Rich Shertenlieb, cohost of 98.5 The Sports Hub’s highly rated “Toucher and Rich” morning program, offered a cryptic update Wednesday on partner Fred Toucher, who has not been part of the show this week after posting some alarming comments on social media over the weekend.
The messages that Toucher posted on social media Saturday and Sunday have since been deleted.
Shertenlieb addressed Toucher’s absence during the third hour of Wednesday’s show. Here are his comments in full:
“As you know, Fred isn’t here today, he wasn’t here yesterday, and he most likely won’t be here tomorrow. And a question I’ve gotten a few times is, ‘Why aren’t you talking about Fred?’
“That is more than a fair question. It’s something that … you’ve been fans of the show for years and you’d like to know what’s going on. The best answer I can give you is that I unfortunately can’t talk about Fred because any statement that I make right now has to be approved through management.
“The last time he was out for an extended period, I gave an update and was gently asked for a lot of different reasons that any statement regarding him has to be approved by management. There have been statements that have been submitted, some have been approved, some haven’t been. It just turns into asking, ‘What can I say? What can I say?’
“Listen, no one wants to be in this position. Fred doesn’t want to be in this position, the station doesn’t want to be in this position, I certainly don’t want to be in this position, but as of now, all I’ve been approved to tell you, because you’re such great listeners and we love you, is that he’s not here today, I’m not sure exactly when he’ll be back, but I’ve been a friend of Fred’s for years and I hope the best for him.
“I don’t want to continue to talk about it because I think saying maybe even this gets me a meeting. But I just want you to know that we want the best for him. Hopefully everything will be back to normal soon. I don’t know how much more I can say. But, we’re rooting for you, Fred. If you’re listening, we’re rooting for you.”
Sports Hub program director Rick Radzik said via email that he had no comment on Toucher’s status.
The “Toucher and Rich” show dominates the ratings in sports radio’s desired demographics, having received a 25.6 share in the most recent Nielsen Audio Ratings. But the show has been dealing with periodic tumult.
Tension between the hosts percolated over the last few months. Toucher was dealing with a throat problem that greatly affected his voice, causing him to miss several shows.
On April 10, he took a leave of absence to receive treatment. During his absence, Toucher sent a series of tweets saying he had not received support from Shertenlieb and other show personnel, which infuriated Shertenlieb. Toucher later acknowledged that Shertenlieb and others with the program had reached out to him.
After weeks of problems with his voice and no solutions, Toucher saw Dr. Steven Zeitels at Massachusetts General Hospital on the recommendation of a listener who worked in the doctor’s office.
Toucher said the doctor found a mass on his vocal cords that he believed was cancerous. Because the swelling around it was so bad, surgery wasn’t immediately an option. The doctor told Toucher to quit smoking and not talk for two weeks.
Toucher returned to the air May 11 and sounded better than he had in months.