HUMOR AS A WEAPON
As far as real-world effects The King of Rochester’s blog has had, he recounted in our pre-interview that he once ran into one of his celebrity targets at an outdoor festival. He asked the radio host if she wouldn’t mind taking a photo with him. To hear The King tell the story, it took three people to hold her back from tearing him apart.
In our formal interview, The King continued talking about the effects he has had on the objects of his criticism:
“Several times on the Brother Wease Show, they've gone on harangues about ... Brother Wease had won some type of radio award this year. I made a blog called ‘Five Reasons Why He Shouldn't Be in The Radio Hall of Fame,’ and he just went into a big half-an-hour harangue about my blog, what a liar I am, there’s no truth in it, and then his co-host—his ‘brilliant’ co-host Deanna King—goes, ‘It's pure evil.’
Yeah, they've gone after me several times, especially on the Brother Wease Show.”
Since starting his blog in 2015, The King has built his platform into a slingshot meant to deliver a particular kind of payload and built a fanbase for his brand of entertainment. Had his blog not existed, it’s doubtful the woman who’d had an affair with radio conservative Bob Lonsberry would have known what to do with her story. She certainly couldn’t have found a platform more specific to her needs.
And it’s mind-blowing to imagine what damning evidence could turn up if The King's formula were repeated elsewhere, in different cities, by others like himself.
I asked The King if he’d ever been sued, considering the resources of his adversaries. He answered:
"Never. One time I had gotten a threat to take one blog down. That was a woman named [name excluded]. She had just published a book where she had been dating a guy that she knew was a drug runner and a drug dealer. She was a respected newswoman at one time. She's no longer in the news business for reasons that I don't really want to get into. I think I know why.
But she made a book, doing the rounds all over iHeart radio to promote the book, and I wrote a blog calling her out on it. I said, ‘Why are you bragging in a book, and boasting, and trying to make money off a decision where you could have put your kids in danger?’
Unfortunately, I got a thing from her lawyer a couple of weeks later saying I am not to contact her—which I haven't—and she told me to take the blog down completely or (there’d be) legal action. I said, ‘This is freedom of speech,’ this is based on a book she had written. But to avoid further complications, I took it down, and I wrote another blog about freedom of speech.”
Considering the heckling nature of some of The King’s jabs, it would be hard to argue that the "freedom of speech" argument isn't sometimes pushed to its limits. What is clear, however, even just using the example of Rochester protests and demonstrations, humor meant to provoke big business isn’t something that gets points for subtlety.
ALINSKY IN ROCHESTER
Saul Alinsky's greatest joke will be forever linked with The King’s city of Rochester. The prank, however, never left the drawing board. Some people are even under the mistaken belief that it was pulled off, probably considering how Alinsky included it, for posterity, in his book Rules for Radicals.
Extremely destructive race riots in 1964 were the backdrop to Alinsky’s threatening the use of the prank. Rochester clergy invited Alinsky to work his brand of magic to quell the violence locally; the primary expectation was that Alinsky could force equal employment opportunities from industry.
Xerox—one of the area’s largest employers, along with Kodak—met with Alinsky representatives and agreed to train job applicants. Arrangements could have gone as smoothly with Kodak but did not.
Kodak first responded by sending a representative who negotiated a pact, following which Kodak reneged. They claimed their representative who had signed the agreement hadn’t had the authority to do so. Because Kodak didn’t come to the bargaining table in good faith, Alinsky felt empowered to enter territory uniquely his; he was giddy to employ negotiating techniques beyond Kodak’s experience designed to unnerve the company.
The prank Alinsky cooked up would supposedly embarrass the city’s elite by attacking them at their philharmonic at the Eastman Theater. In actuality, it was the threat of the prank that was meant to have an effect.
The concept for Alinsky’s prank, in all its crudity, as explained his own words:
“I suggested that we might buy one hundred seats for one of Rochester’s symphony concerts. We would select a concert in which the music was relatively quiet. The hundred blacks who would be given the tickets would first be treated to a three-hour pre-concert dinner in the community, in which they would be fed nothing but baked beans, and lots of them; then the people would go to the symphony hall—with obvious consequences. Imagine the scene when the action began! The concert would be over in the first movement! (If this is a Freudian slip—so be it!)."
Alinsky was so enamored of bodily functions as part of a prank that he even thought of a variation to be tried in Chicago; he imagined black protestors could monopolize urinals in O’Hare Airport to discomfort travelers. The idea was to force the City of Chicago to the bargaining table.
BRIEF WINDOW IN TIME
My interview with The King took place directly after he posted the blog that contained detailed evidence of Lonsberry’s affair and before Lonsberry had an opportunity to respond to the evidence. Lonsberry had been on vacation and off the air when the blog was released. The King was expectantly, and maybe with some trepidation, awaiting blowback from Lonsberry upon his return from vacation.
Evidence presented in The King’s blog included a detailed description of the Lonsberry affair, screenshots of the lovers' text conversations, and lewd photos that the radio host had texted.
I asked The King if he expected that Lonsberry would respond. It seemed to me there was a possibility the radio host would make a tactical decision to ignore the blog. The King replied:
"Oh, he probably will. And I have a feeling that it'll be aggressive, and he'll blame me, blame the lady because he seemed almost sorrowful if those (comments) are really him on the blog. He seemed almost sorrowful for his decisions.
But I am sure that maybe Wease and other evil—and I say evil—people within the station will say, ‘Come back at him,’ maybe not sue me but smear me, and I have a feeling that me and the lady, and some of the other ladies, this is what they were fearing, that they would get smeared.”
Two aspects of the story alluded to by The King in the above quote haven’t been touched on yet:
1) That Lonsberry may have responded anonymously to evidence of the affair while still on vacation, in the comments section beneath The King’s blog; and
2) That additional women were waiting to come forward to make charges against Lonsberry depending on the first woman's treatment.
The reply by an anonymous writer in the comments section of The King’s blog certainly seemed to me as if Lonsberry could have written it. I believe The King saw it the same way. I asked The King if he knew that the anonymous writer was Lonsberry. The King answered:
“You never can tell. I had the ability one time to ping—that's when Myspace was around—I had a thing where you could ping where people were at least coming from. If I still had that ability and it's showing up in Mount Morris, at least it will show the town where it's coming from.”
The anonymous writer expressed, in part, in the comments section:
“I ask you to take this down in hopes of protecting my family, completely innocent people. Please don’t help me bring them pain. There are no excuses for me. You’re right in your condemnation.”
The argument made by the anonymous writer against the Lonsberry family being exposed to the affair was an argument repeated elsewhere, but there was also pushback. Some observers of the situation felt The King had done something underhanded in exposing the affair. Some others felt that Lonsberry had reaped what he’d sown.
Of those who sided against Lonsberry, notably, was Kimberly Ray. Ray, while no longer employed by a radio station as an on-air personality. She had known Lonsberry as a co-worker while the same station employed both, had known The King since her radio days and had spoken with additional Lonsberry accusers who hadn’t yet come forward.
THE INDOMITABLE KIMBERLY RAY
Kimberly Ray exposes anyone who professes to be a fan of hers to the possible charge of being racist. What is more objectively true than any racism in her is that she has been reliably politically incorrect for years in a town where a verbal misstep can cost you.
Ray experienced cancel culture years before most others have. She lost her employment twice at two different radio stations for things said on air. Once for a comment perceived to be homophobic (2014), and once for a comment perceived to be racist (2020). She is currently a podcaster.
I’ll include two Ray comments from her podcast when news of the Lonsberry affair broke. The first comment has to do with alleged additional accusers. The King had suggested to me in our interview that such women were waiting in the wings, but he hadn’t gone into detail. Ray got into specifics with her co-host, Chad Hummel.
Ray discussed a person she referred to as "woman number three," who Ray said hadn’t been in an affair with Lonsberry and had gone out of her way to avoid him. While Ray recounted what she had told her, woman number three actively commented on Youtube's live chat and didn't disagree with Ray's interpretation.
Ray: He (Lonsberry) kept on and kept on, and he wouldn't be told no. And let me just tell you, he walked in her office one day—and this was a story that she told me. She had never met him, “Loonsberry”—he walked in her office because there was some big event that was happening—and that's all I'm gonna say, “big event”—and he walked in her office...
Hummel: Where at work, her work?
Ray: ...at an office, not at the radio station, but it was at an office because there was big planning going on about this big event, and WHAM was involved. And so he walks into this office, and she had a McDonald's cup sitting on her desk—and again, they'd never met. They had talked on the phone many, many times about the planning and preparation and things that were going into, and how the live broadcast was going to be handled, and yada yada. And she picked up her McDonald’s cup to take a drink as he was walking in and he said, "Man, can you suck on me like you suck on that straw?"
Hummel: Wow. Shocking actually.
Ray: He'd never met the woman in person, but he'd talked to her on the phone.
Ray went on to say that the woman feared that in not reciprocating Lonsberry’s interest, she might be the one to find themselves burned.
Ray: …but this woman did not reciprocate at all, number three. She was afraid that somehow since she wasn't reciprocating that even though he had sent her numerous dick pics and wanted her to send him pictures and since she wasn't having any of it, she was afraid that he'd turn it around and somehow make it seem like she was the bad person. She was afraid it was going to blow up the whole deal of the project that they were working on.
Ray also had an opinion about Lonsberry’s official response. Lonsberry, once he’d returned to the air after vacation, released a column. He didn’t specifically address any charges against him but claimed to be suffering from mental illness. Ray read the tactic cynically with her typical no-BS attitude. Before she began to dismantle Lonsberry’s column point by point, she opened the topic this way,
Ray: First, you (Lonsberry) start on Twitter with the Bible verses, right? “Blah blah blah blah and God will forgive.” Alright. Ok. So, Chad, that didn't work, right? The Bible verses. OK, that didn’t work, been done, overused, we gotta think up something else, didn't save him, gotta go to the next level, right? So, he (Lonsberry) puts out a blog (column) today, "I walked a letter to my doctor." OK, no one's going to believe that. No one. Like it’s 1863 and like he's hopping on the back of a horse, pony-express (style), and delivering the letter to his doctor...
Hummel: It's the Trail of Tears.
Ray: It is the Trail of Tears (laughs) ... and in this blog is filled with every excuse you can freaking imagine.
Hummel: Let's hear some of ‘em.
Ray: You wanna kitchen-sink this bitch? Let's do it up right.
The episode continued with various criticisms of what, judged by Ray, was Lonsberry’s tactic of playing the victim.
LONSBERRY’S OFFICIAL RESPONSE
Lonsberry’s formal response in his column was, in my opinion, effective, notwithstanding my appreciation for Ray’s opinion and her comparatively deep knowledge of the matter.
Despite the mixed feelings I may have about Lonsberry, I couldn’t imagine he could have been more confessional in his statement; While he didn’t explicitly acknowledge The King, details of the affair, or the woman, Lonsberry asked for sympathy based on his failings, which he outlined and were numerous.
Some key excerpts from Lonsberry’s column:
“I was passed between family members as an infant, was molested in elementary school by a step-father’s brother and in middle school by a businessman from town, and was back with my mother when I was 12, the year I tried to kill myself.”
“It’s been a life swinging back and forth between order and chaos, with one day’s crutch becoming the next day’s handicap, coping mechanisms becoming deadly traps, the good sought being displaced by the evil done. Jekyll and Hyde in a dead-sprint to predominate.”
“Hell is a fire of your own building, which you heap on the heads of others. And I find myself in the last quarter of life having destroyed the life of everyone who has ever loved me.”
I couldn’t help but take the confessions at face value.
What might come next could be almost anything, but that is beyond the scope of this article. Anything, seemingly, could include that:
- groups that have been gunning for Lonsberry’s head effectively make use of his accuser’s charges
- additional women come forward
- Lonsberry’s audience begins to see the god-fearing family man as a hypocrite
The one thing that is clear is that The King and his low-budget platform had—in historically original fashion—demonstrated the ability to draw blood from formidable and well-financed adversaries.