WASHINGTON After taking on one Powell, foul-mouthed radio personality Howard Stern now has another to reckon with: Secretary of State Colin Powell. The nation's top diplomat came to the defense of his son, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, after Stern said the younger Powell got the job only because of his family name.
Colin Powell yesterday labeled the accusation "just so much nonsense."
"My son is an enormously qualified individual, and I think he has served if I may (say) so as a father and as a not-so-distant observer with great distinction," Powell said in an interview with CNBC.
Stern's raunchy radio show has brought repeated fines by the FCC and the shock jock routinely rails against what he says is the Bush administration's desire to use the FCC to stifle free speech on radio and TV.
Stern made a surprise call to KGO-AM radio in San Francisco while Michael Powell was a studio guest on Oct. 26.
"How did you get your job?" Stern asked Michael Powell. "It is apparent to most of us in broadcasting that your father got you your job, and you kind of sit there and you're the judge, you're the arbiter, you're the one who tells us what we can and can't say on the air."
Stern added, "I really don't even think you're qualified to be the head of the commission."
Powell responded, "I think it's a cheap shot to say just because my father is famous, I don't belong in my position."
Powell, a Republican, was appointed to the commission by President Clinton in 1997 and became chairman when President Bush took office in 2001. Powell denied Stern's charge and listed his qualifications, saying he is an attorney and was chief of staff of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.
Colin Powell noted his son became a commissioner of the FCC "long before I became secretary of state. For all I know, he might have had some influence in getting me to become secretary of state."
Stern, who battled for years with the FCC and conservative critics over his salacious show's content, is moving his show to Sirius satellite radio when his contract with Infinity Broadcasting Corp. expires in 2006. The FCC does not enforce indecency rules for satellite radio because it's a subscription service.
Though Stern's show has produced more FCC fines than any other, Powell told Stern, "I don't think that, you know, we have made any particular crusade of the Howard Stern show or you."
"I don't take this personally," Stern said. "I don't think that you personally hate me. I think what you've been doing is dangerous to free speech. I don't think just against me, I think things have gotten way out of control."