Chad Blair: This Hawaii Talk Show Host Talks A Lot About Covid. Some Of It's A Stretch - Honolulu Civil Beat


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Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

Michael W. Perry has long been a household name in the islands, and for good reason.

KSSK’s “Perry & Posse” program, which airs Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. on 92.3 FM, has been a top-rated program for decades. He has also acted and had a popular local TV show.

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And Perry is a go-to source when natural and manmade disasters impact our islands. KSSK 590 AM is one of a handful of local radio stations recognized as primary sources of emergency information.

It’s Perry’s stature and platform, however, that make some of his on-air commentary on Covid-19 unsettling. There have been recent statements that I found to be misleading at best and in some cases bordering on being falsehoods.

Here’s an example, which comes from his Jan. 4 show: “Vaccinated people can spread and get Covid. They do all the time. I’m exhibit A for that. The death rate is now comparable to the flu — that used to be something that would get you kicked off of Facebook, and now it’s true.”

It’s true that vaccinated people can spread and get Covid, but it is misleading to say Covid deaths are comparable to flu deaths.

A Jan. 19 article in Politifact, for example, says that — while death rates vary depending on available data — it is not accurate to say that Covid is no worse than the flu. And a Jan. 30 New York Times story said that “across the country hospitalizations remain near peak levels, and deaths are rising.”

I asked Perry for his sources on the quote along with a half-dozen others. In the case of Covid and the flu, he emailed links to stories from The Daily Caller, The New York Times and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It would be a giant rabbit hole to use this space to explore the back and forth that Perry and I went through via email and phone calls. It included my questions and his responses to his on-air remarks on the safety of cruise ships, the efficacy of masks, hospitalization rates, whether Covid is still primarily a disease of the unvaccinated and just how much kids are at risk.

Let’s just say that we agreed to disagree, and I was appreciative of his willingness to discuss and debate matters. Indeed, Perry’s comments on Covid are part of an ongoing discussion everywhere, from kitchen tables to seats of government. These are extremely polarizing times and there is little consensus.

A screenshot from a March 2020 KSSK video on tips on Covid
A screenshot from a March 2020 KSSK video on safety tips on Covid-19. A lot has changed about our understanding of Covid since then. Perry, for example, says in the video to not use masks unless already infected. 

But Michael W. Perry carries a special influence. He speaks with a deep, authoritative and friendly voice that almost certainly persuades some listeners. His political commentary is smoothly interspersed between straightforward segments on local and national news, sports and entertainment, music and weather, making it difficult sometimes to separate the “news” from the “views.”

The message can also be discordant, as advertisers include the Hawaii Department of Health, Kuakini Health System, Hawaii Dental Service, Adventists Health Castle, Nomi Health and the National Kidney Foundation.

The DOH declined to comment on Perry, Castle did not return my call and the marketing manager and a PR person at Kuakini said she did not have the medical expertise to say anything about it. But “Perry & Posse” also reaches the highly coveted demographic of people in their mid-20s to those in their mid-50s.

Perry’s views do not appear to have hurt his reputation, aside from angering a lot of listeners. He is a longstanding and respected figure in the community, and his ties include serving as chair of the board of directors of the Rehab Hospital of the Pacific and as a longtime pitchman for Pohai Nani, a retirement home in Kaneohe.

I know Perry a little bit, having profiled him in a story that ran in Civil Beat back in 2011 that said his political views made him sound a lot like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Based on the three shows I listened to in January, his political views still skewer decidedly rightward: on the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the southern border and illegal immigration, the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, teacher walkouts in Chicago and so forth.

But, while there are indications that Covid is easing, we remain in a public health crisis. That’s why Perry’s views on the virus are so concerning.

In a phone interview Perry said he was quite aware that some listeners do not like what he has to say about Covid. But he says it is important to share views that are not receiving broad attention, and that he and KHVH 830 AM producer John Matthews research their subjects before he speaks on air.

(Full disclosure: I frequently appear on Rick Hamada’s show on KHVH, which is also an iHeartMedia Honolulu station.)

A screenshot in Feb 2022 Non-Stop Travel's website promoting Perry & Posse's 2022 Alaska cruise.
A screenshot from Non-Stop Travel’s website promoting Perry & Posse’s 2022 Alaska cruise. Perry argues that cruise ships are very safe in spite of Covid, but news reports are mixed. Screenshot/2022

“I have been doing more homework since this came out two years ago than in high school and college put together,” he said. “It’s mind-numbing stuff.”

I too am numb from the data overload, and I too share Covid fatigue, as does everyone I know.

And, like Perry, I too am sick of the constant “drum beat” of the latest case counts. For this he lays the blame — rightly, I believe — with the media for scaring folks. Civil Beat stopped reporting them some time ago.

Perry also has a personal connection to the coronavirus — he got Covid late last year, even though he and his wife were vaccinated.

“I had a stuffy head, and I never get that,” he said. “So I got a test, and sure enough.”

And it’s true that a lot of experts have gotten the pandemic wrong many times. (See: the CDC on cloth masks.) One can see why so many doubt the word of the CDC, Anthony Fauci, the World Health Organization, the Biden and Trump administrations and many others. Even former president Trump has been booed at rallies when he advocated for vaccines.

Most folks tuning into KSSK during their morning commute are probably not going to fact check everything Perry says, let alone record it and play it back, as I did.

They can also choose to not tune in, although it’s hard to find a more informative morning commute broadcaster — Perry’s views sometimes to the contrary.


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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Latest Comments (0)

Excellent article, Chad. Perry is yet another "folksy" personality being reactionary.

savhcc · 11 months ago

My wife and I stopped listening to Perry several years ago. Way too far on the left. Looks like he’s getting worse!

hulatee · 11 months ago

I guess this is what happens when you politicize a virus. Like our state has done. Hilarious.

Ranger_MC · 11 months ago

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