Ripped Off by Ross Perot?

Who is Bruce DuMont to speak this way about Ross Perot? DuMont is a local radio personality. Perot is worth billions and ran for president, offering our wretched land leadership just a little ahead of its time. Need we say which gentleman is clearly more equal than the other?

Yet DuMont asserts Perot is about to rip him off. Plunder him intellectually and entrepreneurially. “With such a doublecross, it is no wonder that the reputation of Perot continues to tarnish,” says DuMont in a press release titled “The Dishonorable Mr. Perot.” It goes on, “Mr. Perot is not only intellectually dishonest but is now about to embark on a path of further media manipulation on a foundation of fraud and deception.”

What is clear anent this otherwise clouded matter is that Ross Perot much prefers the company of institutions that will do him the most good. He would not deign to grace DuMont’s Sunday talk show, Inside Politics, which is heard live here on WLS and in 18 much smaller markets. But he’ll traffic with Tribune Radio Networks, an arm of the powerful Tribune Company that intends to syndicate him live across the country, beginning October 2.

Perot will ride the airwaves opposite DuMont at seven o’clock Sunday nights. And DuMont bitterly insists that Perot will be drinking from waters he, DuMont, led him to.

DuMont met Perot at a broadcasters convention last September in Dallas. Perot was the keynote speaker. DuMont introduced himself, said he hoped to have Perot on Inside Politics, and handed a business card to a Perot factotum, attorney Daniel Routman. Later DuMont spent more time with Routman. Can you tell me something about your show? Routman asked. Be glad to, said DuMont. He’d already filled out a questionnaire from the media department of Perot’s United We Stand America, Inc., in Dallas, and he offered to send directly to Routman some of the same information. He told Routman he’d appreciate his help.

Actually, DuMont wasn’t sure some things United We Stand wanted to know about Inside Politics were any of its business. In addition to such arguably justifiable data as “Audience Marketing Size/Geographical areas covered” and “Major Network(s)/Cable %,” United We Stand asked for a “Company Profile Sheet.” Says DuMont, “I took ‘company profile’ to mean, ‘Tell me more about Inside Politics.’ Maybe that was foolish of me.”

Laying aside his doubts, he sent first the media department and then Routman his show’s marketing strategy. Which stated Inside Politic’s mission: “To establish an alternative to the current monopoly on political opinion-making in America, now based in Washington, D.C. To provide radio listeners a fresh same-day response to Sunday morning ‘talking head’ pundits and political ‘spin doctors.'”

And its objective: “To expand the reach of Inside Politics by joining together commercial and public stations from coast-to-coast. At the core of the satellite network are news/talk stations in state capitol markets. . . . By mixing a traditionally conservative AM commercial audience with a traditionally liberal FM public audience, Inside Politics is a more accurate barometer of grassroots political opinion than ideological-frozen audiences who are frequently driven to fever pitch by the likes of the immensely popular Rush Limbaugh.”

Perot did not respond to DuMont’s invitation. But on June 22 a Robert Feder column in the Sun-Times revealed Perot’s intent–a Sunday call-in show of his own. DuMont was beside himself; he issued his blistering statement the same day. He wouldn’t come on my show, it related by way of preamble. “However, the idea of a Sunday night radio audience that can react to the Sunday morning television ‘talking heads’ is obviously something Mr. Perot’s handlers found attractive.”

“What I’m pissed off about,” DuMont told us the other day, “is here’s a guy who first of all holds himself up as this paragon of virtue. Here’s a guy who if you want to interview him asks people to tell everything about themselves and their company. And all of a sudden either he or one of the minions around him says ‘Hey! Here’s a good idea. You’ve been looking for something to do on the radio. Look at what this guy in Chicago has been doing Sunday night. It looks like a pretty good idea.'”

Do you blame the minion? we asked him.

“The minion is the guy who got the information,” DuMont said. “But again, his job is to make himself look good and make his boss look good.”

So you’re mad at Perot?

“The buck has got to stop at the guy who makes the decision.” DuMont went on, “I feel like I have been abused by this whole process. And putting on my political analyst’s hat, looking at Perot in ’92, he took a little of what Jerry Brown was saying, a lot of what Paul Tsongas was saying, a little of what Pat Buchanan was saying. They all run out of money or run out of time–and then along comes Ross Perot. They tested the market. He bought the shelf space. That’s the essence of Ross Perot. And the fact he’s got three billion dollars and can get on television and bamboozle Larry King in God knows how many interviews has him off and running. The guy doesn’t have an original idea in his head. He rips them off from other people.”

We didn’t speak to Perot. But we reached Routman, who has equally pleasant things to say about DuMont.

“It’s absurd to say he blazed this [Sunday night] trail when I’m sure 99 percent of the people in this country have never heard of his show. To say Mr. Perot is trying to ride on his coattails is bizarre. And then he calls it a double cross. It’s a joke. Where’s the fraud? Where’s the deception? This is just obviously a ploy to get attention, and if you’re doing this story he’s obviously succeeding.”

Routman no longer works for Perot. He’s moved on and up, from law to public relations. But when he met DuMont he was Perot’s man in charge of sorting through radio offers and making recommendations.

Did you recommend Sunday night? we asked him.

“Uhhhh,” said Routman. There was the sound of air sissing through teeth as he mulled the question. “No,” he said at last. “It was all a matter of when Mr. Perot wanted to do it. When was best for him. To the extent Sunday night worked best for him, that was OK. As a matter of fact, other people in the business said Sunday night was the worst time to go on the air because the audience is so small.”

Then why did Perot choose Sunday? we wondered.

“I have no idea,” Routman said.

Inadvertently Routman put his finger on one of the reasons DuMont is so suspicious. A Sunday-night talk show is counterintuitive because the audience is so small. That’s why Inside Politics is the only national show out there. “Is it good programming? Yes,” said DuMont. “Is it great business? Not.”

But DuMont could be wrong about some of this. Kenton Morris, the general manager of Tribune Radio Networks, tells us Perot didn’t want to do a live show on Sunday night–he had to be talked into it by the Tribune. “Some of his resistance to Sunday is it takes time away from his family,” Morris said. “What he did was, he listened to what we said. We felt Sunday was the best time to do the show, because we felt there’d be a greater chance of getting the type of audience that would be receptive to Ross.”

We repeated this to DuMont.

“Well, maybe that’s true,” he said.

News Bites

From our notebook:

If you often listen to sports talk radio–and surveys say you don’t–you may have wondered about Jay Mariotti. Three weeks ago his morning show on WMVP gave way to the “Fabulous Sports Babe,” Nanci Donnellan.

‘MVP promos assured us Mariotti was simply shifting to the afternoon. Fact is, he disappeared completely. He’d run afoul of superiors at the Sun-Times who believe 1 to 3 PM is a good time for him to be working on his next column.

But finally a deal’s been struck. Mariotti, who always insisted the column came first, will be available to ‘MVP on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That’s because he isn’t obligated to write columns for Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday (though he often does).

A much bigger concern to ‘MVP is, who’s out there? According to Arbitron, the station’s been pulling an abysmal 1.0 share–that is, 1 percent of the listening audience–and it’s that high only because Steve Dahl begins the day with a 2.2. Once he leaves the air at 10 AM ‘MVP’s share drops to a 0.7. So summon the Fabulous Sports Babe! In a market with three sports-talk stations and a finite number of developmentally stunted motormouths stuck in traffic on the Edens, will she be enough? Don’t expect all three stations to be here in a year.

Kup’s publicist asked us to write about the 50th Purple Heart Cruise. We almost did. Anything in the Sun-Times would seem in-house, the Tribune would ignore the event, and something should be said about the decency of a man who’d organize such an expedition in the first place and so faithfully tend its flame.

But the boat sailed without us. To our surprise, the Tribune’s Ron Grossman went aboard and wrote a long account for Tempo of Kup on the waters. Congratulations to Grossman and Tempo editor Rick Kogan for putting merit ahead of parochialism.

“It, no doubt, will go down as the most interesting half-hour in Wrigley Field history,” writes the Tribune’s Odds & Ins columnist, Terry Armour. He’s referring to the interval from 12:45 to 1:15 PM on August 4, when Cubs players were deciding whether to strike then and there or go ahead with the afternoon’s game against the Florida Marlins.

It’s true that interesting 30 minutes at Wrigley Field are few and far between. They’re stories fathers hand down to sons. But if we delved deep into the hallowed seasons of ’89 and ’84, into tragic ’69 or historic ’45–when the Cubs won the pennant and Japan surrendered–surely we’d find a half hour as interesting. The 1908 World Series might reward research.

If today’s Cubs are as interesting as Armour says they are cleaning out their lockers and talking over a job action, WGN should telecast from the locker room.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.