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LEADING QUESTIONS: Abdul airs take on punditry, influence

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Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses and civic leaders to talk shop about their latest projects and the decisions that lead to success.



Although he can't claim a title akin to Howard Stern's "King of All Media," talk-radio host Abdul-Hakim Shabazz has become an imposing presence on the local airwaves and has solidified his influential standing through his blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page and occasional public forums on local issues.

From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays, Shabazz helms “Abdul in the Morning” on WXNT-AM 1430, holding forth on local, state and national issues. He identifies himself along the political spectrum as a “socially progressive capitalist pig,” and eschews the term “conservative” in favor of “consistent.”

“This is what I believe, and I'm going to try to be as consistent as humanly possible. I don't necessarily spout an ideology as much as I just want to get people  to think,” said Shabazz, 41.

His opinions are informed by a wide-ranging education and work history. Shabazz received a bachelor's degree in communication and journalism from Northern Illinois University in 1992 and a master's in public affairs reporting in 1995 from the University of Illinois. The self-professed overachiever earned his law degree from St. Louis University in 2002, making a 200-mile round-trip four nights a week while working full-time.

His resume includes positions such as assistant appellate prosecutor for Springfield, III., columnist for IBJ, adjunct faculty member for University of Indianapolis and Ivy Tech Community College, stand-up comedian, voiceover/on-air talent and actor. He's also been a spokesman and strategic communications coordinator for the Illinois Attorney General's Office, an assistant producer/anchor for a television news program and a disc jockey.

Shabazz tries to leaven his policy-wonk commentary with big dollops of humor but admits that a caustic streak sometimes peeks through. For example, on his blog in January, he twice compared Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White to former Ugandan despot Idi Amin, pointing up alleged dictatorial qualities.

“That was a little over the top,” Shabazz admitted to IBJ.

(Mary Louise Bewley, director of the IPS office of school and community relations, responded: “IPS has no interest in comments made by Mr. Shabazz that unfairly attack the character of the superintendent, IPS administration, school board, teachers or district policies. Our focus is on ensuring the best quality education for our students, not the vitriolic rhetoric of naysayers who have nothing positive to contribute to our district or our city.”)

Shabazz invites those with views opposed to his own on the show in the interest of debate, and he’s just as willing to bark when an invitation isn’t accepted. He points to a standing invitation for former Indianapolis deputy mayor Melina Kennedy to discuss her candidacy in this year’s mayoral race.

“She’s not necessarily a big fan of me, but I’m thinking to myself, ‘If Barack Obama and Bill O’Reilly can sit down and have a conversation a day before the Super Bowl, surely me and somebody who wants to be the mayor of Indianapolis can sit down and have a chat,’” Shabazz said. “Why be afraid of little old me?”

He also referred to an alleged spat between himself and Kennedy dating back to 2006 that might still be creating hard feelings. Jon Mills, communications director for Kennedy’s mayoral campaign, replied that “Abdul is misguided. I can assure you that we have not ruled out any discussions at this point in time. “

In the video at top, Shabazz expounds on his approach to politics, his radio show, and widening his audience through social media. In the video below, he reveals how he developed a love for performing, how he honed his comedic chops, and his love for four-color role models.

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  • 98.7 percent rating
    Give Abdula 100% rating for intelligence, talent and knack for self-branding. Deduct 1.3% for unwillingness to engage in honest conversation about race.
  • Point
    Point out where he's wrong.
  • Ms. Bewley
    I believe that taxpayers are for the children and compensating teachers fairly.

    However, THIS taxpayer is against the 'educrats' who have gotten fat long enough off our taxes!

    I don't need a school administrator who gets a new Benz every year and wears $1000 suits.

    I need someone who puts the kids above themselves and is dedicated to bringing Indy's education system from the bowels of being one of the worst in the country to one of the best.

    If that means we dismantle IPS, then so be it. I can't endure another tax increase to pay for this monstrosity under overpaid educrat hacks.

  • Typical Abdul
    Abdul's response is so typical...and dishonest. You point out how Abdul is wrong and he responds by "point out where I'm wrong." You point out again why he's wrong and he again ignores you, asking you to point out why he's wrong.

    Abdul is a dim bulb who pretends to be an egotist to cover up his intellectual deficiencies.

    Ballard is going to duck debates as long as possible. Nobody is surprised he's ducking him here. Anyone on the same stage as Ballard is going to look like a nuclear physicist compared to the intellectual lightweight Greg Ballard.
    • Huh?
      Lately?
    • stuff tonite
      abdul is a little full of himself lately
      • Baloney
        When she wins the primary? What kind of cop out is that. Ron Gibson, the oddball "throw my name in and see what happens" candidate, has about as much chance as SpongeBob does in winning this primary.

        Bigger question is: Can Ballard accept the challenge of a debate? Sure seems like he's good at shirking responisbilities.....Parking meter deal, Water comapny deal, leaves for Dallas while "his city" is paralyzed in an ice storm? Yeah, that's some leadership there. NOT.
      • Big Time
        Yawn.
      • Excuse me...
        Please illustrate how I was "wrong" about Carl and Tim. Citations and specifics would be nice.
      • Great Debate
        I'm sure the Mayor would be happy to debate her once she wins the nomination. There is that thing called a primary. Debating her now would be like the President debating Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, etc. etc.
      • His ego is actually shtick
        For those that listen to the program regularly, they know that Abdul's over-the-top ego is actually shtick. He's a very kind-hearted person who goes out of his way to help others. I appreciate his opinionated manner. So what if he is manufacturing Melina drama. He's in the entertainment business. Having met her several times, she definitely takes herself waaaaaay too seriously. Therefore she makes her self an easy target for his more jovial approach.
      • Actually
        Not wrong? You were about Carl and Tim.

        • HUH?
          Self serving as usual, Abdul tries to bait Melina into some "made for prime time" interview. Weak effort Abdul, even for you.

          Melina would have no problem sitting down with you, and you know it. Ballard, on the other hand, refuses to debate her. As a Ballard apologist, please help me understand why, other than he is scared.
          • Review
            Nice interview. And, I forgot you are a Superman fan. You missed a great debate over Superman vs. Batman on a publishing house blog this week.
          • My Response
            Joe and John,

            Please point out where I've been wrong. I'd love to hear it. I am a lot of things, but wrong is not one of them. Thanks.
            • No Credibility
              Joe is correct, but he is far too kind. Abdul used to have credibility as an independent voice in the community, but he has since become nothing more than a shill for the Mayor, Tom John and others. Abdul has lost a lot of supporters when he decided to be a partisan and lost his independence.
            • I enjoy Abdul
              I listen to Abdul on a fairly regulary basis. He is only trying to entertain and elighten his audience. I appreciate his focus on local politics instead of the National arguments. I enjoy it when canidates for the smaller local government positions come on the show. It allows me to hear what they have to say so I can make an informed decision on election day.
            • Abdul and his ego
              While he is vastly overrated, Abdul occasionally is on target with his barbs, but he needs to temper his ego a bit. He's hurt his credibility with some of his shilling for Tom John, Greg Ballard, and other such questionable characters.

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