by Scoobie Davis
Michael Savage: Free Speech Martyr?
Kudos to East Coast Bob. This phone prankster single-handedly got Michael Savage (Weiner) fired from his MSNBC show. In terms of the impact of televised phone pranks, East Coast Bob outdid Captain Janks, one of Howard Stern’s cronies, who in 1996 called the Rosie O’Donnell Show claiming to be Philadelphia major Ed Rendell and called O’Donnell “a big fat pig” on live TV (Don’t get me wrong; I thought Janks’ comments were cruel and uncalled for; I’m referring to the impact and publicity of the phone prank).
East Coast Bob got through when Savage was discussing airline horror stories and apparently began to insult Savage (he was partially muted) and Savage went off on him:
"So you're one of those sodomists. Are you a sodomite?" East Coast Bob replied: "Yes, I am." "Oh, you're one of the sodomites," Savage responded: "You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it."
MSNBC was not amused. MSNBC canned Savage in a big hurry. "His comments were extremely inappropriate and the decision was an easy one," said an MSNBC spokesman. This leaves some unanswered questions. First, why was this lunkhead hired in the first place? As I wrote about Savage previously, this man is an addlebrained and barely coherent rabble-rouser (click here and go to “Isn’t It Ironic” to read the transcript of another of his outbursts).
Even many of the Freepers deplored Savage comments. But to Opinionjournal’s James Taranto, Savage is a free speech martyr who was “Dixie Chicked”—that is, Savage’s situation is comparable to the DC’s lead singer Natalie Maines who was pilloried after saying that she was ashamed to be from the same state as Not-My-President Bush.
Taranto is engaging in sophistry. This deserves elaboration. Savage’s situation differs from Maines’ situation in three major ways:
1) The nature of the words
2) The critics
3) How the critics responded to the words
First, the nature of the words. Taranto referred to Maines’ comment as “obnoxious.” Actually, it is rather mild compared to what Taranto’s cronies have said and written about President Clinton (more on this later). On the other hand, Savage’s words were hateful name-calling. Hoping that someone dies from AIDS is cruel. Also, Savage is sixty years old; suggesting that someone is a homosexual because one doesn’t like what another person says is a debating tactic that Savage should have abandoned sometime during Eisenhower’s first term. MSNBC was fully justified in getting rid of him.
The critics of Maines and Savage. Savage was rightly fired from MSNBC for his comments and MSNBC had a reasonable basis to make the decision. On the other hand, the biggest critics of Maines were people who were engaged in wholesale hypocrisy. Clear Channel, which was one of Maines’ most vocal critics, has in its employ, Rush Limbaugh, who has made vicious allegations against President Clinton and other Democrats. Limbaugh was part of the cabal (along with Roger Ailes) who planted the false story that the Clintons were responsible for the death of Vince Foster. More recently, Limbaugh questioned the courage and leadership of John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam commander (scroll down to May 22 and click here). By the way, Limbaugh used the pimple-on-the-ass excuse to get out of military service. Another of Maines’ prominent critics was Newsmax’s Christopher Ruddy, one of Scaife’s monkeyboys who was the godfather of the paranoid view that the Clintons were responsible for Foster’s death (Ruddy’s book on the matter was even criticized by fellow wingnut Ann Coulter as “conservative hoax book”).
Let’s look at the response of the critics to the words of Savage and Maines. With Savage, MSNBC fired him and gave a reasonable explanation for the firing. Commentators on the matter have generally acknowledged that Savage is a whacko and that his sodomite comments were consistent with his previous rhetoric—a fair criticism. On the other hand, after Maines made the comment, the critics acted as if she made an attack on America and the office of the presidency (mind you, these were the same people who lied with impunity about President Clinton). Maines was denounced as “anti-American” and “pro-Saddam” without a shred of evidence for these conclusions. Ruddy and Newsmax created a Deck of Weasels playing card deck that included Maines and others pictured with Saddam hats superimposed on their heads. The American right was whipped up into a frenzy and Maines received numerous death threats from right-wing rabble.
Maines gave her opinion of George W. Bush. It was a reasonable, especially if we compare it to criticisms of Bill Clinton made by the usual suspects: Coulter, Limbaugh, Ailes, Ruddy, Farah, and Horowitz. For this, she was demonized by these same people who thought nothing of engaging in a wholesale smear campaign against the Clintons. Savage made some idiotic comments and got his just desserts.
Addendum: I thank the folks at American Politics Journal for directing me to the audio clip of Savage’s show to me.