Few people work harder than Donald Trump when it comes to self promotion, but now Connecticut radio station WDRC is doing it for him, rebranding itself as “Trump Radio."
The station’s brass is touting the new “ultra conservative talk" format — which is expected to be temporary — as the “brave new voice of freedom.” The station’s lineup includes Lee Elci, Brad Davis, Mike Gallagher, commentary from Bill O’Reilly and Ben Shapiro.
It’s all part of an effort by the station, which is running promos calling for the firing of Gov. Ned Lamont, to galvanize conservatives in the state. How that plays in deep blue Connecticut remains to be seen.
“My [station] owner is a crazy person, but in a good way. He likes to make a big splash and he likes to ramp up the listeners,” Elci said Wednesday. “It seems like the listeners have embraced it, even if it is for the short term. A lot of people like it. A lot of people think it’s funny.”
A request for comment was left Wednesday for the station’s owner, John Fuller of Full Power Radio. The station broadcasts on a number of frequencies, including 103.3 FM and 1360 AM.
Trump Radio is trying to stoke the opposition to Lamont’s controversial transportation funding plan, which calls for high-speed tolls to be installed on Interstates 91, 84, 95 and Route 15, which encompasses the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways.
“I’m disappointed. I can’t get Lamont to come on the show,” Elci said. “He doesn’t want to talk to these listeners anyway.”
Lamont senior adviser Colleen Flanagan Johnson took a swipe at the station’s rebranding campaign.
'How do you say desperate in Russian?" Flanagan Johnson said Wednesday. “This is nothing more than a PR ploy to try to attract listeners who are already predisposed to believe that anything Gov. Lamont does is wrong and anything President Trump does is right. It’s a shame that when Gov. Lamont’s transportation investment bill passes people will have less time to listen to this station in their cars due to reduced congestion, quicker commutes and additional transit options. Sad.”
A request for comment was left with the White House Wednesday about Trump Radio.
Elci noted that there are three Florida radio stations that are playing Trump speeches every hour until the 2020 election.
Jonathan Faber, a legal expert on trademarks and the right to publicity whose clients have included the descendants of Babe Ruth and Vince Lombardi, said the station could run into problems with its commercial use of Trump’s name.
“The law makes it clear that you can’t use a person’s name, image or likeness in a commercial way without permission,” said Faber, who is founder of the Indiana-based Luminary Group. "Let’s not forget this sitting president entered office with more registered trademarks than any president in history."
Faber said if the station was his client, he would have recommend a more cautious approach.
“I would probably would have said, ‘Oh boy, we’re going to really need to think about this,’ ” Faber said.
Tyler Ochoa, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California and expert in copyright law and rights of publicity, echoed Faber.
“I seriously doubt the First Amendment would provide a successful defense in this context,” Ochoa said. “They can talk about Trump all they want [the content of the programming is protected by the First Amendment]; but they probably can’t use his name as the trademark for their station.”
WDRC, which was the first commercial AM station in Connecticut, is not the only Trump-branded entity in the state.
Trump Parc, a 34-story luxury condominium tower in Stamford that opened in 2009 and is the city’s tallest building, is named after the real estate mogul-turned-president.
Trump doesn’t own the building, but sold the naming rights for up to $1 million, according to financial disclosure forms filed by the Trump Organization.
Notable tenants include former Trump Cabinet member and wrestling matriarch Linda McMahon, who stepped down as the head of the Small Business Administration to raise money for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.
In the high-rise, tenants have been divided over a renaming effort.
Neil Vigdor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org