The last named might have raised a few eyebrows given that Lehrer, an opponent of the war in Iraq, is seen as a liberal, and also because public radio and television have been a favorite target of the right.
But Lehrer is also regarded by just about everybody as scrupulously fair and balanced.
Podhoretz wrote that the radio host is “certainly on the opposite side of the ideological fence from me. But every morning from 10 to 12 he puts on a sensational interview show with amazing range.”
For associate producer Jim Colgan, the show gives him an automatic introduction in social situations. “If I’m at a dinner party, and I don’t know anyone, there’ll be at least two or three people who would know the show, if not be huge fans of Brian,” he said. “It’s a thrill.”
There’s little doubt that powerful people listen to the show. A couple of years ago, Senator Hilary Clinton, who was listening in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home, called to protest what she saw as an outrageous claim by a caller concerning protocol during the years she and her husband were in the White House.
In other contexts, people like screen actor Paul Newman and the late anchorman Peter Jennings have made it known that they were listening and were fans.
WNYC, which has an estimated 1.1 million regular listeners, has no particular figures for “The Brian Lehrer Show,” but the station does know that it is its most listened to program on the Web.
A key to the show’s success, Colgan believes, is that it’s not looking at the commercial bottom line. “It more mission based,” he said.
(“The Brian Lehrer Show” is broadcast weekdays on WNYC at 10-12 noon at 93.9FM and AM 820 and on www.wnyc.org.)