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Michael Smerconish

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Michael Smerconish
Smerconish in 2018
BornMarch 15, 1962 (1962-03-15) (age 62)
EducationLehigh University (BA)
University of Pennsylvania (JD)
Occupation(s)SiriusXM host, CNN and CNN International host, columnist, author, political analyst, lawyer
Political partyRepublican (before 2010)
Independent (2010–present)
SpouseLavinia Nardini

Michael Andrew Smerconish[1] (/smɜːrˈkɒnɪʃ/ smur-KON-ish;[2] born March 15, 1962) is an American radio host, television presenter, political commentator, author, and lawyer. A self-described "lifelong Republican" and former GOP administration appointee, he left the Republican party during the Obama administration.

He hosts a morning radio show, The Michael Smerconish Program, on SiriusXM's POTUS Channel, and a CNN and CNN International program on Saturdays. He is a former Sunday columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer and has written seven books, including six non-fiction works and one novel. He serves of counsel to Kline & Specter, a Philadelphia law firm.

Early life and education


Smerconish was born March 15, 1962, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the son of Florence (née Grovich) and Walter Smerconish.[3][4] His family hails from Galicia in Eastern Europe.[5] He graduated from Central Bucks High School West, a public high school in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.[6] He received his B.A. from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia.

Smerconish was raised in a Republican household, and while in his early teens, Smerconish began to correspond with the then Democratic Mayor of Philadelphia, Frank L. Rizzo. The two eventually met, and established a relationship. In spring of 1980, Smerconish's father competed unsuccessfully in a Republican primary for the Pennsylvania state legislature. Smerconish worked on his father's campaign during his senior year in high school.

In 1980, Smerconish founded Youth for Reagan/Bush at Lehigh University. As a student at University of Pennsylvania Law School, he ran unsuccessfully for the Pennsylvania state legislature, losing the Republican Primary by 419 votes.[7][8]

After losing his primary, Smerconish returned to law school and worked on political campaigns. In 1986, Smerconish was responsible for managing Philadelphia for U.S. Senator Arlen Specter's re-election. In 1987, Smerconish served as Frank Rizzo's political director in Rizzo's losing bid to return as mayor of Philadelphia.



After graduating from Penn Law School, Smerconish opened a title insurance agency with his brother Wally prior to being appointed, at age 29, by the George H. W. Bush administration to serve as regional administrator of Philadelphia Region III for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary Jack Kemp.

On October 19, 2008, after supporting only Republican presidential candidates, Smerconish endorsed Barack Obama for president in the 2008 presidential election.[9][10] In a 2,000-word essay for Salon titled "Why this lifelong Republican may vote for Obama," citing the Republican Party's failure to capture Osama bin Laden after seven years of war, he wrote, "All of this drives me bat-shit, and it just might drive me into the Obama camp. That'd be quite a departure."[11]

In his commentary, Smerconish urged the Republican Party to pursue "moderation on social issues in order to advance a suburban agenda for the GOP."[12] In June 2010, he authored an op-ed for The Washington Post in which he wrote, "Buying gas or groceries or attending back-to-school nights, I speak to people for whom the issues are a mixed bag; they are liberal on some, conservative on others, middle of the road on the rest. But politicians don't take their cues from those people. No, politicians emulate the world of punditry."[13]

In February 2010, Smerconish announced that he had left the Republican Party.[14] Discussing Smerconish's move to the middle, Manuel Roig-Franzia of The Washington Post wrote, "It may be conventional wisdom that the only way to truly succeed in the world of talk is to occupy one of the poles. But Smerconish is betting his career that there's a great untapped center."[15]

Smerconish voted for Gary Johnson in the 2016 presidential election.

Smerconish's tenure at HUD came to a close after George H. W. Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton in the 1992 election. In 1993, Smerconish began what would become a decade practicing law with legendary trial attorney James E. Beasley, who would become the benefactor and eponym of the Temple University Beasley School of Law. Smerconish became acquainted with Beasley while at HUD when he sought the latter's legal opinion for a possible defamation action against Steve Lopez, then a columnist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. Beasley was noted for his record-breaking defamation wins against the newspaper. (No lawsuit was filed by Smerconish against Lopez.) Working closely with Beasley for a decade, Smerconish specialized in complex tort litigation. At a 2015 legal seminar sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, Smerconish wrote an essay summarizing some of his lessons learned working for Beasley.

Smerconish's legal work spanned various subject areas, including contracts, medical malpractice, and products liability. His clients included: the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (in an action against Dead Kennedys for publishing an FOP photograph on an album cover that advocated the murder of police); the City of Rome, Italy (in a contract dispute against the Barnes Foundation); and Orlin Norris, a professional boxer who through Smerconish sued promoter Don King for a shot at the heavyweight title. In a medical malpractice action, Smerconish successfully sued abortion provider Kermit Gosnell. While in active practice, Smerconish served one term as a member of the Board of Directors of The Philadelphia Trial Lawyer's Association. Today, Smerconish's law license hangs in the office of the Philadelphia law firm Kline & Specter.


Smerconish interviewing President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on October 26, 2012

In the spring of 1990, Smerconish made his first radio appearance as a guest of a guest-host, Brian Tierney, who was then a substitute host on Philadelphia talk station 96.5 FM WWDB. During the 1991 Philadelphia mayoral election, Smerconish worked at WWDB as a political analyst. He then transitioned from a guest to a guest-host. By 1993, he had his own program Sunday nights from 8 p.m. until midnight, during which time his day job was the practice of law. In 1996, after the death of longtime broadcaster Dominic Quinn, Smerconish moved to Saturday and Sunday mornings, the latter of which allowed him to be the lead-in of Sid Mark's Sunday with Sinatra. WWDB was then sold by broadcast entrepreneurs Chuck and Susan Schwartz and a new owner began selling informercials masked as programming which Smerconish refused to honor. That led to his 1997 move to CBS affiliate WPHT (formerly known as WCAU AM). By the following year, he was moved to afternoon drive, all the while maintaining his practice of law. Only when in September 2003, after the firing of Don Imus, whose morning drive slot he took, did Smerconish become a talk show host who was a lawyer instead of a lawyer who was a talk show host.[16]

In February 2009, Smerconish's program was placed into national syndication by Dial Global. On August 20, 2009, Smerconish became the first talk radio host to interview President Barack Obama live from the White House, one of seven radio conversations he had with Obama.[17] The interview was held in the Diplomatic Reception Room, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt conducted fireside chats. The President took questions from Smerconish and his listeners on a variety of subjects including the recent debates on the then-pending Affordable Care Act. He has also interviewed Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as Vice Presidents Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden. He has often said that he has spoken with everyone who interested him with the exception of the elusive creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David.

Smerconish appeared on television, first locally and then nationally. In Philadelphia, he was first asked to appear by his friend and eventual mentor, Larry Kane, on WCAU Channel 10 providing election night analysis. He then became a regular on the local WPVI program Inside Story, hosted by Marc Howard. He appeared as a guest of Lynn Doyle, host of Comcast's It's Your Call on CN8.

Smerconish joined CNN as a guest and guest host of Arthel Neville on the program TalkBack Live. CNN engaged Smerconish as a legal analyst and utilized him as the substitute for Glenn Beck on CNN's Headline News. CNN briefly aired a program called Attorneys at Law featuring Smerconish, Jeffrey Toobin, and Lisa Bloom. When CNN switched to extensive coverage of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the program was interrupted and never returned. Smerconish then moved to MSNBC as a contributor at the invitation of Phil Griffin, the future head of MSNBC, where he began guest hosting Scarborough Country in the absence of former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough.

In 2007, after MSNBC fired Don Imus for a racial slur, and Smerconish was invited by the network to guest host Imus' time slot during for a week on a trial basis.[18] In-studio guests included Jon Anderson of Yes and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. MSNBC eventually hired Scarborough for the slot formerly held by Imus and rebranded the program as Morning Joe (where Smerconish has never been a guest). At MSNBC, Smerconish's role then became one of appearing daily with Tamron Hall, host of News Nation, and as a guest host of Hardball in the absence of Chris Matthews, a position he filled for five years. At the same time—despite the polarized media climate and differences between MSNBC and Fox News—he guest hosted The Radio Factor for Bill O'Reilly.

In 2013, Smerconish decided to give up his terrestrial radio platform then consisting of 80 radio stations across the country to move to the POTUS Channel 124 on Sirius XM Radio. He said at the time that this reflected his desire to be "nonpartisan" in discussing issues; having left the Republican party in 2010, adding that satellite radio would give him more freedom to talk politics without a party label.[19]

In early 2014, Smerconish left MSNBC after Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, invited him to host his own program there.[20] Smerconish hosts CNN Saturdays at 9:00 am ET. The show also broadcasts on CNN International.

Smerconish has appeared on Larry King Live, The View, Real Time with Bill Maher The Today Show, The Colbert Report, and The O'Reilly Factor.[21]

To mark his 30 years in talk radio, Smerconish aired an autobiographical film Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking on CNN in July 2020. In the film, Smerconish walks through his transition from a reliably Republican voter to a registered independent, illustrated by interview excerpts and anecdotes throughout his time in talk radio and television as a political commentator.



While following the 9/11 Commission following the September 11 attacks, Smerconish picked up on a question put to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman, who suggested that political correctness played a role in airport security before and after 9/11. Smerconish subsequently interviewed Lehman, who suggested there was a limit on the number of Arab males who could be pulled out of line at any one time for secondary screening. Smerconish wrote about Lehman's account in the Philadelphia Daily News and stayed on the subject, eventually testifying before a Senate subcommittee at the invitation of Senator Arlen Specter. Smerconish wrote his first book, Flying Blind: How Political Correctness Continues to Compromise Airline Safety Post 9/11 (2004), about his investigation, and donated all proceeds to the Garden of Reflection, a 9/11 tribute garden in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

His second book, a New York Times best-seller, was Muzzled: From T-Ball to Terrorism – True Stories That Should Be Fiction (2007), which sought to link the restraint of fighting the war on terror to domestic political correctness.[22]

His third book, another New York Times best-seller, Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice (2007) (co-written by Maureen Faulkner) told the story of slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, in what was arguably the highest profile death penalty case in the world. Despite being convicted and sentenced to death by a Philadelphia jury for the murder of Faulkner, Mumia Abu-Jamal became a cause célèbre for death penalty opponents around the world. In print, Smerconish told Faulkner's story, and donated the $200,000 he was paid to write the book to a charitable fund established in the slain officer's name.

His fourth book, Morning Drive: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking (2009) detailed his evolving political positions against the backdrop of his talk radio career. Morning Drive's chapters were evenly split between issue-oriented essays and back-of-the-house media tales.

He then returned to the subject of the September 11 attacks for his fifth book, Instinct: The Man Who Stopped the 20th Hijacker (2009), which tells the true story of Jose Melendez-Perez, a Customs and Border Protection Inspector at Orlando International Airport, who thwarted the entry of Mohammed al Qahtani, the 20th hijacker, one month before 9/11. Once again, Smerconish gave all author profits to charity, this time, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Smerconish subsequently sought to credit Melendez-Perez with playing a role in the killing of Osama bin Laden because he denied al Qahtani's entry and Qahtani, as a prisoner of war in Guantanamo Bay, was one of the detainees who identified bin Laden's courier, leading to the successful raid of SEAL Team Six.

Talk: A Novel (2014) is Smerconish's sixth book and first fictional work, about the life of conservative talk show host Stan Powers. Powers, a former slacker and stoner with no political knowledge, is nevertheless able to quickly ascend the talk radio world by his entertainment skills and recitation of red-meat talking points (which conflict with his own opinions). The more Stan Powers says on fictionalized radio station WRGT with which he personally disagrees, the higher he sees his star rising. With a Republican convention coming to his hometown of Tampa, Florida, will Powers continue to spout the lines that pay for his beach front condominium, or will he take the professional risk of being true to himself? Warner Horizon Television has optioned the rights to the novel.[23]

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right (2018) is Smerconish's seventh book, a compilation of 100 of Smerconish's more memorable newspaper columns in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, each with a new Afterword, drawn from the 1,047 he published between 2001 and 2016. As characterized by Foreword Reviews: "Michael Smerconish's collection is compelling and entertaining—not as a filtering of daily news through a predictable ideological lens, but as a group of insightful entries into conversations about current events and issues….This sampling of Smerconish's columns exemplifies the kind of discourse, based on reason and evidence, that makes a newspaper, in print or online, indispensable to citizens of democracy." As characterized by The Daily Beast, "[The columns] make for enjoyable reading and remind us that journalism properly practiced requires a good deal of nerve, honesty, and insight, along with openness to dialogue and the determination not to live in a bubble." All author proceeds are being donated to the Children's Crisis Treatment Center, which provides social services to children in Philadelphia who are the victims of trauma.

After the release of Clowns, Smerconish composed a one-man show in which he draws on columns reprinted in the book and weaves them together with his explanation of the political divide. He has since toured the country in support of what he calls "American Life in Columns", appearing at the Paley Center in Los Angeles, Hobby Center in Houston, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, Sellersville Theatre outside of Philadelphia, the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, Michigan, and at City Wineries located in Boston, Chicago, New York City, Atlanta and Nashville.

Honorary degrees and recognition


Smerconish has been awarded three honorary degrees, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Widener University in 2016,[24] a Doctor of Humane Letters from Delaware Valley College in 2018,[25] and a Doctor of Science degree from University of the Sciences in 2020.[26]

Talkers Magazine named him one of America's most important talk show hosts,[21] and Radio & Records naming him the nation's 2006 Local Personality of the Year.[22] In 2003, he was named to "The Pennsylvania Report Power 75 List" of influential figures in Pennsylvania politics.[27] In 2011, the National Association of Broadcasters selected him as a Marconi Award finalist in the category of Best Network/Syndicated Host.[28] In 2004, Philadelphia magazine named him the city's best talk show host and one of the city's most powerful citizens.



As part of the 2024 pro-Palestinian protests on university campuses, students at Dickinson College protested to rescind Smerconish's invitation as commencement speaker for the Class of 2024 due to remarks in his 2004 book Flying Blind in favor of racial profiling. In response, Smerconish discussed the students' demands on his podcast and website, stating that although he had not read the book in some time, "my hunch is that I will probably stand behind every single word."[29] The college later decided to rescind his invitation and honorary degree, citing what President John E. Jones called "overwhelming opposition from our faculty and students" and the potential for his presence at the event to become a distraction.[30]


  1. ^ Smerconish, Michael. "CNN". CNN.com. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  2. ^ "CNN's Michael Smerconish comes to Joe Biden's defense". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  3. ^ "Michael Smerconish birth announcement". Standard-Speaker. March 16, 1962. p. 24.
  4. ^ "Michael Smerconish". February 19, 2018.
  5. ^ "Michael Smerconish: When it comes to ancestry and immigration, we all have stories". December 2014.
  6. ^ Hughes, Samuel (July–August 2013). "The Purple Passion of Michael Smerconish". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  7. ^ Fox, Tom (March 6, 1988). "At 25, He's Been Around The Kid Who Advises The Veteran Politicians". Philly.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Hunter, Al Jr. (November 9, 1999). "Wpht's Mr. Right With A Name Like Smerconish, He's Got To Be Good". Philly.com. Philadelphia Daily News. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  9. ^ Gewargis, Natalie (October 19, 2008). "In Philly, Conservative Talk Radio Host Backs Obama". ABC News. Archived from the original on October 18, 2008. Retrieved October 19, 2008.
  10. ^ Smerconish, Michael (October 20, 2008). "Head Strong: McCain fails the big five tests". Philly.com. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  11. ^ Why this lifelong Republican may vote for Obama
  12. ^ Smerconish, Michael (November 16, 2006). "A Suburban Gop Manifesto". Philly.com. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  13. ^ On cable TV and talk radio, a push toward polarization
  14. ^ Smerconish, Michael (February 21, 2010). "For Me, the Party Is Over". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
  15. ^ Roig-Franzia, Manuel (April 24, 2014). "Radio/TV talk host Michael Smerconish tries to appeal to the middle". The Washington Post.
  16. ^ "Smerconish Gets a Wake-Up Call." Bucks County (PA) Times, August 26, 2003, p. 4E.
  17. ^ Franke-Ruta, Garance. "Conservative Radio Host Smerconish to the White House". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  18. ^ Chiachiere, Ryan (April 20, 2007). "Radio host Michael Smerconish to be simulcast on MSNBC in place of Imus". Media Matters. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  19. ^ Timpane, John. "Smerconish leaving WPHT for SiriusXM". Philly.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  20. ^ Gold, Hadas (March 8, 2014). "Michael Smerconish kicks off new CNN show". Politico. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  21. ^ a b "And Starring Michael Smerconish, as Himself". Philadelphia Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  22. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 25, 2011. Retrieved February 2, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Gold, Hadas (December 4, 2014). "Smerconish book optioned for TV show". Politico. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  24. ^ Report, Tribune News (June 1, 2016). "Widener graduation speakers offer words to the wise". The Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved November 10, 2023.
  25. ^ "CNN Host To Deliver DelVal Commencement Address". Doylestown, PA Patch. April 25, 2018. Retrieved November 10, 2023.
  26. ^ Pizzi, Jenna. "Media Personality Michael Smerconish To Address Graduates at 2020 Commencement". University of the Sciences News Archive. Archived from the original on January 27, 2021.
  27. ^ "The PA Report "Power 75" List" (PDF). Pennsylvania Report. Capital Growth, Inc. January 31, 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 20, 2006.
  28. ^ "2011 NAB Marconi Radio Award Finalists Announced". National Association of Broadcasters. July 13, 2011. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  29. ^ Hess, Taylor (May 5, 2024). "CNN host, Michael Smerconish, will no longer be Dickinson College's graduation speaker". WGAL. Retrieved June 2, 2024.
  30. ^ Jeski, Sarah; Burns, Tyler (May 3, 2024). "Update: Dickinson College rescinds invite for scheduled speaker Michael Smerconish". WJAC. Retrieved June 2, 2024.