Friday, April 04, 2008

War of the Words (Oh, the Whore Horror!)

whore (hôr, hr)
n.
1. A prostitute.
2. A person considered sexually promiscuous.
3. A person considered as having compromised principles for personal gain.

from The Free Dictionary.

What is a whore? The word has many meanings. When most of us hear the word, our minds, naturally, turn to sex. We think Ashley Dupré and the whole Eliot (Client 9) Spitzer mess from last month. We think of streetwalkers turning tricks on seedy streets.

But the word does indeed carry many meanings. The brilliant conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke even wrote a book called "Parliament of Whores." There was a great website years ago called "Media Whores Online." Unlike say, the Emperor's Club of Spitzer lore, "The Horse" had nothing to do with sex. It was an early left-leaning media watchdog, predating Media Matters for America, Crooks and Liars and others. James Carville and Paul Begala, who are currently very active in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, cited it often on CNN's Crossfire. Former Vice President Al Gore had it bookmarked in his laptop. Sadly, 'The Horse" was sent to pasture about four years or so ago, when the still-anonymous owner went on to other things.

So what's all this about whores anyway? Well, it's become a big political controversy as of late. Following a bawdy promotional appearance in San Francisco last month, Air America Radio personality Randi Rhodes incurred the wrath of Hillary Clinton supporters when she lashed out at her and supporter and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferrarro, calling them, among other things, "f-ing whores." When the inevitable YouTube video got out, die-hard Clinton supporters were livid, accusing Rhodes of sexism and misogyny, among other things. Political pundit and former CIA spook Larry Johnson demanded she be fired and replaced by fledgling Clinton-friendly 'radio' host and Johnson crony Taylor Marsh. Supporters rallied the torches and pitchforks and demanded Rhodes' immediate firing, and got some satisfaction when Rhodes was dealt an indefinite suspension from the network.

Adding fuel to the raging inferno is Johnson's proud boast yesterday that it was indeed he and his acolytes who released the offending video on YouTube and got Rhodes suspended. In addition, an enraged Ferraro herself demanded Rhodes' firing. But more on that later.

Others are weighing in as well. Fellow radio host Bill Press is preaching peace between the camps, right-wing site Town Hall, predictably, is feigning outrage, and some Clinton supporters are attacking what they call the nastiness of the far left.

It's no secret to many of Rhodes' listeners who she supports or doesn't support in this year's election, which currently pits Clinton against Sen. Barack Obama (she's pro-Obama, duh!). In the left-leaning media, it's become pretty transparent who's who and who they like or don't like. The current Democratic primary race has created what seems like a major divide. This is especially apparent in the liberal blogosphere, which has seemingly split down the middle. Big log communities like AmericaBlog and Daily Kos lean toward Obama, and MyDD and Talk Left are very pro-Clinton. A divided nation seemed to be dividing even more.

I have tried to stay neutral on this blog throughout all of this. It's rather easy for me, since this blog is not overtly political in nature, as compared to the others. And I wanted to create a sandbox where everyone could play. In January, as primary season got underway, I got my presidential endorsement out of the way quickly, opting to vote off each candidate one-by-one, Survivor-style. First off my island was Hillary Clinton, who I referred to as "a shrill corporate hack" and a "suck-up" (whore?). Besides, much-needed real change cannot occur in this country if we keep on electing people named Bush or Clinton no matter how much entitled Hillary feels toward the nomination. I went so far as to say I would be forced to hold my nose at the polling place if it ever came down to actually voting for her. I had hoped she would be dispatched early. I endorsed John Edwards, and we all saw how that turned out. Nuts.

My runner-up choice to Edwards was Barack Obama, who, along with Clinton, was one of the last two standing. I like Obama, but I was skeptical as to whether he could hack a brutal presidential campaign gauntlet. Though he did stumble a bit out of the gate, he has really run an impressive campaign. I was initially turned off by his more hostile turn in the early days of the campaign, a sharp contrast to the ultra-positive and electrifying Tony Robbins-type he was in years past. But over time, he got a bit less cranky and really started to enjoy himself on the campaign trail, unlike most in his position. He gave speeches to packed houses of thousands. He flirted with old ladies on the campaign trail. He traversed across America as if he owned it. Many ridiculous so-called scandals were thrown his way, some of them from the Clinton camp. He swatted them down with relative ease and class. They tried to stir up nasty racist tendencies by wrongly claiming Obama's a closeted Muslim. He's not. They made fun of his name, even shouting that his middle name is "Hussein." Obama refused to hide it, in fact he embraced it, taking great pride in being named after his father. The man's got steel balls, I tell ya!

They claimed he didn't wear a ubiquitous flag pin once. Well, the Republican congressman making the accusation on live TV wasn't either. Ha ha! The Rezko thing? Obama did a three hour interview with the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper that hates Democrats, and left them singing his praises. His sharp-tongued former pastor? Obama gave a nationally-televised speech on racial issues that brought the country to its knees in praise. Then we found out he was (gasp!) a really shitty bowler. He mocked himself over that one. Above all, this self-described skinny black guy with big ears and a funny name went toe-to-toe with the most vicious political machine currently in America not connected to Lee Atwater or Karl Rove. He is the real deal, and he won me over along with much of America. Even Republicans I know actually admitted they liked the guy. That says a lot, especially given that almost every Republican or independent I know loathes Hillary Clinton. Needless to say, I'm convinced Obama is the real deal, and for once, I proudly cast a vote for someone I actually respected.

So, back to the Rhodes matter. The whole ordeal and how it was handled does have some precedent. In January, ESPN television personality Dana Jacobson got into hot water when, while allegedly drunk at a private roast for fellow ESPN personalities Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, got in the spirit of things by lashing out in a kidding way with a string of f-bombs, mostly directed at Golic's alma mater, Notre Dame. Various groups, most notably the Catholic League, who didn't take kindly to phrases like "F-ck Touchdown Jesus!" went ballistic when word of this bawdy roast got out. ESPN was forced into damage control, sidelining Jacobson for a few weeks and forcing her to apologize profusely. Never mind that this was a private function, and roasts do indeed get rather vulgar and downright nasty (just watch one of Comedy Central's celebrity roasts sometime). Jacobson probably shouldn't have gotten suspended over this, but this is called damage control. ESPN has advertiser relationships, as well as a relationship with Notre Dame, that they don't want ruined by some bad publicity.

MSNBC analyst David Shuster got into some hot water in February when he used another colloquialism with sexual connotations, asking whether Chelsea Clinton was "being pimped out in some weird sort of way" by her mother's campaign. Shuster got dry-docked for two weeks after making that statement, which is regrettable only in that prominent television journalists are now being reduced to using street slang in their reports. Yeah, the Clinton camp got pretty pissed about that one too.

And then there's the Don Imus thing, where he uttered the infamous "Nappy Headed Ho's" comment, and got fired by CBS Radio as his faithful sponsors began jumping ship en masse. Syndicated Cincinnati conservotalker Bill Cunningham warmed up the crowd at a rally for presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain by throwing down all kinds of racist rhetoric regarding Obama, resulting in his being blackballed by the McCain campaign and being exposed as perhaps the goofiest looking right-wing radio talk show host in America. No action was taken by his radio station, WLW or his bosses at Clear Channel/Premiere Radio Networks.

So, to wrap it all up, here's my take on it.

Larry Johnson is a hypocrite. He proudly boasted that he and his people got her suspended. Never mind that the left-leaning crowd this former Republican shill is currently courting is one that is very vocal about media bias and censorship, and are also strong supporters of progressive media, including...surprise... Air America (where Johnson has even appeared, on Rhodes' show no less). This move spits in the face of all his supporters. And it looks very petty and tacky when one considers the little nasties he throws Obama's way. Yes, this is the same guy who posted an Obama hit piece with the charming title “Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit.” Gee, nice.

Geraldine Ferraro, who along with Clinton was labeled by Rhodes as a 'whore,' is also a hypocrite. And yes, she's a sellout, a.k.a. 'whore.' There, I said it. Ferraro pisses me off. Last month, she lashed out at Obama when she said that "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept". Evidently, Ferraro did not see the irony in her statement, since she was seemingly plucked out of nowhere to become Walter Mondale's running mate in 1984 (and her pathetic behavior as of late is one of the few things that make me proud to have supported Mondale's opponent in that election, in my brief teenage flirtation with Reaganism - ahh, youth). It certainly wasn't her uneventful four years in Congress that got the seemingly obscure Ferraro the nod over highly qualified people like Lloyd Bentsen and Gary Hart. I'm not trying to be sexist here, but Ferraro, in attacking Obama, is attacking the very system that gave her the platform to make those statements. Without her place in history as the first woman on a major party presidential ticket, she'd merely be a forgotten former congressperson from New York. Yesterday, she took her fiery rhetoric even further by demanding Rhodes' firing. And to top it off, she said that on her usual stomping grounds of...get ready... FOX News! (video) Hello? FOX Freakin' News? The most vehemently anti-Clinton cable news outlet in existence? The same network that, on the same show (Hannity & Colmes), rolled out right-wing hatemonger Ann Coulter (as if she's one to talk) to add her take on Rhodes' comments (while comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler in the same segment). Which makes me wonder why the Clintons even allowed Ferraro to carry their water in the first place. Geraldine Ferraro is batshit crazy, and I admit that I almost concur with Rhodes' opinion of her. Oh, and I feel less guilty now about my misspent past life as a Reagan Youth.

As for the Rhodes suspension, this is not a free speech issue. It's an Air America issue. While Rhodes made the comments at a live event for one of her affiliates (Green 960), she represented Air America. And Air America has worked hard to curry favor among many in Washington, particularly the Clinton camp. This is a face-saving issue, designed to minimize the damage a controversy can do. I'm also certain that at least a few of Rhodes' listeners were quite shocked at her diatribe, with language so course that Sam Kinison must be blushing in his grave. Even still, as with most controversies, look for Rhodes to return to Air America soon, after the heat has died down. That's par for the course. Nonetheless, perhaps Rhodes stepped over the line a bit. Even with the raucous San Francisco audience, the tirade may have been a bit over the top. And it's appearance on YouTube is likely to scare away some of her fans. But like other controversial media personalities, such as Imus, Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and others, these people have jobs because they're controversial. We expect them to say outrageous stuff. Anyone who expects otherwise is delusional.

In regard to the ongoing primary battle royale, one which Obama relates to "a good movie that's gone on too long" and Clinton described as seeming like a very long pregnancy, I offer this to both sides: Relax, this is not a bad thing. I've maintained for a while that the primary fight is a plus for the Democratic Party. It keeps them prominent in the news cycle, so much that much of the country has probably forgotten who the other guy is (his name is John McCain, in case you were wondering). It has allowed Obama to get a pretty healthy workout against the meanest, nastiest political mudslinging machine still in operation, and to get all his skeletons out of the closet early, so it won't mean squat come the fall. And the whole drama stirs up passion in the voting process for the left, a passion that seemed to evaporate in elections past. The whole primary road show will likely come to an end soon, and it looks like Obama will be the nominee, unless the seemingly impossible happens. And like the right-wing, where hardcore conservatives initially turned their noses up at McCain but later fell in line once they realized he was their only hope, the Democratic Party will come back together and all this feces flinging will be quickly forgotten. In the meantime, enjoy the party!

UPDATE ON THE RHODES SITUATION: This is from Jeff Norman at Huffington Post:

Understandably, Rhodes is stunned and angry. About her employers she told me: "They are in breach of my contract and have damaged my hard won excellent reputation in the broadcast industry..." Rhodes added she received thank you letters from representatives of Air America, the San Francisco affiliate and sponsors praising her for the performance that now has her in hot water.

Rhodes is scheduled to speak in New York on April 28 with former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter at an event sponsored by U.S. Tour of Duty, the nonprofit project I run. It is not yet clear if the popular host will be back to work for Air America by then -- or ever. At a critical moment in its evolution, the network has put itself in an untenable position. Ultimately, does Air America, or does it not, stand for free speech? At this moment, it clearly does not. That's not very progressive.

UPDATE #2: Green 960 has released their own statement on the incident, and posted the entire video from Rhodes' appearance on their site, as opposed from the snippet currently found on YouTube and circulating throughout the media. The station maintains that the decision to suspend Rhodes was made by Air America, not Green 960. They also said that, contrary to some rumors, the event had no connection whatsoever to the Obama campaign, though it was listed as a 'meet-up' event on the Obama campaign's social networking site.

4 comments:

Ashif said...

What a jerk Larry Johnson turned out to be, lost all the respect I had for him. As I recall he used to be regular on Randi's show last year, appearing 2-3 times a week for a while. I hope Stephanie Miller does not invite him on her show any more. As for Randi, she was a biggest defender of the Clintons when they were being attacked by the right wing sicko's, sad to see that this will be washed out by her "joke". Hoping she is back on the radio soon....

Temple Stark said...

Fairly fair-minded post.

However, Ferraro has clearly said she knows she was plucked out of relative obscurity because she was a woman, so digging her for that doesn't make sense. You agree with her.

Cat Chew said...

Finally got around to watching the entire video of Randi onstage in SF. Even though I think most politicians are FWs, I had thought the line was over the top. Hearing it in the context of the show, Randi flinging f-bombs throughout, it doesn't seem so bad. Not good either. There're much funnier ways of calling a FW a FW. AAR's response still seems ridiculous to me, precedents or not. I think they may have been better off putting a big disclaimer on their website, and enjoying the extra traffic from the Looky Lous and Heary Harrys.

zeek said...

Does the Larry Johnson edit still exist somewhere? I wanted to view it to see consider the context.


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