Bob Grant, Creator of Conservative Talk Radio, Dies at 84

The pioneering and controversial radio figure was hired and fired multiple times in New York while paving the way for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others.

Bob Grant, the man many credit for creating conservative talk radio and whose sometimes caustic style had him allegedly butting heads with powerful media figures like Fox News topper Roger Ailes, died on New Year's Eve at 84, according to an obituary published Thursday by the Branchburg Funeral Home in New Jersey.

Grant began in radio in the 1940s at WMMB-AM in Chicago and made his way to Los Angeles, where he hosted shows on KNX-AM and KABC-AM, delivering sports, news and opinion. He hit it big, though, when he moved to New York in 1970 and hosted a political talk show on WMCA, where his sign-off became "Get Gaddafi," a reference to Muammar al-Gaddafi, the former Libyan dictator who Grant despised for his anti-Israel policies.

Grant would often begin his show by welcoming his audience to "another hour of the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions," then he'd take calls from listeners from all corners of the political spectrum. When he disagreed with them, he could be extremely combative, which made for entertaining talk radio and high ratings. When Grant called a New York congressman a "coward," the representative filed a complaint with the FCC and the matter made its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals, where a judge sided with Grant.

On another occasion, while at WOR in New York, Grant ripped into the practice of affirmative action by telling a caller that a minority female employee at a rival radio station got her job because "she passed the gynecological and pigmentation test." Grant later called his remarks "stupid," WOR fired him and he said the episode "turned off" Ailes, who was working for CBS at the time and was considering Grant for co-host of a TV show.

Grant worked in Philadelphia radio after that but returned to WMCA for a dozen years until he was fired yet again for a controversial remark, this time involving the death of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. After a plane carrying Brown crashed in 1996, Grant said: "My hunch is that (Brown) is the one survivor. I just have that hunch. Maybe it's because, at heart, I'm a pessimist." After Brown was discovered dead in the wreckage, Grant was criticized for weeks until WABC replaced him with Sean Hannity. Grant returned to WOR until 2006, and Grant and Hannity frequently traded barbs while competing for conservative listeners in New York, though Hannity has praised Grant on several occasions since Grant's last show on WOR in 2006.

More recently, Grant has been broadcasting as a guest on various radio shows and regularly on the Internet.

In a 1991 roast of Grant, Rush Limbaugh described Grant's conservatism by listing things he'd change if he were president: "Rowe vs. Wade would be your options for crossing a lake. … There would be no quotas except in the NBA. … Flag burning? Bob would support it if Al Sharpton were wearing it."

Limbaugh also said Grant "paved the way for others" because he "took the early hits."

"Bob Grant has conditioned radio management across the country to tolerate controversy, and that is something this industry needs if it is to thrive," Limbaugh said in 1991. "You can't stifle opinion, regardless of what it is. And as long as someone believes what they say and can back it up, that's all that should matter. That's responsibility, and Bob Grant epitomizes that."

The Branchburg obituary says Grant died peacefully after a short illness. He is survived by his sons Jeff and Chris and daughters Alisa Mingus and Cynthia Gaydosh, as well as eight grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a sister, Ann Ryan.