Half Ethics Hero: Wisconsin Talk Radio Host John Murphy


Longtime Eau Claire, Wisconsin radio talk show John Murphy walked out of of his WAYY studio midway through his morning show this week.

He had just finished telling his listeners that he would not be chased out of the industry he loves but that, “I’m through doing this show as it is.” The sports talk show scheduled to follow Murphy started early to cover for his absence after a commercial break. The frustrated talk show host had been on Eau Claire radio for 34 years, for the past 14 years as a host of the “WAYY Morning Show,” a typical local call-in program where the  callers discussed and debated local, state and national news. Murphy quit, he said, because the discourse this year gradually stopped being civil, and had degenerated into a partisan and ugly exchange of nastiness and hate.

“It started with a lot of Trump and Clinton stuff, but now that same kind of vitriol is starting to permeate our local races and local issues,” Murphy explained.  “After a while, day after day and week after week, that starts to wear on you.”  Murphy said he knows that many of the callers hurling insults “are educated, wonderful people who have become caught up in this hurricane of hate.” He says the frustration had been building up inside him for months, and that he was beginning to engage in some of the same behavior he deplored.

“If I’m an enabler, even inadvertently, to this toxicity through the show, that troubles me,” Murphy said, saying that he felt obligated  to take a stand by saying, “There’s got to be a better way to do this.”

Anyone who has engaged even lightly in political discourse over the last decade or more has seen this phenomenon develop and accelerate during the current political campaign, with no end in sight. Factors are legion, including

…increasing political polarization,

…successful efforts by leaders, activists and politicians to use wedge issues to further divide the population by race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion age and financial status,

…the exploitation of it by political leaders, the President and both parties for short term gain,

…a near total abandonment of respect in public policy debates,

…the addition of hair-trigger race-baiting and gender-baiting to suppress conservative dissent,

…the shrill rhetoric of conservative talk radio,

…the persistent and increasingly open bias of mainstream news reporting,

…vilification of conservative views in popular culture,

…the lack of moderation in political discussions on the web,

…social media, and. of course,

…the toxic influence of Donald Trump on the culture.

One demonstration and protest by a Wisconsin radio personality isn’t going to change anything, but maybe others will follow John Murphy’s example and refuse to take part in the destruction of America’s tradition of respectful debate and civility, crucial connective tissue that holds the nation together. We have to start somewhere.

I can only award John half an Ethics Hero designation, unfortunately. You don’t walk off the job spontaneously, and harm your employer while breaching your contractual obligations. That’s self-indulgent and irresponsible, and fails the Ethics Alarms protest ethics principles by harming the innocent to send a message to the guilty.  He could have and should have discussed his decision with the station before walking out.

Nonetheless, it was a bold act that called attention to what I believe is an existential crisis for this republic, and one that will only be exacerbated by the terrible result of the election, whatever it is.

Attention must be paid.

17 thoughts on “Half Ethics Hero: Wisconsin Talk Radio Host John Murphy

  1. What makes this election so terrible is that someone is going to win. If there were a “None of the above”, that’s where I’d cast my vote.

    • None of the candidates have earned my vote to be President, they are all walking disasters for the United States and the World.

      I’m still searching for what might turn out to be that one thing, that one redeeming quality for me, that will outweigh all the piles and piles of negatives for the candidates. Sure that could make me a one issue voter, but at this point in time that might be my only ethical “out” and right now I think I’d be okay with that.

      You can rest assured that I will continue to pay attention to what the candidates say right up to election day and I’ll do my civic duty. I will vote my conscience regardless of what anyone else says I should or shouldn’t do – this is my vote – I’ll do as I please with it. Immediately after I cast my vote for President I’ll be the one running full speed out the door of the polling station to release the uncontrollable projectile vomit into the surrounding bushes. I’m guessing I won’t be the only one leaning over those bushes whether figuratively or literally, at least I hope I’m not the only one.

      I have ZERO hope for a positive outcome for the United States after this election is over. My only real hope now is that I’m proven wrong.

    • Probably not, OB. The “two-party system”, which is neither protected nor defined Constitutionally (and in damned few cases, statutorily), has, as it’s sole purpose the protection of said system and the 2 parties involved…nothing more, nothing less.

  2. Jack said, “it was a bold act that called attention to what I believe is an existential crisis for this republic, and one that will only be exacerbated by the terrible result of the election, whatever it is. Attention must be paid.”

    I agree.

    Unfortunately the focus is on divisional hate. As long as we have “leaders” that continue to inspire this divisional hate, the hate will drag the United States into the abyss of wide spread civil unrest or worse.

    • I kinda wonder how these guys got to be leaders in the first place? Jesse Jackson’s womanizing make Bill Clinton look like a choir-boy. Al Sharpton is a short skinny little wimp with a taste for Armani suits and a voice that sounds like he’s gargling. Both of these Reverends have the morals of alley cats. Obama was a South Chicago Community Organizer whose only real skill, according to Joe Biden is showering. Why would anybody follow these contemptible low-lifes?

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