by Blair Bess
Backlash over a recent opinion piece denouncing two local radio personalities took a political turn this week.
Democratic congressional candidate Bryan Caforio blasted “Hometown Station” KHTS talk show hosts Dave Goss and Sean Griffin in Tuesday’s issue of The Signal, leveling charges that their program promulgates and normalizes hate speak and extremism in the Santa Clarita Valley. Without referring to either of the hosts or the station by name, Caforio castigated the two after they criticized his refusal to appear on “connectingRIGHT,” their weekly radio program.
Both Goss and Griffin are self-avowed “Three Percenters,” a wing of the militia movement that has been identified as a group of anti-government extremists by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
“The Three Percenters are a dangerous group and I didn’t want to give them a platform by appearing on their show,” Caforio said.
Goss called Caforio’s claim a mischaracterization. He likened Three Percenters to Black Lives Matter, saying that there are probably fringe elements in both groups not representative of the whole.
Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, has been studying these groups since 1994 and made clear that the militia movement is not mainstream.
“Three Percenters are often equated with white supremacists. That’s incorrect, but it’s also incorrect to say they’re not extreme,” said Pitcavage.
KHTS owner Carl Goldman said that so long as the show’s hosts don’t “cross the line,” theirs would be treated as any other program on the station. Goldman defined crossing the line as advocating violent acts, inciting a riot, or referring to U.S. Senator Kamila Harris as a “f***ing c**t” or any other offensive descriptive.
Co-host Sean Griffin used those expletives in his criticism of the junior senator from California during the June 14th episode of the duo’s podcast, “The Triggering.” Goldman stressed that remarks or behavior of that nature on-air would be grounds for immediate cancellation of any show on KHTS.
“connectingRIGHT” is a paid program, neither produced or owned by the station. A disclaimer noting that the opinions and views expressed by the hosts and their guests not being those of KHTS runs prior to each airing. Episodes of “The Triggering” were not produced in conjunction with the KHTS show and are available online.
“The more communication and dialogue that takes place, the healthier it is for all of us in the Santa Clarita Valley, on either side politically,” said Goldman.
Goldman, like Goss, also believes Three Percenters are no more radical than Black Lives Matter, agreeing that the actions of a few outliers doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the entire group. Caforio disputed Goldman and Goss’ representations.
“People are taking radical, racist positions and are emboldened in this political climate,” Caforio said. “They make statements that are fast and loose with truth and facts.”
The ADL’s Pitcavage notes that Three Percenters are not an organized group but, by and large, they support an anti-government philosophy. When told KHTS’s Goldman suggested looking at the Three Percenter website for clarification, Pitcavage stated emphatically that “there is no official website, there are many websites put up online by people who self-identify as Three Percenters.”
One website, thethreepercenters.org, describes itself as “a national organization made up of patriotic citizens who love their country.” It goes on to say that the group “is not anti-government, that they are very pro-government, so long as the government abides by the Constitution, doesn’t overstep its bounds, and remains for the people and by the people.”
The position of the Anti-Defamation League, however, is markedly different. The ADL contend that Three Percenters, along with another group, The Oath Keepers, are both part of an extremist movement that gained significant traction during the Obama presidency.
Goss scoffed at the ADL’s stance and said it was “their opinion.” He insisted that Caforio’s comments were less about ideology and more a politically-motivated response to rival Democratic candidate Katie Hill’s decision to appear on their show.
When asked about her appearance on “connectingRIGHT,” Hill said she believes it’s important to engage those with differing views. Hill noted she was unaware of Goss and Griffin’s being Three Percenters until the day she appeared on the program. Unlike Caforio, Hill wasn’t worried about her participation on “connectingRIGHT” being perceived as a platform. Hill said she went online to familiarize herself with Three Percenters before going on-air.
“I’m not disputing there are Three Percenters who are awful, but you see this across many organizations,” said Hill. “Since being on the show, I’ve gotten to know Dave and Sean and I find them to be decent, well-meaning human beings. I don’t believe either of them is an extremist, racist, or hate-filled.”
“If you self-identify as a Three Percenter then you identify with extremists,” said Pitcavage.
When asked about Griffin referring to Sen. Harris as a “f***king c**t,” Hill said she was unaware of his comments until after her appearance on the show, confessing she was horrified by their misogynist nature. Hill said she confronted Goss and Griffin about the podcast episode and made clear her disgust.
“It was misogynistic,” Goss conceded. “In retrospect, I wish Sean hadn’t said it. The point we were making was that Harris acted like a child during the Comey and Sessions testimony last spring.”
At a time when First Amendment rights are increasingly coming under fire, news organizations like FOX criticized for being extreme in their partisanship, and print journalists and cable networks like CNN accused of reporting “fake news,” local broadcast outlets often find themselves walking a fine line between what constitutes free speech and inflammatory rhetoric. Both sides of the argument are passionate in their efforts to win the hearts, minds, and ears of an increasingly alienated public.
“No one’s suggesting laws be passed to take shows off the radio,” said Caforio. “The Supreme Court makes it clear that people should be able to express their beliefs without limitations, but some of the views being expressed by Three Percenter supporters are dangerous to the community.”