Neal Larson and Julie Mason explain their sudden resignation from KID Newsradio
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IDAHO FALLS — The hosts of one of eastern Idaho’s most popular morning talk radio programs suddenly resigned Monday morning.
Neal Larson and Julie Mason, hosts of “The Neal Larson Show” on KID Newsradio, say a disagreement with management over how to cover COVID-19 and Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order forced them to walk away from their highly-listened to political talk program.
“We had a difference of philosophy with leadership in the company about how we were covering aspects of the stay-at-home order and the lockdown. We took issue with that,” Larson says. “We didn’t walk into work this morning thinking this was going to be our last show. We didn’t anticipate this, but when we saw the email, took issue with it and had a conversation later, we realized it was time.”
Larson is referring to an email he and Mason received from Richard Mecham, the owner of KID Newsradio and its parent company, Rich Broadcasting. Mecham detailed 10 examples of what he said he heard on the show last week that were concerning to him. They included the personalities mentioning a “mutiny” against Little’s stay-home order, an invitation for listeners to ignore the order because it isn’t being enforced and other statements he deemed were “dangerous.”
The email was sent late Sunday night and the duo saw it before their show Monday. Once they were off the air, they had a call with Mecham “that didn’t go well,” Larson said. They resigned, cleaned out their desks and left the building.
Larson and Mason stand by their comments and admit that while they may have said “mutiny” while discussing protests against the governor, they have “never, ever” called for mutiny against Little or told their audience to break any laws.
“You have a situation where we have the governor’s executive authority that is in direct contradiction with our constitutional rights,” Larson says. “In some cases, that’s OK, and I would defend that. But we’re at a point where people are getting restless. They want to get back to work. They want to get back to the jobs and provide for their families. I think we acknowledged that and we talked about understanding and people wanting to get back to normalcy.”
Larson says their resignation was a culmination of a lot of things, not just this issue. The radio personality, who has been at KID for nine years, says he would never leave a job over just one reason. Despite tough financial times for media outlets, Larson said economic reasons did not play into their decision.
“It’s been a couple years in the making of things diverging and me seeing from a philosophical standpoint that it wasn’t going to work out forever,” Larson says. “At some point, you need to make that decision, and this morning was that moment.”
One statement made by Mason was especially concerning, Mecham told EastIdahoNews.com. She said on the air that families may respond to COVID-19 differently, and they should “follow their hearts” when it comes to the stay-home order.
“We didn’t express that people should fight against it, but we did express, specifically me, that you needed to follow your heart and figure what’s right for you and your family because COVID-19 is really situational,” Mason says. “We’d like to put a banner over the top of it and say one solution fixes everything for everyone, but that’s not the case. I believe we’re seeing that with the way the country is going to reopen.”
Mecham says despite Larson and Mason’s resignations, he still “really loves those guys” and is disappointed they’ve left KID. During a phone conversation with EastIdahoNews.com, the radio station owner said he listened and re-listened to their show every day last week. He says the hosts were stating ideas that were “not the kind of things that should be advocated on the air” especially because 30% of KID’s audience is over 60 – the high-risk category for coronavirus.
“They basically told the governor to stick it, and if you’re feeling strongly about the need to see others, and your heart is telling you to do so, don’t worry about an order or social distancing,” Mecham says. “What really pushed me over the top was them making fun of people wearing gloves or masks. They said, ‘I’m not going to wear a mask, and if I happen to cough at a store, it’s not my fault that Grandpa dies.'”
Larson says Mecham took the statement about coughing at the grocery store out of context. He says he and Mason were talking about people “policing” others in public and “they act as though if someone coughs at the grocery store, then Grandpa is going to die.”
Mecham says he has never told Larson or Mason what to say or not say on the air, and his email was meant to encourage them to take their show in a more “positive” direction by speaking with local business owners about how COVID-19 is impacting them.
“I was trying to understand why you would fly in the face of the governor’s order when so many other stations are doing things to support your clients and listeners,” Mecham says. “This is the first time I’ve ever had a conversation with them about what they do and don’t cover. I’ve always trusted Neal. I’ve always supported them. I’ve never critiqued the show, and I’ve always had their back.”
Larson and Mason don’t have plans right now to take their show to another radio station, but they will continue their daily podcast and live broadcasts on their Neal and Julie Facebook page. With the pandemic, an upcoming primary election in Idaho and the national presidential election, the personalities still have a lot to say.
“I apologize about the timing of this because we have always taken pleasure in the opportunity to inform and give candidates an opportunity to be interviewed and get their message out,” Larson says.
Starting Tuesday, Mecham says The Glenn Beck Program will be heard live on KID in the mornings, and he hopes to have a local afternoon talk radio show on the air soon.
Mason says while today is a “sad day for conservatives in Idaho,” she and Larson are looking forward to their next chapter.
“Just because we don’t have a platform at KID anymore doesn’t mean there’s not a platform for Neal and Julie,” she says. “As we closed the show today, we mentioned how much we love our listeners. That’s for real.”