Larry Elder returns to airwaves on KABC-AM

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Larry Elder, the self-proclaimed “Sage from South Central,” has heard you missed him. Now he’s back.

Elder, the African American talk-show host who frequently provoked black listeners with his conservative views during his 15-year stint on KABC-AM (790), is returning Monday to the station he abruptly left almost two years ago. He will take over the 9 a.m. to noon weekday slot vacated Friday by the more lighthearted “Frosty, Heidi and Frank” show.

“I’m tanned, rested and ready,” Elder quipped last week in a phone interview, echoing the oft-told one-liner about former President Nixon on his political availability after his impeachment. Elder added in a more serious tone, "[KABC] approached me, and I was ready to get back in the game. I think I have been missed, and I believe I will be welcomed and embraced.”

His return to KABC, where he formerly occupied the afternoon drive-time slot, will bring a more unified conservative tone to the station, which is also home to commentators Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, said program director Jack Silver, who took charge of programming two months ago.

“We will have a more consistent lineup with personalities that have the same sort of mind-set,” said Silver, a former program director at the freewheeling (and now defunct) talk station KLSX-FM (97.1). “This will be great, especially since we’re doing this before the November elections.”

Elder left KABC in December 2008, a few weeks after the presidential election: “My contract was up, the previous management and I couldn’t come to terms on an agreement and there were other things I wanted to do.” He attempted to establish a webcast and wrote opinion columns for various publications.

Much of the time was spent writing an autobiographical account of his reconciliation with his father after a 10-year estrangement. He hopes for the book to be published next year around Father’s Day.

Time away from the microphone certainly doesn’t seem to have mellowed Elder, who is a registered Republican but labels himself a libertarian.

An opponent of government programs that mandate preferential race-based hiring practices, Elder was also a relentless critic of Barack Obama during his presidential campaign. “I’ve been vindicated,” he said. “I predicted he would be a disaster, and he has been.”

Referring to his outspokenness, he said, “I just call it the way I see it, and that’s unsettling to some people. I will still be provocative and controversial. When I take a point of view, I like to think that it’s well thought out and reasonable. I might convince that guy in the car who’s listening to me to rethink his assumption.”

The host was probably best known for his searing exchanges with black listeners over his outspoken criticism of black politicians and other African Americans who he maintained whined about not getting more opportunities when they should be more self-reliant and take more initiative. He ridiculed black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Maxine Waters (D- Los Angeles). Some black callers branded him an “Uncle Tom,” which only added fuel to Elder’s fire.

In his new slot, Elder will be competing against Rush Limbaugh. The latter’s show airs locally on KFI-AM (640), the top-rated talk station in the L.A.-Orange County market.

Silver said, “This will make sense for Larry because Rush has a nationally syndicated show while Larry will be local.”

“I’m really looking forward to talking about corruption in Bell, the ‘assassination’ of the Guatemalan immigrant by police in MacArthur Park, Iran, everything,” Elder said.

Asked how he thinks listeners will feel about his return, Elder didn’t miss a beat.

“I believe they’ll say, ‘Thank God you’re back.’”