Michael Savage, the incendiary radio host who last week characterized nearly every child with autism as “a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out,” said in a telephone interview on Monday that he stood by his remarks and had no intention of apologizing to those advocates and parents who have called for his firing over the matter.
“My main point remains true,” Mr. Savage, whose radio audience ranks in size behind only those of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, said in the interview. “It is an overdiagnosed medical condition. In my readings, there is no definitive medical diagnosis for autism.”
On the July 16 installment of his program, which is broadcast every weekday, Mr. Savage suggested that “99 percent of the cases” of autism were a result of lax parenting. He told his audience: “They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life.’ ” Among the other admonitions he felt children with autism should be hearing, he said, were: “‘Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’ ”
Asked Monday if he actually believed that 99 out of every 100 cases of autism were misdiagnosed, Mr. Savage conceded that figure was “a little high.” He added, “It was hyperbole.”
But he said he was proud to have prodded discussion on the subject, and planned to give over his entire show on Monday — broadcast live from Northern California from 3 to 6 p.m., Pacific time — to parents and other callers who wished to disagree with him and to educate him.
While Mr. Savage’s program is heard on more than 350 stations nationally, his comments on autism were widely disseminated via e-mail on Friday by Media Matters for America, an advocacy group that dedicates itself, at least in part, to “correcting conservative misinformation in the media.”
Some critics were not inclined to wait until Monday’s edition of Mr. Savage’s show, “The Savage Nation,” to register their disagreement with him.
Late Monday afternoon, Aflac, the insurance company, announced it was withdrawing all advertising from Mr. Savage’s show. “We understand that radio hosts pick on any number of targets,” Laura Kane, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement, before adding that Aflac considered “his recent comments about autistic children to be both inappropriate and insensitive.”
In New York City, Autism United, a coalition of organizations that advocate on behalf of children with autism and provide services to them, staged a protest Monday outside the studios of WOR (710 AM), which carries Mr. Savage’s program weeknights from 6 to 9 p.m., Eastern time. (MORE)
BACKGROUND: In November 2007, CAIR called on radio listeners of all faiths to ask companies that advertise on Michael Savage’s nationally-syndicated radio program to drop their support after he screamed attacks on Muslims, Islam and the Quran during his October 29, 2007, program.
SEE: CAIR: Advertiser Campaign Costs Savage $1 Million (AP)