By Staff Editorial
By Staff Editorial
Every so often, someone in the media gives the rest of the American media a gift when they seemingly forget that everything they say and do is being recorded.
Bill O’Reilly has been caught on several occasions shouting expletives at the teleprompter.
The Iraqi journalist who went shoe tossing at former President George W. Bush came up with a unique way to do it.
And now, advice guru Dr. Laura Schlessinger has joined those infamous ranks.
Schlessinger’s Aug. 10 rant about race in America included her repeating the “n-word” 11 times.
Really, eleven times Dr. Laura, surely once was offensive enough to get the point across.
Apparently she was trying to convince the caller that it was acceptable for Schlessinger and anybody else to use the term because “black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is that,” she said.
There are several things wrong with this line of reasoning, the first being that someone in a position to reach millions of Americans used a term that is widely acknowledged to be offensive.
Secondly, there’s no way an educated woman like her is not aware of the effect that word will have on her listeners.
The manner in which it was used, suggesting that those who take offense to it are wrong for thinking so was tactless.
The irony here is supplied by Dr. Laura’s website which proclaims her to offer “no-nonsense advice infused with a strong sense of ethics.”
Taste is subjective, as are insults, but something that carries such a historical weight, especially in America, needs to be treated with sensitivity by those in a position such as Schlessinger.
But, as unfortunate as it is that America is still obsessed with race in 2010 after electing a black man to the White House, this particular piece of Clear Channel drama brings to light the issues of media responsibility.
While what Schlessinger did was completely deplorable for someone in her position, the point of freedom of speech was raised by many.
This group included infamous former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s Tweet of “Dr. Laura: don’t retreat…reload!…1st Amendment rights ceased to exist thanks to activists trying to silence.”
While it is both Palin and Schlessinger’s right to hold these beliefs and speak them, the question burns to be asked of should they be allowed to do so in a setting where they can be heard by millions of potential listeners?
Schlessinger prides herself on giving advice and knowing the seemingly moral way to address questionable situations.
Her tag line is “now go do the right thing.” For all intents and purposes, she does give solid advice on matters people struggle with.
But when the caller who initiated the now infamous conversation demanded to know from Schlessinger if it was OK to say it, the host replied not with an answer most people would have given in “no,” but incredibly she said it “depends on how it’s said,” and then later after the caller expressed concern about her repeated usage of it, she put the final nail in her coffin.
“If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry outside your race,” Schlessinger said on that same show.
This is not a statement that can be credited as doing the right thing.
Schlessinger was incredibly out of line, teetering on the thin borderline of hate speech, and talking much like one would expect of a Ku Klux Klan subscriber or member of the Westboro Baptist Church to speak.
While she did apologize, she also took the cowardly way out, saying that she would be retiring so she essentially could speak her mind without losing advertising. In layman’s terms, she is scared of the money tree being chopped down and is jumping ship while she still can.
Responsibility is one of the most important things anyone in media is taught.
Having access to a wide audience gives an enormous amount of power in the hands of the media channel in question, and it is imperative that things be presented in a way that is inoffensive and impartial.
The First Amendment will protect what is said, but its protection is not a tool to make it correct to say whatever one wants, and that is where Palin’s and others’ free speech argument is flawed.
This is not the first time Schlessinger has suffered a backlash for offensive remarks. She continually preached a mantra of right leaning disapproval for almost anything that wasn’t the traditional mom, dad, and two point five kids family.
And with her outburst, she has been nationally noticed as someone who apparently does not practice what she preaches, and is taking the easy way out.
Her free speech defense is a farce, and hopefully she will become a cautionary tale to other hosts who like to belittle guests and toss out derogatory terms with no regard for how it can affect others.
It’s a painful lesson, but one needed to be reiterated to the rest of those people with big audiences tuning in: Just because you can say it, does not mean you should.