Erin Andrews is a sideline interviewer for ESPN. I find her personable, professional, though a bit lightweight. She became part of a news story a few years back when some slug intruded on her private life, but she admirably got past that and has had a solid, respectable career. and is even doing TV commercials these days for Probiotics, a product I still don't have a clue what it is.
After the recent All Star game, she did an interview with the National League's starting pitcher Adam Wainwright who earlier in the evening had started a firestorm on Twitter by commenting during an interview that he might have thrown an easy pitch to the New York Yankee's Derek Jeter who will be retiring at the end of the season. Ms. Andrews asked Wainwright a few questions about the incident, he apologized and tried to put things in perspective, and that was it. She didn't ask anything particularly probing, but then it was an All Star game. And she ended with a flip comment, "Don't you just love social media?" To which Wainwright responded, "No."
It wasn't social media that started the controversy, so the question was a bit unnecessary and off-base, though Twitter did take the small matter and set it afire, making her quip at least understandable.
What was also set afire was Kirk Minihane who appears on the Dennis and Callahan Morning Show on Boston radio. And on Wednesday -- a week after the interview -- he had a melt-down and went on a rant.
If you are offended by crass language, avert your eyes.
What a bitch! I hate her! What a gutless bitch! Seriously, go away. Drop dead. I mean, seriously what the hell is wrong with her? First of all, follow up. Second of all, the guy admitted he did it. He admitted it. He told reporters he threw a couple of pipe bombs. How is that social media’s fault? I hate her. I seriously hate her so much. Social media is the reason she has a big house! Shut up. Shut up. I shouldn’t call her a bitch, I’m sure she’s a nice person.”
Another host chimed in, "She's probably a bitch." And in the subsequent continuation, words like "bimbo" and "bubblehead" were tossed in.
Eventually Mr. Minihane calmed down from his hissy fit and had the good sense to comment, "I'm gonna get in trouble for this."
Yeah, probably. Though "trouble" tends to suggest just a verbal reprimand, suspension or maybe loss of pay. Or any combination of the above therein. Mr. Minihane however might also start being more concerned about, at best, being put on probation, or worse, released from his employment. I'm not suggesting that action -- I'm suggesting that that possibility is likely already being discussed by his bosses.
Yes, yes, I understand that everyone has the right to say what they want. I understand, too, that radio is licensed because frequencies are limited, and stations are required to broadcast in the "public interest, convenience and necessity." And I know that radio stations -- all radio stations -- are always extremely concerned about what is said and what language is used over their airwaves. And all business are wary about what its employees say in public to customers when on the job, and have the right to deal with however they see fit. Free speech at work is not the same as being a drunk stumbling around the street corner at 2 AM howling to the moon and then vomiting. Although in Mr. Minihane's case, the comparison is strangely apt.
I also suspect that when there are male sportscasters who Kirk Minihane doesn't like he criticizes them, perhaps harshly (though I don't know), but I'll bet cash money he doesn't spew a string of fighting-words vitriol that are the male equivalent of "bitch," "gutless bitch," "drop head," "bitch," "bimbo."
But there's more here, too, than whether a small-minded Kirk Minihane is in trouble or will be suspended or fired.
I don't want to draw lines to connect dots that may not be there. I don't know Kirk Minihane's politics. He might just be a total misogynist in the most basic of terms. Or radio's version of an uncaring Internet troll who likes to lob grenades simply to get a reaction. Or a swaggering hypocritical cowardly bully who's willing to sashay around, alone in front of a microphone and yell hate that he would likely never dream of saying to a person's face.
But I do know that when you have a political party today creating its war on women, demeaning them with laws for forced transvaginal probes and claims of legitimate rape, and popular hosts like Rush Limbaugh feeling free to minimalize women "and call them sluts," and much more, it all just helps create a landscape where I suspect there are people who feel protected to act as neanderthal as possible, where "bitch" and "slut" and "drop dead bimbo" are acceptable, knowing that that's the tenor of the times that comes from some leadership. And when you extend that horizon to additionally allow for calling the President of the United States a Nazi un-American subhuman mongrel, and it's done so with acceptance and without consequence, why should the little Kirk Minihanes of the world think twice about going on their radio show and degrading women folk in as humiliating way as they can.
Yet even Kirk Minihane, bullying his way around the big cool macho broadcast booth, eventually grasped that, y'know, "I shouldn't call her a bitch" and "I'm going to get in trouble for this."
This isn't about political correctness or the word police -- phrases the heathen like to cravenly lob in self-defense when caught acting in a way they know their mothers would slap them silly if they dared say any of that in front of her. It isn't about what a person "should" or "shouldn't" say. It's about a perspective where people themselves think certain things are okay to say.
If you want to go on a rant and call someone demeaning, galling, debilitating words intending to humiliate, that's your choice. But at least have the honesty to know that it is, in fact, demeaning, galling, debilitating and intended to humiliate. To think that it's "okay" says nothing about your intended target and everything about you.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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