Jay Marvin clears the air on why he left WLS

Jay Marvin clears the air on why he left WLS

It’s never too late to set the record straight — or to clear your conscience. In the case of former Chicago radio personality Jay Marvin, it took almost six years.

In an extraordinary confession on his blog last week, Marvin disclosed what he called “the real story” behind his abrupt departure from Citadel Broadcasting news/talk WLS-AM (890) in December 2004. (Here is the link.) It came after his second time around at the station, which he’d rejoined in 1999.

As many of Marvin’s midday listeners sensed at the time, the liberal firebrand was finding himself increasingly at odds with the conservative orientation of the station, particularly during the run-up to the war in Iraq. “Before the invasion started, and when it was well under way, [WLS management] leaned on me with heavy pressure to support the war or else,” he wrote. “I’m ashamed to say this — it was one of the worst moments of my life — I went along with this insanity for a paycheck. The money I made at WLS was good, and I didn’t want to put it in jeopardy.”

By the summer of 2004, Marvin recalled, he was pleading with his bosses to be let out of his contract (which ran through March 2005). But they didn’t accede to his wishes until the end of the year. Even then, they insisted on spinning his departure as their own idea. John Gallagher, president and general manager of WLS at the time, told me the decision to cut Marvin was made because his show (which was then co-hosted by Eileen Byrne) “hasn’t produced what it was designed to achieve.” Gallagher specifically denied that Marvin’s progressive politics had anything to do with his departure.

Although the station’s complete turn to the right was obvious even to the most casual listener, Gallagher and operations director Michael Packer continued to maintain the fiction that WLS still had some semblance of balance among its hosts. Marvin’s exit exposed the charade once and for all.

For his part, Marvin said to me at the time: “They wanted to go one way, and I wanted to go another. There was no place to put me… . I’m glad it’s over, and I’m happy to be out from under it. I wish them the best.”

But last week Marvin acknowledged publicly for the first time that the cover story of his firing was all a lie: “It wasn’t the case,” he wrote. “Management had to make WLS look good in the printed press.”

Marvin eventually moved to Denver, where he hosted mornings on progressive talk KKZN-AM (and underwent gastric bypass surgery in December 2006). Although no longer on the air, he’s a prolific blogger who calls himself “The World’s Most Unknown Writer of Fiction and a Blog.” He’s been in rehab since undergoing major surgery last August after a life-threatening, massive infection attacked his spinal column.

In an email exchange Monday, Marvin, 57, told me: “I’m coming to the end of my rehab, there’s only so much they can do. However, I’ll most likely stay in it at least for another year. According to my spinal surgeon, who, by the way, is one of the best drivers in the Rolex Grand AM series, told me total recovery won’t be for another year… . I miss Chicago, but where’s there to go?”