Longtime radio show host Bob Flaherty off WHMP


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    Bob Flaherty edits a '"Rant" that will air Monday.

Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2021 8:59:52 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Bob Flaherty, a WHMP radio personality for more a decade, says he’s been fired after going on a “couple of rants” on the air, including one in which he spoke about mass shootings in the U.S. and punishment for the shooters.

“I was fired. From what I can understand, this came directly from corporate, which is Saga Communications,” he said. Flaherty said he believes the termination “had to do with a couple of rants, I guess you would call them, over the last few weeks.”

Mike Ekblom, the general manager of Northampton Radio Group, which includes WHMP, said he couldn’t comment on Flaherty’s departure, but said his last day was in late March.

“As far as Bob goes, I’m not really going to comment on kind of internal employee stuff for a couple of reasons, but I think it was just time for a change,” Ekblom said.

A call to Saga Communications was not immediately returned on Thursday afternoon.

Flaherty, 71, of South Hadley, worked at WHMP for more than a decade. Before becoming host of the morning show, he worked as a reporter and columnist at the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Flaherty said a lot about local and national news on his show, but he maintains he never said the F-word.

“The biggest miracle of all,” he said, “is that I did this for 11 years, and I never said the F-word on air.”

Ekblom confirmed that what Flaherty said about never using the F-word on air was likely true.

“I think I can confirm Bob never said the F-word on the air,” he said.

Flaherty said his firing did not come as a shock to him.

“I knew I was taking risks,” he said. “I didn’t want to get fired, but I knew it was inevitable. I had fun. I have no regrets. I didn’t think I would make it past the first year. This is kind of cool — I got almost 11 years out of it.”

Flaherty’s show has been taken down from the WHMP website, Ekblom said, but Flaherty sent the Gazette clips of an episode he says led to his termination.

In one clip, he spoke about recent mass shootings in the U.S. and punishment for the shooters. “Oh baby, you gotta hang these bastards,” he said. “I’m against the death penalty in all kinds of situations, but not this stuff.”

He later added, “That’s the premise we’re talking about this morning — can you be a liberal and be in favor of the death penalty? A lot of people have described what’s going on in the United States right now as wild, wild west. OK, fine. In the wild, wild west, you got hung.”

When asked if Flaherty’s departure was because of his “rants,” Ekblom declined to comment. “I’m not going to comment on the decision,” he said.

Flaherty praised his former co-workers in Northampton.

“I have nothing but respect and love for my colleagues in Northampton,” he said. “These are great, great people. I’ve enjoyed every minute.”

Flaherty said he doubts he will stay in radio and said he is currently working on a book. “I am writing the great American novel. I’m sure other people have said this. But in my case it’s true.” In 2005, Flaherty published the novel “Puff” with Harper Collins.

Other changes

Removing Flaherty from the air is one of a few recent changes at WHMP.

In the mornings, the station now plays “This Morning with Gordon Deal,” a nationally syndicated show hosted by Deal, who used to work for the Wall Street Journal.

“Ultimately, my goal is to have live, local programming back on the radio station ideally from 7 (a.m.) to 9 (a.m.),” Ekblom said. His plan is to cut from the Gordon Deal show into local stories. “We’re building that out now,” he said.

Additionally, Thom Hartmann’s show was moved to the late afternoon, and a new show, “The Grace Curley Show,” plays midday. Curley is a conservative radio host and a Boston Herald columnist.

“We thought we would give it a shot kind of with the idea of bringing in a different voice and a different viewpoint,” Ekblom said, saying that Curley was a conservative voice. “Maybe expanding out listenership a little bit. We’ve been doing that for three days, and I think the jury is still out on whether or not that’s going to be something effective or not.”

“The Grace Curley Show” started airing on WHMP earlier this week, and the station has gotten feedback about the change already. “We’ve gotten a decent amount of calls,” Ekblom said. “I’m kind of assessing how that’s going. I haven’t really made my mind up yet.”

More changes to the station are likely to come, he said. “Although I don’t have anything in mind, I’m waiting to see how these current changes shake out a little bit,” Ekblom said.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

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