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SCOT LEHIGH

Does talk host Severin even care what's true?

THE BEST and brightest are belligerent and befuddled.

How can it be, they demand, that in my Friday column I said I occasionally listen to "Extreme Games" on WTKK when on Thursday's show, host Jay Severin said I had admitted to him that I don't listen to his program?

The answer is, it cannot be. Which is why Jay owes me a correction.

At the beginning of our conversation on Thursday, I told Jay I was an occasional listener to his show. (On those nights when I leave work before 7, I often tune in on my way home.) Jay thanked me, clearly acknowledging my comment.

So why just a couple of hours later would Jay go on the air and claim that I said I don't listen to his show? (Although I considered our conversation civil, Jay also told his listeners it was one of the rudest encounters he had ever experienced; that, however, I'm willing to chalk up to sensibilities rendered overly delicate by the courtly Victorian manners of talk radio.)

Well, there are two primary possibilities. One is that Jay doesn't understand what words mean. Indeed, one could argue that that's exactly what has landed him in the current brouhaha about seemingly advocating the killing of Muslims living in the United States.

Or it could be that Jay simply has no regard for the truth. Now, I know that possibility will prove hard for some of his listeners to contemplate. Judging from my Friday e-mail, a certain percentage consider Jay an intellectual mentor who has taught them to think. And if the word "think" has come to encompass, among its various meanings, "to fling semiliterate insults," then Jay can rightly claim to have done that.

Yet Jay isn't fooling all his listeners. A significant number who e-mailed me sensed that he was skittering about like a waterbug in a windstorm as he tried to dodge the real issue. Jay was at it again on Monday. A caller said my Friday column critical of Jay "was really 100 percent right on." Jay retorted that "the Globe has twice printed that I didn't say what I was accused of saying," and quickly moved to the next caller.

What Jay ignored in his reply is what he actually did say about Muslims back on April 22. To recap: A caller had recommended that we befriend Muslims living in the United States. Jay said that, as far as he was concerned, "the vast majority" of those Muslims are not loyal to the United States and are ready, when the time comes, to take over this country.

Jay asked several times: "Do you think we should befriend them?" The caller said yes. Jay then said that he had an alternative viewpoint: "You think we should befriend them. I think we should kill them."

Rather than issue a true apology, Jay has argued in essence that because at other times he has said that not all Muslims are our enemies neither the words he spoke that day nor the clear context of the immediate conversation matters.

And he's ducked repeatedly behind the fact that the Globe corrected its original story -- which quoted the Council on American-Islamic Relations alleging that Severin said something marginally different -- to pretend he's won a great victory.

Interestingly, Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the American-Islamic Council, says he got that erroneous quote from Matt Mills, general manager at WTKK; Rabiah Ahmed, the council's communications coordinator, says Mills later confirmed the same quote to her. Although Mills acknowledges he checked the tape to see what Severin had said, he denies he gave the American-Islamic Council anything purporting to be a verbatim quote. Thus I can't say for sure whose account is correct.

However, I can say with certainty that Jay misrepresented my conversation with him. A cynic would argue that it's easier to try to gull your listeners into believing you're the target of a journalistic vendetta if you assert that the person writing about you hasn't listened to your show.

That, however, would mean that Jay is a mountebank. I, for one, would certainly hate to think that about a man who has made such a fathomless contribution to the local conversation.

Thus I'm hoping Jay will set the record straight today by acknowledging that when we spoke, I told him I'm an occasional listener to his show.

So I'll be tuning in today, hoping Jay tells the truth. But I won't be holding my breath.

Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is lehigh@globe.com. 

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