Baltimore loses with firing of C. Miles

October 04, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

SO HERE IT IS. THIS will definitely be my last column about WOLB talk show host C. Miles. But it's not by choice, mind you.

"Man, I've been fired!" Miles told me Tuesday afternoon, in the first conversation we've had since we debated the shooting death of James Quarles in August 1997. Sun editors had heard for days rumors that Miles had been fired. They were trying to confirm or deny them up to Monday night. Dennis O'Brien, swing-shift rewrite man, was able to get Miles' home number and called him. Moments later, O'Brien paged me.

"You're not going to believe this," O'Brien said. "Miles says you're the only one at the paper he'll talk to."

Miles' decision is not as baffling as it sounds. We've had at it for over a year now. People talk constantly about our differences but fail to take into account our similarities: We're both black men in our mid- to late 40s; we both have grown children; we were both raised Catholic; and neither of us can dress worth a tinker's damn.

And Miles must surely have suspected that while I disagree with many of his views, I'd be extremely ticked off if he were ever booted off the air for something he said. He was. And I am.

The something in this case was Miles' show of Sept. 24, in which he criticized Mayor Kurt Schmoke and police Commissioner Thomas Frazier. Several people have said Miles crossed the line in that show. One of them, according to Miles, was Alfred Liggins, co- owner of Radio One with his mother, Cathy Hughes. Miles said it was Liggins who canned him Monday.

What was it exactly that Miles said about Schmoke and Frazier? It was a speculative take that Miles made clear was, indeed, speculative. In the wake of news reports that Frazier had grossly overstated the drop in city shootings, Miles asked why the mayor didn't fire the commissioner. Miles then offered several theories, among them that the mayor and the commissioner were homosexual lovers, that Schmoke had illegitimate children Frazier knew about or that the mayor may have had a fancy for young boys.

Outrageous? Yes. Over the top? You bet. But it was just the type of commentary that made C. Miles arguably the best talk show host in the country.

I said as much on former Annapolis Alderman Carl Snowden's cable show two weeks ago. Miles is funnier than Howard Stern thinks he is and as informative as Rush Limbaugh thinks he is. Miles is equally adept at humor and seriousness and every talk show gambit in between. No other talk show host in the country, I'd wager, has that type of range. And judging from the music he selected for his show, he's better than 95 percent of the music disc jockeys in town. Sun features writer Dion Thompson said Miles playing blues singer Howlin' Wolf's version of the song "Spoonful" was "a very appropriate lead-in to a session" on President Clinton's problems with Monica Lewinsky.

That was Miles at his best. As much as I've criticized him, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Miles gave us his best often. When Louis Farrakhan appointed one of the convicted killers of Malcolm X to a post in the Nation of Islam's Harlem mosque, there was Miles, questioning whether the move was a moral one. When the Congressional Black Caucus came to Baltimore to talk about drug treatment, there was Miles, reminding everyone that the drug problem won't be licked until Americans lose their love affair with getting high.

"Why do you get high?" he challenged his listeners to ponder.

And on Sept. 24, Miles was roasting Schmoke and Frazier, reminding them in his inimitable style that they are accountable to the public. He was right to roast both their butts. Let's not forget the bottom line of that particular Miles show. There had been incorrect figures released about the drop in the number of city shootings. The mayor and the commissioner take the attitude that because the errors were accidental instead of intentional, that it's no big deal.

The hell it isn't. Miles was there to remind Schmoke and Frazier that public officials misleading the public is always a big deal. Now he's been canned for making outrageous statements. But what's more outrageous, a talk show host making comments that incense us -- that is, after all, his job -- or public officials misleading the public on crime stats?

If City Councilman Martin O'Malley hadn't challenged the accuracy of Frazier's crime stats, you can bet your bottom dollar he and Schmoke would still be standing by them today. That's yet another reason for Miles to have been so harsh.

The Supreme Court in its Falwell vs. Flynt case ruled that public figures have to take the lumps dished out to them. No one dishes out the lumps better than Miles. Baltimore will be a less exciting place without him. And let's face it, Baltimore's not that exciting to begin with.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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