When Ron Reagan Jr. called into WFLA-AM 970's top-rated AM Tampa Bay show Wednesday to discuss the book he wrote about his dad, My Father at 100: A Memoir, co-host Tedd Webb couldn't resist saying what was on his mind.
So he called the youngest son of America's 40th president an "a--hole" in mid interview.
"This has nothing to do with political discourse … it's about family," Webb, 61, told the St. Petersburg Times. A staunch conservative, he said it was the first time he ever used such a profanity on air in a radio career stretching back to the mid '60s.
"He's a little spoiled Hollywood brat who … has a history of making his father look bad," he added. "It hit a nerve."
Webb apologized on air Thursday. Reagan, who was traveling, could not be reached for comment.
Steve Versnick, program director at Clear Channel's WFLA-AM, WDAE-AM 620 and WHNZ-AM 1250, said he had never heard that expletive used on WFLA before, and he doesn't expect it to happen again. Webb won't be disciplined for the incident, he added.
Webb's co-host, Jack Harris, said he loved the fight.
"It defined Tedd as a no-nonsense kind of guy," Harris said. "He's about the most politically incorrect guy on the planet."
Harris also noted that Reagan stopped his publicist from cutting off the interview. Reagan also uttered the word later in the interview when he talked about differences of opinion among his family, which he said resulted in amicable arguments.
"We wouldn't be calling each other a--hole, for instance, because we have different opinions," Reagan said.
The younger Reagan has upset some conservatives with his book, which suggests that President Reagan was showing signs of Alzheimer's disease early in his first term. It is not a new claim — 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl made similar observations in her memoir — but critics, including elder brother Michael Reagan, have accused the self-admitted liberal Ron Reagan of profiting by tarnishing his father's legacy.
On Wednesday, when Ron Reagan tried explaining to Harris that he wasn't saying his father had dementia in the White House, Webb challenged him, saying, "If I was your brother Michael, I would kick your a-- from here to next Tuesday."
Sounding bemused, Reagan noted the host was criticizing his book without actually reading it; the two traded barbs before Webb countered with "well, you're an a--hole, how's that?" Later, after Reagan playfully suggested they might meet personally to settle the issue, Webb cracked, "The day I get my a-- whipped by a ballerina (Reagan once was a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet), it will be a long day in hell."
The Federal Communications Commission fines radio stations only in reaction to complaints, and it has already said the use of profanities such as "a--," "damn," and "b----" were found not to be indecent or obscene. A spokesman at the FCC could not recall a case involving the word Webb used.
And though some may talk of toning down extreme rhetoric in media these days, Webb isn't one of them.
"If I disagree with you, I'm going to get in your face," he said. "I'll never use that word again (on air). But if (Reagan) comes on my show I'll tell him what a d--- he is."
Eric Deggans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8521. See the Feed blog at www.tampabay.com/blogs/media.