Originally Published: September 13, 2004
The morning, the new Larry Elder Show, syndicated by Warner Bros., premiered with hopes that the charismatic and controversial radio talk show host can expand both his horizons and the horizons of TV viewers with content targeted to exploration of moral issues and personal conflicts. Some TV trivia mavens may remember Elder as the host of "Moral Court," which was cancelled several years ago after one season. But that show continued to do so well in the few markets where it stayed on the air in repeats, encouraging Warner to put Elder back on the air in a different format.
Larry is tall, attractive and clearly dominates a room, as he did when he joined me at Michael's. His daily radio program on KABC in Los Angeles and syndicated to 35 markets has established Larry as an outspoken conservative who has been a staunch supporter of President Bush and his Iraqi policies. Although we spent much of our time discussing politics and debating issues we agreed should be more a part of the political dialogue, Larry promised his new program will focus instead on uplifting, moral and human stories. The one hour daily show "will be about people not having excuses in life, about living up to responsibilities, and about showing that hard work pays off," Larry told me. "If you watch most of the talk shows, it's like watching the same program. We have a responsibility to talk about the real issues and moral dilemmas people have in their lives, to explore them and offer positive role models. For us to be morally neutral today is a huge problem."
Larry refers to "American Idol" winner Fantasia as an example of a girl who "made a series of bad choices in her life and has an opportunity to be a positive role model, but has not yet been. She should use the opportunity to communicate to youth," Larry suggests, "and explain that many of the choices she made with her life were the wrong ones." Larry explains "the number one social problem and phenomenon is children having children. Seventy percent of Black children are born out of wedlock, welfare has been a horror, and men are having children and not taking responsibility for them. It's like a neutron bomb has been dropped on the country. It's okay," Larry adds, "to talk to people who are troubled and need moral guidance. I have a set of sensibilities and resolution skills that I will use to help people deal with the real issues they have in their lives and that viewers can identify with."
Larry points to the 630 cases he resolved during the run of "Moral Court." "Give me a situation," he laughs, "and I'll give you a case and a resolution."
Larry will avoid the discussions on his television talk show that have made him one of Los Angeles' most controversial radio hosts.
Larry's conservative politics are unusual for an African-American, but his underlying beliefs about personal responsibility and moral imperatives are rooted in his upbringing. His father, who's now 89, left home in the eighth grade, becoming a cook and railroad porter and finally escaping the "Jim Crow" south of Athens, Georgia by joining the Marines. Returning home after the military, he was confronted by a "Colored Only" door at the unemployment office. "He asked what he could do about it," Larry smiles, "and responded by working his way to California on the railroads and then going to night school for his GED. He became a janitor and he and my mother (who is 81) always taught me about personal pride, responsibility and moral choices."
Larry says he "came close to running against Barbara Boxer for the Senate, and if the TV show goes well and I'm in the game for a few years, I may run either for the Senate or for Governor. But," he adds, "that's a long way off, and the goal now is to create another voice on TV and to help people deal with their real life concerns and issues. We have a deeper purpose with our show, to confront people about the personal choices they're making and the compromises they've made in their lives. It's about moral and human issues, taking control of your life, and gaining positive direction."