Beware of the Dogma

When KFYI radio host John Dayl spews mindless hate, David Winkler listens

A caller challenged Dayl. Did he really think the secretaries in the building who died were not innocent victims?

"Not in my opinion."
After taping the program, Winkler waited for a storm of protest to develop over Dayl's words. But none came. So, after several days, he copied his tape of the show and sent it to E.J. Montini.

Three columns, two cartoons and several letters and editorials later, Dayl's words had created a thunderclap of protest all the way to Oklahoma City.

It wasn't the first time Montini and Dayl had clashed.
Seven years earlier, only months after Dayl had arrived in Phoenix from a Cleveland radio station, Dayl had taken issue with a Montini column that had made use of several unnamed sources.

To protest Montini's use of anonymous informants, Dayl slandered him.
In a misguided use of sarcasm, Dayl invented a story that unnamed sources had told him Montini was involved in an affair with an underage newspaper delivery girl at the Republic.

Those comments left Dayl and Fred Weber's radio station wide open to a libel suit.

Montini asked for an apology and got it. To sue Fred Weber and his deep pockets, Montini wrote, might tempt another person, but he wanted to be rid of the entire episode.

Seven years later, Dayl was again the subject of Montini's columns, and it troubled him deeply.

For years, Dayl had been a radio host in Oklahoma City, and one of its most popular. But now he was being pilloried in his old hometown. In a letter to Montini, the governor of Oklahoma called Dayl an ass.

Dayl decided that he had better go to Oklahoma City himself, to explain that his words had been taken out of context, to explain that he was the victim of media bias, to quell the outrage against him in a place that had remembered him so fondly.

At least that's what he told his Phoenix audience just days before he left.
Listening, naturally, was a person who would see to it that Dayl's reception in Oklahoma City would be less than gracious.

At 6 foot 5 and 270 pounds, and with his white mustache and goatee, John Dayl looks like a stretched-out Burl Ives.

And like Ives, Dayl has a most remarkable quality to his voice. Penetrating and mellifluous, Dayl's baritone manages not to rasp despite Dayl's almost constant smoking.

He sits at a small table in the back of Romanelli's deli in northwest Phoenix, dragging on a cigarette. For days he'd promoted this public appearance on his show, but so far only a handful of fans has come by to shake John's hand and pick up tee shirts, coffee mugs and--joy of joys--free bags of breadcrumbs.

"I thought I'd see more of your fans here," says one loyal listener.
"Oh, they're trickling in and trickling out," Dayl answers.
It's a far cry from the kind of adulation he regularly receives on the air from adoring fans.

Dayl has worked in radio for 27 years. Before that, he says, he spent 14 years in the military. Based on shreds of information Winkler has gleaned from Dayl's shows, Dayl is around 60, and he's said that he has married three times, that he's estranged from his two sons, and that he holds a divinity degree.

In the seven years since he came to Phoenix and KFYI, Dayl has been fired twice, hired three times, but not without losing his full-time position in the process. Now he broadcasts on weekends, making $7.95 an hour, he's fond of saying. Former KFYI employees say he's probably not making that little, but they say he isn't making too much more.

For three hours each on Saturday and Sunday, Dayl combines an evangelical rhetorical style, a doomsaying pessimism and a bragging, good-ol'-boy swagger.

His biweekly homily has three recognizable themes: Christianity good. Government bad. Women inscrutable.

With little specificity or attention to daily events, Dayl takes his listeners around and around the same material repeatedly.

Yet despite Dayl's notoriety, the vast majority of what he says is hardly radical. Indeed, it's fairly standard fare by talk-radio standards: that the veterans of Desert Storm may be the victims of a cover-up of their exposure to chemical agents; that the federal government needlessly overregulates; that a godless education system is ruining children; that the IRS sucks.

Again and again, Dayl instructs his listeners to direct their anger over various (mostly garden-variety) grievances at lowly federal workers rather than featureless institutions.

Much of what Dayl says is simply repugnant, especially his swipes at women and minorities. He's said repeatedly that he is the "world's biggest chauvinist pig" and openly admits that he is a bigot.

Jann Renert and Shirley McKean say they have no problem believing him. The two were guests on the Dayl show the day after Christmas 1995. "I was asked to be on the show concerning censorship in the schools," Renert says. "But we didn't get to talk about that more than two minutes."

McKean says Dayl encouraged his listeners to roast the two of them and reacted angrily when they tried to talk back.

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