Talk Show Host Pushing Back Against Criticism as Russian Probe Continues
By Barrington M. Salmon
(TriceEdneyWire.com) On Tuesday, May 29, 2018, the life of political scientist Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III, took what he calls an exciting new turn in his radio career. His show debuted on Russian-owned Sputnik Radio. He’ll hold court during the evening drive, from 6pm to 7pm.
Going forward, he and his guests will discuss a range of issues, mostly of a political nature, five days a week. Given the current political climate, there will be no shortage of topics to unpack, he joked.
But some of Leon’s friends and colleagues are not laughing. The fact that he accepted a job at Sputnik – a Russian-owned station – has brought congratulations from some friends and colleagues, as well as concern and consternation from most who know him.
“One of the things I have found very interesting is that as I’ve told friends of mine about the show – and visiting Iran – they’ve asked, ‘Why you doing that? Man, you better be careful.’ Careful of what? Why is it that there are so many of us afraid to reach out to other avenues and venues? he asked. “People say, ‘Ooh, you’re working for Russian government. Noooo,” Leon said. “What Malcolm X and Frantz Fanon understood is that we would have to do is internationalize our discussions. What I see here is an opportunity to do that.”
“We’re the radio side of Russia TV. I used to do a lot of RT,” he continued. “I found their news to be much, much better than American news. They do their homework and the segments are longer. I used to do MSNBC and CNN. The segments were shorter and it was much more of soundbite dialogue as opposed to analysis and exchange.”
Leon said he understands why people are conflicted about his new job and the hysteria surrounding Russia.
“I think there are a number of reasons,” he explained. “You take it all the way back to the Cold War and the way the US portrays the Russian government. We were indoctrinated as kids. In Rockie and Bullwinkle, Boris Badenov and Natasha were the bad spies. We as children were taught that he was that voice and character of threat.”
Leon’s colleague, Garland Nixon, a co-host of Faultlines, agrees.
“I really enjoy it because it’s a unique paradigm. Usually the media brings people on or develop fake adversarial situations,” said Nixon, a retired law enforcement official at a major law enforcement department in Maryland. “This is not a false paradigm – and we don’t have to be in absolute agreement. It is truly amazing how many people really love our show. This is very much an anti-status quo, anti-establishment show. I think our country is very much polarized. It would be better to have non-adversarial conversations. The media and political parties are comfortable with where things are. But we would be better served if we had conversation.”
Leon is looking forward to a strictly news show.
“My (Mindia Gavasheli) is a true journalist so he wanted more of a news focused show. I’ll be focusing on the issue of the day. I’m really, really looking forward to doing this. The structure is definitely making me a better host.”
Leon is an author, columnist, lecturer, former professor at Howard University and helms another radio program, #InsideTheIssues on Sirius/XM Channel 126.
Since President Donald Trump took office on Jan 20, 2018, his administration has been embroiled in a FBI-Department of Justice probe led by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III seeking to ascertain if Trump campaign and administration officials colluded with the Kremlin. Mueller is also looking into whether Russians meddled in America’s 2016 presidential election.
To date, the investigation into likely links between the Russian officials and the Trump campaign, Mueller has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 19 individuals and three companies. Five of the 19 people are tied to Trump and three have so far pled guilty. The rest are Russians accused of meddling in the election.
Leon pushed back hard against the idea that either he or Sputnik are pawns of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And he disputed the mainstream narrative of events surrounding this issue.
“Throw in the alleged hacking,” he said. “I did an interview with Ray McGovern, who is part of an organization called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He and his group are resisting this narrative that CIA is always right.”
McGovern is a veteran CIA officer turned political activist and co-founder of Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He was removed from a Congressional hearing almost two weeks ago while protesting the confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA director because of her involvement in torture.
“If we’re going to yell and scream about Russia, we can’t have an honest conversation without acknowledging that they used our playbook and used computers to make it easier,” Leon said.
He spoke of Bill Binney, a prominent intelligence official with the National Security Agency who became a whistleblower and critic of the agency who resigned from the agency in 2001 in protest.
“He was the director of IT for NSA. He is on record explaining that this whole Russia hacking thing is a fraud. He said it’s an inside job,” said Leon. “He looked at the data and download speeds and said it defies the laws of physics. He said it’s physical impossible to have downloaded this volume of information.”
“This is a distraction. They have to have a boogie man – like Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and others. Trump and his crew are definitely guilty of colluding with Russians and trying to get to win the elections. He’s illegitimate because of the Crosshair program and voter suppression. Did the Russians engage in hacking? No, they don’t have to hack …”
Leon said one of his guiding principles that guide him is ‘does it make sense?’
“In this case, no,” Leon said. “As a political scientist and not political operative, when I listen to the diatribes, isn’t America guilty of the same things? Algebriac equations have to have balance. If we want to have honest argument and assessment of the information, America did the same thing. They would go to newspapers and buy off reporters. They created the landscape by planting false stories. Kermit Roosevelt and Gen. Norman Swartzkopf’s father. America did the same thing in Panama, Equador, Iran and Chile.”
Leon said he’s proud of being looked at and invited to be a part of the Sputnik Radio team. He joins Nixon, Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackman as hosts or co-hosts.
“This is bigger than me. Why is Sputnik reaching out to so many brothers who aren’t Paris Dennard, Michael Steele, and Armstrong Williams?” he asked. “Black people are running scared. The questions we have to ask ourselves as African Americans is if we’re going to limit our perspectives and solutions within the context of our oppressors or seek solutions where ever we find them.”
“We are so desiring to be liked that we have no interest in being respected and we damn sure don’t want to feared. We are so focused on being American, whatever that means. We have spent so much time developing the near position, as (veteran Civil Rights activist) Tom Porter describes it. We want to be near positions of power but don’t want power itself.”