WASHINGTON, D.C. - Air America Radio, the liberal talk show network currently facing bankruptcy and which was attempting to merge with American Airlines, announced today the merger talks had halted. The merger would have created the world's first left-wing airline since Russia divested Aeroflot in 1994.
The breakdown in the talks began outside the conference room and inside the broadcast booth. On his radio show Thursday, Al Franken, the network's highest-profile star, said he had "no inside knowledge" about the network's rumored bankruptcy filing but assured listeners even if it happened, programming would continue. "I'm still flying on United," Franken quipped, referring to the airline that had already gone through bankruptcy.
As soon as Franken's "joke" hit the airwaves, American Airlines stock dropped $2.65. When the comment was relayed to American Airlines' executives, they immediately cancelled any further merger negotiations. "Al Franken will be French kissing Dick Cheney before I'm merging with someone with United frequent flyer miles," said American Airlines Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Gerard J. Arpey. "And while we're kissing, Franken can kiss my American Eagle; this deal is finito."
Air America Radio had hoped that the joint left-wing airline venture would be more financially lucrative than the current broadcast-only model. According to Thom Hartmann, Portland-based Air America Radio personality, "First, it would dramatically increase Air America's audience as it would be the sole inflight broadcast on American. Secondly, American's ridership would increase as not only liberals but also many others would have climbed on board -- especially those who wanted to fly long-distance without having to sit next to a Baptist, Mormon or Jehovah's Witness. Finally, American Airlines' costs would decrease as the planes would no longer need right wings."
Independent aeronautical engineers are concerned, however, that the combination of vitriol and jet fuel the merger would bring could produce a ValueJet-like explosive mixture that could blow up in both companies faces.
Despite the merger-talks collapse, Air America pooh poohs the possibility of a bankruptcy filing. "If Air America had filed for bankruptcy every time someone rumored it to be doing so, we would have ceased to exist long ago," said network spokesperson Nancee Glitt as she cleaned out her desk.
Pundit and former Saturday Night Live writer Franken told the New York Post this week he has not been paid in several weeks on what is reportedly a $2 million-a-year contract, which media analysts say is by far the highest for any radio host with a nasal Minnesota accent.
The Post reported that Rob Glaser, the Real Networks founder who had bailed out Air America before, has pulled out. Air America also reportedly laid off six employees this week. The network has called for immediate government action to stop it from "this insensitive capitalist behavior."
Copyright 2006, Douglas Salguod