor. “He helped me try to balance it all and I knew when I was out on a story he was always in my corner and that hasn’t always happened in my career.”
It is unclear what Mr. Wilson will do next. He is founder of Vacation Relief Inc., which fills in for other radio hosts when they are on vacation. He said in his bio at www.brianwilson.net that he has worked in radio for 40 years in such cities as New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Baltimore, and Washington.
Contact Kirk Baird at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.