Renegade Radio

A Miami radio station makes waves — short waves, that is

Mas Canosa was the kingpin of expatriate broadcasting. He had been a commentator on the CIA-backed Radio Swan, which broadcast coded messages to invading forces before the Bay of Pigs in 1961. He was also instrumental in launching Radio Martí — the U.S. government station that has lobbed shortwave sallies at Cuba for the past two decades — and he chaired its advisory board. But he had only so much influence over its content. "Radio Martí has strict government guidelines about what kind of programs it can put on," White explains. "And the Cuban American National Foundation wanted a forum where it could promote its own agenda without limits."

White found Mas Canosa's program, Voz de la Fundación — a spot on Radio Clarín in the Dominican Republic — and the calls for anti-Castro revolt began. The following year White was approached by Diego Medina, propaganda director for Alpha 66 — an organization that was, at the time, proudly bringing violence and mayhem to Cuban soil. White also helped Medina beam his appeals for bedlam directly to the island.

Before long, White was flooded with requests for airtime from prominent Cuban exiles who believed Castro's regime was on the verge of crumbling and that their words might nudge him toward ruin. At the time, most Cuban radios received shortwave.

Jeff White's wife, Tais, and client Pedro Penaranda record a 
program in WRMI's Fontainebleau Park studio, a spot 
frequented by disgruntled expatriates
Jeff White's wife, Tais, and client Pedro Penaranda record a program in WRMI's Fontainebleau Park studio, a spot frequented by disgruntled expatriates

White eventually teamed up with Voz de la Fundación's technical advisor — Kiko Espinosa — and two other partners to launch WRMI in June 1994. "Since then," says White, "just about anybody who wants to broadcast to Cuba comes to us."

WRMI's Cuban clients have spanned the gamut from the CIA-backed La Voz del Cid to Radio Roquero, which beamed heavy metal to the Caribbean isle. Castro's regime has responded to such fare by trying to jam the station. But WRMI's signals have continued to reach large swaths of the island.

Within months of WRMI's opening, right-wing extremists and radical Christian sects were lining up behind the Cubans to buy airtime. Most were seeking a platform where they could flog their conspiracy theories without interference. "These people think the government is trying to control everything," explains Glenn Hauser, who hosts World of Radio, a program focused on shortwave broadcasting. "They like shortwave because you pick the signal up directly from a transmitter, which means there's less chance for it to be controlled."

One of the first programs to air on WRMI was Voice of Freedom. The host, Ernst Zündel, penned books with titles like The Hitler We Love and Why. On his show he claimed that few, if any, Jews were killed by the Third Reich and that SS officers were poisoned by American and Israeli soldiers. White kicked Zündel off the air in 1995. "He was offending a significant number of people," White explains. "We decided it just wasn't good PR — although we got almost as many comments from listeners saying we should keep him on as we did saying he should go."

Around the time Zündel left, WRMI picked up the Overcomer, a program produced by South Carolina cult leader R.G. Stair, which has aired sporadically on the station ever since. From his shortwave pulpit, Stair rails against gays and calls the pope "the great whore." He has also warned that a nuclear holocaust is looming, and urged listeners to sell their belongings and seek refuge at his 74-acre Walterboro farm. And many have.

Stair was followed by Pete Peters, who called for homosexuals to be executed; Mark Koernke, who believed the U.S. government was corralling people into concentration camps; and William Cooper, who said President Dwight Eisenhower had signed a treaty allowing aliens to abduct humans.

But none of their programs raised quite as much of a ruckus as Herald of Truth, hosted by Bob Hallstrom, a leading voice of the racist Christian Identity movement. One eight-part Herald of Truth series, called the Esau/Edom Connection, aired on WRMI several times over the years.

Hallstrom kicked off the first part by saying, "As we look at the kingdom of God, we need to understand that there is a war going on between God's people and God's enemies." He then spent the rest of the show plodding through arcane biblical passages.

Only later did it become clear that the enemy was, as Hallstrom once put it, "the satanic Cainite Jews and their ill-witted followers [who] lie to you, cheat you, and cloud your racial vision so that you fail to see the enemy that walks among you and ... afflicts you with all of your grief and woes...."

During the final Esau/Edom show, Hallstrom quoted from a volume called A Racial Program for the Twentieth Century, which details a plot by Jewish Communists to destroy America by helping blacks "rise in prominence" so they can "intermarry with the whites."

Hallstrom, who told listeners the book was written by a man named Israel Cohen in 1912, seemed unaware it was an anti-Semitic forgery. "Now I don't know about you," he groaned, "but I find that kind of blood-chilling."

Mike Hallimore, who leads the Christian Identity movement and directs Herald of Truth's production, says he turned to shortwave after trying out AM stations. "It's less expensive, and we're reaching more of our people," he explains. "We can also air our ideas openly, even if they're not PC."

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