AUGUSTA, Maine — The liberal-leaning co-host of one of Maine’s best-known political talk radio shows said he was fired by his station on Friday with the company blaming financial issues caused by the coronavirus outbreak while he long suspected a change was afoot.
Ken Altshuler, a 67-year-old divorce lawyer from Freeport, hosted a morning show on WGAN for 18 years that was focused on political analysis and interviews with newsmakers. Former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who frequently used talk radio to address the public, was notable among the frequent guests.
Altshuler spent 12 years hosting the program with conservative Mike Violette. After Violette was released from his contract in 2016, he was replaced by Matt Gagnon, the CEO of the conservative Maine Policy Institute and a Bangor Daily News columnist. The show turned to a more analytical format after the change.
On Friday, Altshuler co-hosted “ The Morning News with Ken and Matt.” After leaving the station, he said WGAN’s general manager told him in a phone call that he was being fired along with at least one other employee in a financial restructuring caused by an advertising revenue decline.
Station officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on Friday and Saturday, but WGAN’s website was changed by Saturday to only refer to Gagnon as the host of the show.
Altshuler said he had long suspected that he would be let go since another show managed by Portland Radio Group, WGAN’s umbrella organization owned by Michigan-based Saga Communications, switched to a one-host format, among other changes at the company.
“I would have liked the chance to go on the radio on Monday and said, ‘Hey guys, it was a great run, I loved everybody,’” he said in an interview.
Altshuler said he believes it took about six months for his show with Gagnon to hit its stride, but that he believed it was performing as well recently as the show with Violette did in terms of advertising revenue and listener feedback.
He praised Gagnon, but he said WGAN would likely regret the move to a one-host show. The station’s schedule of national programs is dominated by conservatives including Rush Limbaugh, Howie Carr and Mark Levin. Altshuler said his show was one of the only opportunities for listeners to hear “the other perspective.”
Altshuler said he had no end date in mind for his radio career, though he may have left in late 2020 if a Democrat won the presidency since he said he prefers to critique people in power. The self-described “political junkie” said he would stay involved in Maine’s civic conversation.
“I’m certainly going to continue to do political analysis on social media, but it would have been really nice to thank everybody and say goodbye to everybody,” he said. “That is my only regret, that I was not allowed an opportunity to do that.”