Vinnie Penn, Connecticut Talk Radio and the Pro-Family Cause
The best social conservative talk radio host in Connecticut is a man who once performed a lesbian “wedding” underneath a Family Institute of Connecticut billboard. His name is Vinnie Penn and his journey from there to here tells us something about the current state of talk radio in Connecticut—and the future of the pro-family fight.
In 2004, FIC’s political action committee paid for billboards throughout East Haven that said “Protect Marriage Vote McCann” and “A vote for Mike Lawlor is a vote for same-sex ‘marriage’…period.” To protest our message, Vinnie, then a KC101 morning DJ, performed a live on-air “wedding” of a lesbian couple below one of the billboards. It was a media spectacle, with FIC members across the street protesting Vinnie’s protest of us. When Vinnie’s KC101 gig ended, he penned an article for the New Haven Advocate in which he listed the lesbian “wedding” as one of his finest moments.
Fast-forward to 2011. FIC is fighting the Bathroom Bill, the law that allows men who say they are “transgendered” to use women’s public restrooms. A grassroots organization, the Kids Innocence Coalition, arranges for me to appear on “the Vinnie Penn Project,” Vinnie’s new 960 WELI morning talk show. Much to my surprise, Vinnie is outraged by the Bathroom Bill and becomes our strongest talk radio ally against it.
Fast-forward again to 2013. In January, Vinnie strongly protested the pressure being put on the Boy Scouts by gay activists to reverse its policy and allow open homosexuality in Scouting. Searching the dial, I heard nothing about this from Connecticut’s other right-leaning talk radio hosts.
Finally we come full circle to this morning, with Vinnie lamenting that he cannot watch television with his ten-year-old daughter without a show gratuitously inserting a lesbian couple into the storyline, exposing her to things he is not ready to discuss with her at her age. (Ironically, I had to turn the station so that my own children, in the car with me at the time, would not hear the details of Vinnie’s lament.)
At the same time that Vinnie has moved right on family issues, many of Connecticut’s formerly conservative talk radio hosts have moved left. Brad Davis was a firebrand against same-sex civil unions in 2005 but in 2007 he wanted nothing to do with the fight against full same-sex “marriage” and by 2012 he was singing the moderate Republican tune that the GOP should not fight back on social issues (a tune that helped cost Mitt Romney the election).
Indeed, the remarkable thing about conservative talk radio in Connecticut these last few years is how close it hugs the moderate wing of the GOP. John Rowland’s show, initially titled “State and Church,” now focuses on fiscal issues and is vaguely disdainful of cultural conservatism. When social issues do come up, Rowland sounds less like the repentant ex-prisoner from 2006 who found Jesus and more like the cynical politician from 1990 who flip-flopped on abortion.
Jim Vicevich, certainly, is a pro-life powerhouse. But he avoids same-sex “marriage” and related issues, perhaps owing to his libertarian streak (a huge blindspot for libertarians, given that same-sex “marriage” increases state power). And Dan Lovallo, the one talk show host most attentive to pro-family issues in Connecticut? Buckley Radio fired him in 2012.
So why did Vinnie Penn move right on family issues while everyone else moved left?
The answer, I think, is that Vinnie Penn is younger than these other talk show hosts by decades. If I’ve heard him correctly, Vinnie has a six year old son and a ten year old daughter and I think it very likely that their births made him more conservative.
Vinnie’s social conservatism is not, to borrow a phrase, your father’s social conservatism. He reasons towards his conclusions and expresses himself in ways that may be unfamiliar, even jarring, to those whose social conservatism is rooted in religious faith.
Even so, Vinnie may find more in common with pro-family activists than he knows. It may surprise him that I am actually a few years younger than him, that most of the people who work or volunteer for Family Institute of Connecticut are younger than me or that I have been an avid comic book collector since I was eight (another favorite topic of Vinnie’s).
The key takeaway from all of this is that the most socially conservative host in (secular) talk radio in Connecticut is also the youngest. Remember this the next time they tell you same-sex “marriage” is inevitable because the young support it, as if parenthood doesn’t modify their views.