Every Friday afternoon, "The Couch Potato," a 62-year-old white man who claims improbably to have been active in the civil rights movement, takes to the airwaves for two hours at St. Louis' WGNU-AM radio station. In a baritone radio voice, "Couchie" offers up "family radio for concerned white people."
You wouldn't know it from the station's Web site, but The Couch Potato's real name is Frank Weltner. There are a few other things, too, that aren't apparent from anything the station says publicly about this one of its 40 or so talk show hosts.
Weltner is a member of the National Alliance, the country's biggest and best-organized neo-Nazi organization. He runs Jew Watch, a wildly anti-Semitic, 6-year-old Web site that carries archives of conspiracy theories about Jews.
What Weltner describes as his online "library" is divided into categories like "Jewish Mind Control Mechanisms," "Jewish Genocides Today and Yesterday," "Jewish Terrorists" and "Jewish Controlled Press."
Weltner's site made national news last spring because it appeared first when Google computer search users typed in the word "Jew."
It's not that these facts are any surprise to WGNU officials. They know all about Weltner's Alliance membership, his Jew Watch site, even the radio show he does for National Vanguard, a branch of the National Alliance. They know his real name.
None of this seems to bother General Manager Esther Wright, whose "Radio Free St. Louis" station claims to have hosts of all political persuasions. Weltner can say what he likes, Wright says, "as long as he stays within the guidelines."
It's unclear precisely what those guidelines entail. Since 1995, WGNU has been home to "Right at Night," a show hosted by the national leader of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC; see also Communing with the Council), Gordon Baum, and his local CCC chieftain, Earl Holt.
Holt got into hot water in November 2003 after attacking an antiracist as a "nigger lover" in an E-mail later made public. Wright says Holt was "called on the carpet" but not kicked off the air.
Weltner, who has had his WGNU show for about a decade now, seems to be in no immediate jeopardy either. Wright said that Weltner, like Holt, has been reprimanded at WGNU. But she could not remember when or for what.