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Tom Athans (born 1961) is a media entrepreneur and a notable member of the Democratic Party from the state of Michigan. He is widely considered the originator of the progressive talk radio format in the United States. Athans was co-founder and former CEO of Democracy Radio, an organization that created and produced progressive talk radio shows that included The Ed Schultz Show and The Stephanie Miller Show. After his tenure at Democracy Radio, he joined Air America as Executive Vice President for Programming. Athans was formerly married to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat of Michigan. The couple divorced in May 2010.
Early life and career
Athans, of Greek descent, was born in Detroit, Michigan. He was a Congressional Aide in the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Previous to his tenure as a staffer in Congress, he was elected to local office and served two terms as a Councilman and President of the Village Council in Oxford, Michigan. Athans is also a veteran of the United States Air Force and the Michigan Air National Guard.
In 2002, Tom Athans and radio industry veteran Paul Fiddick founded Democracy Radio, an organization dedicated to creating political balance on America's commercial radio airwaves. Their concept was to develop, fund and incubate progressive oriented talk programming and enlist radio networks to market the programs to stations around the country. Democracy Radio developed and produced talk shows that launched the national careers of Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller, among others.
On June 8, 2005, Democracy Radio sold its stake in The Ed Schultz Show to a new company headed by veteran radio executive Randy Michaels, the former CEO of Clear Channel Radio. In November 2005, Democracy Radio's partner in The Stephanie Miller Show, WYD Media headed by radio industry veteran Ron Hartenbaum, purchased Democracy Radio's shares and assumed sole ownership of the venture.
On November 4, 2005, Athans stepped down as CEO of Democracy Radio.
After stepping down from Democracy Radio, Athans became Executive Vice-President of Air America, a Progressive talk radio network. Athans was in charge of developing new programming to expand Air America's lineup. He also headed Air America's Washington, D.C. corporate office.
After Air America underwent bankruptcy procedures in late 2006, Athans founded TalkUSA Radio, a radio production company. Talk USA launched The Leslie Marshall Show and Washington Monthly on the Radio into national syndication.
Athans, an occasional contributor to The Huffington Post, currently resides in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan and is Vice President of Communications at Helicon Holdings, LLC. in Detroit, Michigan.
In February 2008, Athans was detained in Troy, Michigan, as part of a prostitution sting and admitted to paying for a sex act. At the time, he was married to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan). Athans was not charged but was ticketed for driving with a suspended driver license. In April, Athans made a public statement, "No words can fully express how sorry I am. At the time this incident occurred, I took responsibility for my actions and fully cooperated with law enforcement. My family and I are dealing with this matter in a personal and private way."
- "Stabenow, husband have officially split after affair". Detroit Free Press. December 5, 2010. POLI-BITES. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- Robinson, Natasha; Thomas, Ken; Associated Press Writers (April 3, 2008). "Senator's husband admits paying for sex". USA Today. Nation. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- Chambers, Jennifer (April 2, 2008). "Stabenow's husband caught in Troy prostitution sting, police report says". The Detroit News. Metro and State. Retrieved December 7, 2010.