“Since September 12th, ADL offices in the tri-state area have been flooded with calls complaining about comments made by Mike and the Mad Dog show hosts Mike Francesa and Chris Russo. The complaints focus on the hosts suggesting the motive behind the World Trade Center attack is U.S. support for the State of Israel or, more importantly, suggesting a divided loyalty for American Jews between our country and Israel.”
That’s Abe Foxman, then the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a letter to Mark Chernoff, then and still the program director of New York-area sports radio station WFAN, on Sept. 24, 2001.
In an era where seemingly everything ever broadcast—and especially the utterings of Mike Francesa—is easily findable, the tape of Mike and the Mad Dog questioning the loyalty of Jewish-Americans on Sept. 12, and, seemingly, blaming 9/11 on America’s support for Israel, is not. It is nowhere to find on the internet—not even a transcript—and word from the rumor mill is that it isn’t in WFAN’s archives either.
The only thing that seems to exist is paraphrases of the segment. Here is how New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick described the comments on Sept. 23, 2001:
But Russo and Francesa’s most stunning moments, emboldened by the sycophants in their audience – the only callers who are indulged without interruption – came when they suggested that American Jews, on their program, submit to make-believe wartime loyalty oaths to either America or Israel.
I’m sitting there, a third-generation American, my late father a Naval lieutenant who served in two theaters during WW II, four people I know, including a fireman, are missing and presumed dead, and Francesa and Russo, are inviting me to take a loyalty test designed for American Jews to prove their virtue to two sports talk know-it-alls in the wake of an attack by religious lunatics on the United States.
WFAN, Mike, and the Mad Dog’s response was to stonewall. They never responded to the ADL. “Station boss Mark Chernoff denied that Francesa said any of that — despite thousands, including WFAN staff, having heard what I’d heard,” Mushnick wrote in a later column. The next year, Mushnick quotes Mike and the Mad Dog disputing his reporting:
Francesa: “This is the same guy who last year, when quotes were attributed to me in The Post, and The Times was going to slaughter me, called up and [The Times] had to can the piece because he [The Times columnist] had to admit that The Times never heard it.”
Russo: “What was that? I forget that one.”
Francesa: “Those quotes about 9/11 and everything, which weren’t made and no one ever found them. Plus, so he had to admit that he never heard them, so he got them second- or third-hand and they weren’t even true quotes and they didn’t even have the quotes, so they couldn’t do the story.”
Mushnick’s challenge to sue him if his reporting was incorrect was never taken.
Over the years, various others have written about or referenced the segment. Conservative blogger Jeff Dunetz has written about it repeatedly. According to Mushnick, Yankees color commentator Suzyn Waldman heard the segment and stormed into Chernoff’s office. Craig Carton, co-host of the Boomer and Carton in the Morning show on WFAN, has referenced it, as has his co-host Boomer Esiason. It’s all over the unofficial Mike Francesa message board.
Yesterday Richard Deitsch published an interview with Dan Forer, the director of an upcoming 30 for 30 about Mike and the Mad Dog, in which Forer reveals that Francesa and Russo address their Sept. 12th, 2001 broadcast in the documentary:
“They are both aware of the role that that incident plays in the history of ‘Mike and the Mad Dog,’” Forer said. “Neither one shied away from answering it and their takes on it. They were both very direct. Mike was Mike. He maintained the position he has always maintained: There was nothing controversial and he doesn’t believe they offended anyone. Chris is a little more sensitive to it and does understand criticism of it. He was more forthright in sharing with us his opinion of what happened that day.
What the film doesn’t have, however, is any audio of the comments. Forer told me he wasn’t able to locate a copy of the broadcast. Mushnick said he doesn’t have it either, but added that he doesn’t need the tape because he knows what he heard. Station director Mark Chernoff emailed that he doesn’t “know of any audio saved from back then.”
It seems undeniable that Mike and the Mad Dog said something controversial in the immediate aftermath of September 11th. Mushnick knows what he heard; Francesa denies they ever talked about a loyalty oath. When talking on the air about it last year, Francesa dismissed the whole thing:
Knowing exactly what they said is reliant upon decades-old memories. Which is why we’d like the tape.
Do you have it? Were you for some reason recording WFAN 16 years ago? Do you know of an underground radio message board where people swap legendary tapes? Are you a WFAN employee or ex-employee who knows where tape of the segment can be found? Do you know someone who knows someone who knows someone?