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Stuart Varney Connects in the Morning

The qualities that set Stuart Varney apart are priceless and sometimes rare for network business anchors to possess.

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Oh, the pain of selling your shares of Microsoft, only to have the stock proceed to hit record highs. Especially after years of proudly standing by the holding and proclaiming great pleasure in it’s slow, steady and safe growth. Such was the plight of the jovial, ever-informed and curious Fox Business anchor, Stuart Varney. (he has since re-purchased a chunk of Microsoft.)

On any given weekday morning, you’re likely to hear Varney mentioning his infamous sale, or discussing gas prices near his home in New Jersey and near his vacation spot in upstate New York. In Varney, viewers get exactly what so many of them are searching for as they reach for their next cup of morning coffee. Most notably, he is able to build a bond and a connection with his viewers. Yes, he knows the market. He knows trends, PE values and economic indicators. But you also feel as though you truly know him as well.

The qualities that set Stuart Varney apart are priceless and sometimes rare for network business anchors to possess. You start with knowledge. Sure, he knows his niche – the market and its impact on the everyday Americans who tune in to see him every day. He can tell you what the numbers say and what it all means.  He also matches that knowledge with a real-world persona that viewers can identify and connect with. 

For example, he sold that Microsoft stock too soon. 

“I did that too!,” says Joe Six-Pack. 

But he turned around and bought some shares of Boeing. 

“Ok, we’ll see,” you think.

During the prosperity of the Trump years, Varney was downright giddy, and happy to say so, about the falling price of gas. 

“Hey, I can fill MY truck up for a few bucks less too!”

He came to this country from the United Kingdom and learned the value of hard work by washing dishes in a restaurant. 

“I washed dishes at my first job too!”

Through his stops at other networks, including CNN and CNBC, Varney has always been able to connect – with the market and, more importantly, with people. He asks the questions we want answers to, and follows up with a non-pretentious curiosity. If he doesn’t understand how Peloton works, he asks for clarification. If he is still confused about Bitcoin, he asks for clarification from his expert guests. As a result, his morning program, “Varney & Co.,” has the feel of a gang of buddies, rather than some stuffy money show. 

In his role as the traffic cop, Varney spends his mornings discussing issues and stock trends with market analysts, network correspondents, CEO’s, political leaders, entrepreneurs and socialites. In one minute, he’ll be asking his correspondent, Susan Li, about the latest move on the big board. In the show’s next segment, he’s talking football with Joe Namath or economics with Art Laffer. 

Varney’s intellect and knowledge brings us in, but it is the connection that keeps us. That, and his unbridled pride in being an American citizen, which he became in November of 2015. 

“I became an American because I believe America is fundamentally good,” Varney told his audience in January of 2020. “Where else in the world can someone with a foreign accent go on national television and tell people what’s going on in their society?” 

And tell us he does. Legions of Americans wouldn’t start their day any other way.

BNM Writers

Everyone is Welcome at Keven Cohen’s Table

“For the first eight months, The Point was hemorrhaging money,” Cohen explained. “Bleeding would be too tame of a word.”

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Somebody had better step up and take the blame.

Ostensibly, both his mother and father are responsible for the odd spelling of Keven Cohen’s first name—probably more his mother.

“I think she had too much of the epidural medicine,” Keven Cohen jokes.

He likes the uniqueness but said it has caused its share of problems.

Cohen was born in Detroit, but the family moved to Florida just before his 13th birthday. He later studied broadcast journalism at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Where a lot of kids wanted to be a ballplayer, Cohen wanted to be Ernie Harwell, the legendary broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers.

“In our neighborhood, we didn’t ask when the Tigers played; we asked when Ernie was on.” That’s how revered the man was in Detroit. “To this day, I’m an obsessive Detroit fan. I like to say you can take Keven out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of Keven.”

Growing up, Cohen said he was inseparable from his older brother Marc. “We have been best friends since the day I was born,” Cohen said. Cohen was able to convince his mother and brother to move to Columbia so they could be around each other.

His sister was the lone holdout, but Cohen does speak to her every day, as a rule. Marc was a teacher but hung that up for corned beef, opening his Groucho’s Deli. His sister is a physical therapist. They’re like peas and carrots…and more peas.

Cohen started out in radio at WRUF in Gainesville. He spent five years at that station.

“After graduating college, they created a position for me as assistant sports director,” Cohen explained. “They were grooming me to take over for the sports director. The problem was that I realized that the sports director wasn’t going anywhere soon.”

In 1994, Cohen began searching for a new opportunity, but he still didn’t want to go too far from Gainesville. He’s truly a man dedicated to his family.

“My father died in a car accident when I was young, and I couldn’t bear the thought of moving too far from my mother in Florida,” Cohen said.

After enjoyable years at WRUF, Cohen began exploring new opportunities. He recalls landing his first dream job in Columbia, South Carolina. He knew he was as talented as the other 267 applicants for the sports job, but he had something else. Moxie.

“The guy that hired me in Columbia now does the radio play-by-play for the Atlanta Braves. Jim Powell,” Cohen said.

Cohen knew the competition would be tough, but he had his sights set firmly on the job. Interestingly, when many young radio people send out tapes, they send them everywhere around the country. This wasn’t the case for Cohen. Family is so important to him; he again didn’t want to go too far from home. The only tape he sent out was to Columbia. The distance between cities was doable.

“I called Jim Powell and pleaded with him to give me fifteen minutes with him,” Cohen said. “I told him I’d gladly drive the nearly six hours to Columbia, meet with him, then turn around and drive back to Gainesville. That’s how serious I was about the job.”

Powell was impressed with the young man’s spirit, and they talked for more than an hour and a half. A week and a half later, Powell called Cohen. Powell told Cohen there were candidates for the job with better demo tapes, but he liked Cohen’s tenacity and drive.

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” Powell told Cohen. The bad news was the station wouldn’t pay moving expenses. The good news was he had the job if he wanted it.

“When Jim Powell speaks to colleges and high school students, he still uses my tenacity as an example,” Cohen said.

After 18 years in a community, Cohen had developed some deep roots and friendships.

He was at WVOC in Columbia from 1994 until 2012, a good run in any radio market. Then management decided to go in a different direction and fired Cohen. This happened ten years ago, but you can still hear the pain in the recollection.

“I was devastated,” Cohen said. “I’d cut my chops on the radio there. I put in more than 18 years there. I was blindsided.” At the time of his firing, Cohen was hosting pre-game shows for the South Carolina Gamecocks, and it was the middle of the season. An election was just a short time away. Management figured that would be the perfect time to give him the ax.

For the ace-kicker, hours before his firing, Cohen had lunch with one of the salesmen and returned with a $64,000 sales package from a local business. They still fired him.

Isn’t that a fine how-do-you-do?

“My firing made the front page of The State newspaper,” Cohen explained. “There were protestors outside the building, upset that I’d been fired. Personally, I never felt any bitterness toward Clear Channel—publicly or privately for the firing.”

As they said in The Godfather, It was just business. Most people reading this are well aware of that sting. People in this business get stung so often that they don’t even bother putting baking soda on wounds.

WVOC gave him the talk all fired people know too well. They put him on the sidelines with a non-compete clause.

“I told them to keep their severance package; I just wanted to work.”

No dice. WVOC said that wasn’t going to happen.

“I’m the kind of guy who turned the firing into motivation,” Cohen said.

Cohen was offered a job in Jacksonville, Florida, but wanted to wait. He was promised a job by another station in Columbia when the non-compete expired.

“The call never came,” Cohen said. “I was so discouraged as I’d turned down the Jacksonville job. There were no other talk stations in Columbia. I either had to leave Columbia or leave radio.”

There were plenty of opportunities Cohen could have grabbed that required a briefcase. Banking or insurance companies would have begged to get him. He had earned a stellar reputation in the community, and many businesses felt he’d be good for their business if he worked for them.

Now it gets a little weird.

One night, Cohen couldn’t sleep, so he went down to the basement. He was able to fall asleep and was visited in a dream by a friend who’d died from cancer.

“In the dream, Rick told me everything was going to be alright, and I should start my own radio station.”

Thanks, Rick. Not like that’s a tall order or anything.

“It hit me that starting my own radio station was something I could and should do,” Cohen said. “I ran up to tell my wife about the dream and asked if she’d support me if I attempted to create my own station. She said if I let her go back to sleep, she’d support me.”

What a gal.

“I’d never considered this before,” Cohen said. “The only thing I’d ever done on radio was my show. I reached out to some people to get the ball rolling.”

Cohen said four banks were no help. “They knew me well and loved me, but realized I’d never run a radio station before, or anything even close to that. I don’t blame them.”

The dream (the one with Rick) paid dividends. Cohen was fired from WVOC in November 2012 and started his radio station in October 2013, less than a year later.

“For the first eight months, The Point was hemorrhaging money,” Cohen explained. “Bleeding would be too tame of a word.”

He said advertisers were initially wary, and he understood that as well. But they started to come around.

“Things were very lean at first,” Cohen said, “but when we hit the 10 ½ month mark, we broke even for the first time. Then, we started making money. Not a ton, but it was coming in.”

The Point, 100.7. FM, 1470 AM, has become a player in the market. “The community has been so supportive,” Cohen said.

The Point has evolved in its format. “I wanted an old-school talk radio station,” Cohen said. “I always wanted it to be community-driven. I’ve never pressured my hosts or news people to lean a certain way, politically or otherwise. They are on their own, as long as it’s ethical and moral.”

Cohen doesn’t like to micromanage. “I do all the traffic, schedule all the commercials, create all the sales. I’ve tried to create a family. We socialize together; I go out to lunch with hosts. They feel like they can talk with me about anything.”

On his morning show, Cohen doesn’t utilize a call screener; he just answers them as they come in. “There’s no way of picking and choosing which so many hosts like to do. Everyone is welcome at our table,” he said.

Which to me sounds a lot like, ‘We’ll leave the light on.’

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BNM Writers

The Biggest Story in America According to Bill O’Reilly

According to O’Reilly, the biggest development in the country in recent weeks is the disastrous situation at our nation’s southern border.

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Bill O’Reilly says the biggest story in America this month is mainly under-reported by politicians and the media. And its impact may extend much further than we can currently comprehend.

It’s not a Hollywood trial, exploding gas prices, economic pain, or a potential Supreme Court ruling.

According to O’Reilly, the biggest development in the country in recent weeks is the disastrous situation at our nation’s southern border. He joined the Glenn Beck Radio Program on Friday morning to discuss the country’s ongoing disaster and predicted that it will become the impetus for major developments in the next six to twelve months.

“Three million foreign nationals are estimated to cross just into Texas this year, this fiscal year,” O’Reilly began, chronicling the emerging siege of Texas’ border. “And a President doesn’t call the Governor of the state that has to deal with that one time? So everybody listening just says, oh, he’s just incompetent. It’s not that. And I keep telling everybody this, and few believe me. I think you do, Beck, but I’m not sure. The President of the United States does not know what he is doing. He is incapable of assimilating – word of the day – information. You can tell him something, and he’ll look at you, and maybe he’ll understand what you’re saying. But two minutes later, he will forget it.”

O’Reilly told Beck there are actual, devastating consequences for citizens when the President cannot seem to effectively react to or deal with this ballooning crisis.

“So Biden, who has not been to the border, another unbelievable occurrence, because if you add up the human toll of this, plus the narcotics traffic that’s killing hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, you add it up, this is a catastrophe,” O’Reilly said.

“I don’t believe the Constitution is a death pact. You know, it’s not a suicide pact.” Beck replied. “This is an invasion, and the government is doing nothing, and the government has the constitutional responsibility for the border, not the states. So that’s what’s kept the states out of it. But again, are we in a constitutional suicide pact?”

Responding to Beck, O’Reilly predicted that American citizens themselves are poised to react decisively.

“You elect a President; he comes into office. Americans have this idealistic view of that. Many times you elect someone who is destructive to the country. Alright, I mean many times. Not a few. Many. So what happens now?” O’Reilly asked rhetorically. “Well, everybody can whine and complain and talk about it, but what happens is this. In November, there is a course correction possible, whereby the American people would say, I recognize what a disaster Joe Biden is, and I’m sorry he’s the President. And if I voted for him, I made a mistake. So now I’m going to correct that mistake, and I’m going to give Congress the authority to deal with Biden. That’s our system. That’s how the Founders set it up.”

O’Reilly believes that this issue, among so many others going dreadfully wrong in America, such as punitive gas prices and unnecessary economic hardship, will galvanize voters to fight back in November.

“I fully expect that the Republicans will take both houses of Congress. I’ll be shocked if that doesn’t happen. Because of inflation, primarily, and the economy. That’s the driver of the vote. But second is the border,” O’Reilly predicted. “Now, once the Republicans take over, I can assure you articles of impeachment will be drawn up in January and February 2023 against Biden, on this issue. Dereliction of duty.”

And while the country endured the Democrat-fueled impeachment of our 45th president, O’Reilly thinks this time will be different. This time, he says, will be based on substance.

“He’s the commander in chief. This is dereliction of duty. Just like a corporal or a sergeant, if they were in the field with the military unit and they didn’t follow orders, that’s dereliction of duty. This is dereliction of duty,” O’Reilly said.

“Does everybody get this? Biden’s President, but he’s also the commander in chief of the armed forces. So you can impeach on those grounds. Now, will he be convicted in the Senate? Probably not. But it’ll be such a hammer blow to the country. The Trump impeachments were jokes. Everybody knew what that was. A setup by Pelosi on any grounds at all to embarrass Trump. This is much more serious because the numbers are there. The deaths are there. Verifiable. Not a phone call to Zelensky in Ukraine. This is people dying every day because their government will not stop the importation of deadly narcotics from Mexico. That’s what this is, and that is why this is the story of the week.”

Time will tell if Bill O’Reilly’s prognostication proves true and whether the lack of border security will continue to mushroom as a focal issue for voters.

If he is correct, what we are seeing in May will become an even bigger catalyst in January.

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BNM Writers

Ken Matthews Has Passion for Any Topic of Conversation

Matthews has a passion for people, politics, pop culture, piano, and pistols. And believe me, BNM’s Jim Cryns talked about it all with him.

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We talked on the telephone last Thursday night for nearly two hours. There were two things I knew for certain; I was keeping Ken Matthews from taking out the garbage, and his wife was going to blame me.

Matthews has a passion for people, politics, pop culture, piano, and pistols. And believe me, we talked about it all. His energy bursts through the phone and microphone, and in conversation, it seems everything interests him, including meeting new people.

The man makes his living as host of the newly syndicated Ken Matthews Show, airing weekdays from 12-3 p.m. ET on Talk Media Network. He was a regular guest host for Rush Limbaugh and is still on WHP 580 Harrisburg, now Matthew’s flagship station, where he’s been heard for more than eight years.

He was born in New Jersey in the early 60s. The family realized nobody was forcing them to stay in New Jersey and moved to Florida to live among the alligators and manatees. They lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, about an hour north of West Palm Beach. Matthews later attended North Carolina State University and studied political science. “I wasn’t able to finish as I was doing too much broadcasting,” he jokes. 

A down-to-earth guy, Matthews recently welcomed some new neighbors, and they naturally struck up a conversation. “I don’t know their politics, but they’re young, health-conscious, and have two beautiful kids,” Matthews said the couple complimented him and his wife for their two sons driving carefully around the neighborhood. “What they didn’t know was I told my boys our new neighbors had little kids, and they had to ‘crawl’ down the street.”

Like Kenny Rogers, a good parent knows when to tell their kids to crawl and when to run. Matthews is also extemporaneous and funny as heck, probably why he was a successful morning-jock for as long as he was.

“In front of the new neighbors, I was even wearing a tee-shirt that reads, November 3rd, 2020. Never Forget. It didn’t even phase them.” 

The man clearly loves his kids; his sons are a source of pride, even if they do use an inordinate amount of household items like toilet paper. “When you’re 18 and 20 years old, you shouldn’t need to use an entire roll in one sitting (Pardon the pun).”

Matthews’ younger son will soon graduate from high school and started cooking in a restaurant when he was just 14 years old. “He really likes it. Something about the trade appeals to him, and he’s making good money. He shows up for work, which is a rarity these days.”

Today, showing up for work qualifies you for a promotion. 

“My other son graduated from high school three years ago and has held a few jobs; the grocery, dairy, and landscaping businesses.”

He said he’s in no hurry to push them out into the world. “It’s so unpredictable these days,” Matthews said. “I’m not a negative person at heart; these are just strange times.” 

Matthews loves America, too (apologies to Tom Petty.) Whenever his sons get down or complain, which apparently isn’t often, he reminds them of how good we have it here.

“I tell them they’ve already surpassed what most kids will never have,” Matthews said. “I tell them they have air conditioning, heat, a car, and parents that love them. I tell them living in this country is a blessing.”

He’s in the Lehigh Valley, so I figured he’d be a regular at the Iron Pigs’ games. The Iron Pigs are the Triple-A affiliate of the Phillies.

“I haven’t been to an Iron Pigs game in five years,” Matthews said. “It’s touch and go for me. I enjoy a good game, the camaraderie that comes with it if the weather is perfect. Everything has to align. I prefer watching in a sweatshirt in the fall, crisp air. I don’t like it when I’m sweating more than the players.”

Matthews said neither of his parents went to college, yet he’s never known anyone who has read more, self-educated more than they have.

“From as far back as I can remember, they were reading everything,” Matthews said. “They read newspapers, manuals, and books. They told me if I wanted to get ahead in the world, I should learn and read about everything.”

He consumes books voraciously. “I read four books a month, and I’ve read almost every book in my library.”

And that includes the thesaurus. 

Growing up in Florida, Matthews showed interest in diving. “My father said I could do it, but I was going to take scuba classes. If I wanted to sail, I had to go to the Coast Guard auxiliary and train.”

Matthews lived in Fort Pierce, not far from Fort Lauderdale. “That’s where I learned to love the water,” he said. “I’ve always been leery of getting too far away from water. It’s a mental thing.”

He’s a lifetime supporter of the NRA. His father was okay with that, as long as he did what was necessary. “My dad was one of those guys that said you had to learn about whatever you chose to do. If you wanted a gun, you were going to learn to shoot, get trained.”

He met his wife in Maine and got engaged. “Then I got fired,” Matthews said. “We started planning a wedding, and I got fired from another job.” They’re coming up on 32 years of wedded bliss, and Matthews has picked out the perfect gift.

“I’m going to empty the dishwasher,” he jokes. “There’s a small chance I’ll clean the bathroom.” 

Let’s hope his wife has a great sense of humor. 

Matthews owes some of his talk radio success to the late Rush Limbaugh. He filled in for Limbaugh around 100 times. Matthews shocked me when he told me Limbaugh was a disc jockey before he became the behemoth of talk radio. 

“He was a flame-throwing rock and roll god in Pittsburgh,” Matthews said. He even offered to send me a tape of Limbaugh’s disc jockey antics. “He reignited the AM radio dial.”

Limbaugh? A rock and roll god? It’s hard to imagine Rush in a Rush T-shirt. Matthews said Limbaugh was observant, commonsensical, and very respectful. 

“He’d say things a lot of people were thinking but found it hard to say,” Matthews explained. “He was a showman, entertainer and told us about his trials and tribulations. I listened to Rush long before I ever filled in for him. He would say something, and 7 million listeners would say, ‘Hey, he’s exactly right.”

Matthews said if Stephen Colbert talked about getting on his private plane to go somewhere, people would think he was an ass. If Limbaugh said the same thing, people were comfortable with it. That’s who he was.

He said Limbaugh would take it further, explaining why they had to park the plane in a certain area of the airport. “When Rush said he went golfing with Trump last week, he was just talking, not dropping names.”

“I have this theory,” Matthews began. “People in charge of us, who want to control us, do not want us to have a conversation like you and I are having right now.”

His years as a morning jock were fruitful and fun. In fact, he said his preparedness between the seemingly different stages is remarkably similar. 

“Those habits are the same,” Matthew said. “The pacing, the entertainment values, segmenting the shows. If you’re prepping for a music show, there are times when you find yourself saying, ‘I can’t say that on the air.’ When you’re in talk radio, you realize you can say anything you want.”

Matthews described his ‘Morning Show Ken’ as a sarcastic, fun, America-loving guy who enjoyed his job. As much as he loved being a morning jock, what he’s doing now is far more precious and enjoyable.

“Both then and now, I like to provide a ‘portal of common sense,’” Matthews explained. “Now I’m still that morning guy with a political science major; I’m a patriot, all mixed in a big blender. I’m still a smart-ass.”

He’s been in the business for more than 40 years, and he’s a self-described late bloomer. 

“I get up and absolutely love going to work,” Matthews explained. “I’m excited. I get upset if I wake up in the middle of the night and see I still have four more hours to sleep. To feel this way for as long as it has been going on is pretty special.”

Matthews said what he learned from Limbaugh, and his team was like earning a master’s degree in radio.

On the air at noon, he begins full-bore prepping at 8:30 a.m. “I do some at night, too,” Matthews said. “It’s a great shift. I can stay out late and don’t have to get up at 3:00 in the morning. It’s good.”

Matthews pulls all his own cuts and sound bites. “I’m ready to rock by 11:00,” he said. “I’m able to grab a bite to eat, keep my eye on the televisions or wires for breaking news. I’m absolutely thrilled about my noon-to-three shift.”

When we talk about differences and opposing viewpoints, Matthews says he has the perfect story about what’s wrong with things. 

Matthews told me a story about Van Jones, a correspondent on CNN. Van Jones went to a summit with Donald Trump about prison reform. Van Jones told Trump about some harrowing cases where people shouldn’t have been imprisoned. 

“Van Jones said Trump got on the phone and wanted change immediately and demanded that some people be released,” Matthews said. “Van Jones was astonished and said he wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen the response with his own eyes. Someone was actually doing something rather than just talking about it.”

Matthews said Van Jones told the very story on CNN and how he’d never seen anything like that before.

“CNN crucified him for that,” Matthews explained.

One of the perks of a high-profile gig is the connections you have. Matthews had the opportunity to take one of his sons to the White House for his birthday. “He has always hated to get up early,” Matthews said of his son. “So, I told him this was how it was going to play. He was going to get a suit and not look like a baggy teenager when he’s going to the home of the leader of the free world. Some people show up in Eagles tee-shirts. Not my son.”

His son reluctantly obliged.

Matthews even took a photo of himself and his son in front of the JFK portrait in the White House. A woman who worked there said Matthews and his son were the best-dressed on tour that day.

They surely slipped on their Eagles tee-shirts as soon as they got home.

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