IN A FASCINATING in depth cover piece in the new Seattle Weekly, Mike Webb tells more lies, proclaims his innocence in his fraud case; and expounds on his complicated and theory of how he was framed.
His former KIRO cohorts tell the puzzling back story.
Political columnist, radio commentator, and journalist Geov Parrish (KEXP-FM Saturdays, 8:30-9a) chronicles his former friend and KIRO talk host who BlatherWatch exposed in December after being arrested and charged for felony insurance fraud.
Parrish talked to Webb for hours, and to some of Webb's friends and former coworkers; most of whom spoke off the record. He uncovered some brand new obfuscations by Webb, new evidence of his instability, and lots of new inside dish.
Webb's photo paranoia is notorious. He successfully eluded the SW art department's search for a picture of him, hurriedly taking down a picture of himself and Rep. Jim McDermott from a website.
~~Despite the overwhelming evidence, Webb continues to strongly maintain his innocence in his legal case, which goes to court, April 21. “To be accused of something, it’s devastating,” he told Parrish. Webb famously told The Seattle Times' reporter, Christine Clarridge on Dec. 22, "It would take an absolute idiot to try to defraud someone like that.” He underscored that for the Seattle Weekly: “Some of this stuff, it would take a moron to do.” (Beyond that, on the advice of his attorney, he'd not comment on the specifics of the case, although he couldn't help himself, blabbing contradictions to his previous statements to the media).
~~Webb has changed his story since talking to the Clarridge in December. He now says that he no longer thinks anyone broke into Geico or Washington Mutual’s computers, or that "it is the possible result of an insurance company snafu resulting from a clerical or computer error." He now suspects his own computer was hacked, and told Parrish he noticed other signs his computer was being tampered with. But such a scenario, according to a software engineer Parrish interviewed, has serious problems. Parrish: "For Webb’s scenario to happen...his computer would have had to be remotely controlled for more than a month, from the original May 20 purchase to the phony June 29 one. Not only should Webb have noticed, but basic virus protection would have prevented it. Any competent Internet service provider would detect it. More likely, rather than waiting for a car accident he or she didn’t know would happen, and rather than wasting time on an elaborate insurance scheme, such a hacker would have simply cleaned out Webb’s life savings or some such."
~~“'KIRO did not need to release me,” says Webb. 'They could have waited this out. If the courts decided that I was proven guilty, that I could understand. But in this country you’re innocent until proven guilty. When I had good ratings and sales, why they fired me, I don’t understand it.'”
~~Could the union that Mike helped kick out of the KIRO workplace have helped him? Parrish writes: "There remains the vexing question of why he was fired. Entercom’s version doesn’t add up. It found out about Webb’s “withheld” information two days before it backed him in remarks to the Times, a full week before Webb was let go."
~~Webb told Parrish, and the Seattle Times that he and the SPD had settled, only two days before the Aug.1 police interview about the insurance claim. His suit over his alleged assault by Seattle cops in 2004 at Dick's Drive-in on Capitol Hill "fuel[ed] his suspicion," Parrish writes, that the police may have been after revenge for the incident. He adds that Webb claims, "he got SPD to 'acknowledge that it was improper for the department to perform that way' and won a 'small' cash settlement. However, as late as December—four months after the supposed settlement—SPD was saying the case hadn’t been resolved."
~~Astoundingly, Webb says he didn’t think the charges would become public. Then BlatherWatch blew it open. He says KIRO parent Entercom told him his "official undoing" was the two-week gap between his warrant and the BlatherWatch story. “It had to do with my not being forthcoming [with management] about the charges,” he told SW. Webb was counting on the whole thing blowing over instead of up so Entercom was caught flat-footed when the story broke. No wonder they were so nonplussed and pissed off.
~~"On-air hosts’ instant messaging was...routed through their e-mail, and one night conservative host Lou Pate simply stopped getting instant messages. The problem persisted and, the story goes, after two or three days, then-Program Director Kris Olinger had the company’s computer expert investigate. He found that the messages were rerouted to Webb's computer, and that the rerouting of Pate’s messages had been arranged from Webb’s computer." Webb doesn't remember the incidence.
~~Until KIRO made him quit the practice, Webb pasted sound snippets from other hosts' shows to make montages for the intro to his own show. Parrish writes of an incident in which Webb took a statement by Pate, “'I don’t like it when black people make themselves out as victims,' and rebroadcast it as, 'I don’t like black people.' To make matters worse, it supposedly came while Webb was filling in on Pate’s own show."
It was June 28, 2005, when Webb left the radio station during a news break to go to a nearby convenience store for a snack, and his black 2000 Lexus was hit by an uninsured driver who ran a yield sign. Webb showed police a proof-of-insurance card from National Merit. A report was made, and Webb was left with an estimated $4,000 in damage to his car.
According to investigators, on the next day, June 29, “according to Geico records, the defendant applied for and received motor vehicle insurance for his Lexus. … Geico records indicate that the initial payment of $151.00 was debited from his account on 6-29-05 at 15:31 local time. The next payment was debited from his account, again for $151, on 7-4-05 at 19:47 local time.”
The day after Webb opened his policy, the report says, Geico received an e-mail from Webb: “I need to get a copy via email as promised. I signed up day before yesterday and they said it would come same day, can you please check this out? Thank you, Mike Webb.” Later that day of June 30, Webb allegedly called Geico to claim damages from the accident two days previous—an event that occurred, according to Geico’s records, the day before he bought insurance.
Geico launched an investigation. Webb told investigators that he had opened his policy with Geico on May 20. He made that claim in taped conversations with both a Geico claims representative on July 5 and at a meeting with an investigator, Webb, and Webb’s lawyer in the lawyer’s office on Aug. 1.
The police report continues: “During the interview of 8-1-05 … [the investigator] was presented by the defendant with a redacted copy of the defendant’s Washington Mutual on-line banking statement for the date range of 5-19-05 to 6-15-05. … Highlighted on this copy of the bank statement were account debits on 5-20-05 in the amount of $151.00 from DIRECTDEBIT/VISA-GEICO and 6-7-05 in the amount of $151.00 from DIRECTDEBIT/GEICO GEICO. The defendant contends that these deductions are proof that the defendant’s Geico policy was effective in May 2005 and in effect when the accident occurred on 6-28-05. [The investigator] requested permission from the defendant to view his on-line banking record or to give him consent to get a copy of his banking statement directly from Washington Mutual Bank but both requests were denied.”
Investigators then obtained a search warrant for Webb’s WaMu records and found that they matched Geico’s timeline, not Webb’s: one Geico deduction for $151 on June 30, another on July 8, but nothing in May or early June.
~~Webb's many snack runs were a bone of contention with his fellow workers and apparently ignored by KIRO management. Says one former staffer: “It was common knowledge that Mike Webb would run out and be gone 15 or 20 minutes.” Another, Brian Maloney, claims KIRO management “knew about that night and covered it up.” Maloney is a former colleague of Webb’s at KIRO and an ex-host on KVI-AM (570) who now lives on the East Coast and publishes the conservative blog Radio Equalizer. ”In the history of broadcasting,” says Maloney, “I'm not sure anyone else has been crazy enough to make personal munchie runs during a radio talk show. … BOLDHow does a guy do this and not get suspended or fired? Why was he not fired at 9 a.m. the next day?”
~~A former colleague assesses Webb: “Mike is by far the most insecure person I’ve ever met in my life. Mike would try to do things behind the curtain. Rather than making friends, he would try to destroy them, tear them down.” And yet, “he’s always the victim.”
~~The mystery of the spectacular mismanagement of KIRO, a subject addressed way too much by us, is deepened, although many employees agree with BlatherWatch's ignorant guess work: "One theory goes," writes SW, "that as with many other mystifying recent KIRO programming decisions, the handling of Webb’s firing is an indication that KIRO’s corporate bosses at Entercom headquarters in suburban Philadelphia are either pulling the strings or somehow causing indecision here. 'It’s being run from the East Coast,' one former host says flatly. Webb agrees: 'I don’t believe [Program Director Tom Clendening’s] making the decisions there.'”
Maloney notes of Clendening, “It’s not really clear whether he’s in charge…KIRO does not look good on resumes anymore. Any agent would steer [a potential host] clear of that station and say that’s a dead duck. … This current regime is totally, totally incompetent.” Another ex-staffer sums it up: “It really is a case study in how to destroy a great radio station.”
The other mystery and the question overriding everything in this piece, is: what happened this 35-year radio career that had culminated in a weekday talk-show on a 50,000-watt, once-legendary leader in the nation's 14th-biggest radio market?
TOMORROW: MORE LIES.