I wanted to take a moment to weigh into the Dr. Laura Schlessinger controversy. In case you haven’t heard about it, I urge you to read the transcript on Rick Sanchez of CNN’s blog or if you prefer, CBS News posted a video containing audio from the show on YouTube. To summarize, a black woman called Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s radio show for help regarding what she felt were racist words and actions used around her. Dr. Schlessinger asked for an example of one of these racist actions and the caller said that her husband’s friends and family members make racist comments, including a neighbor that uses the “N” word around her. Dr. Schlessinger then mentioned the “N” word several times and basically said she didn’t see a problem with that because black comedians, rappers, etc. use that word all the time. Last night, she was on “Larry King Live” to discuss the controversy and announced that she is leaving radio at the end of this year when her contract ends.
I actually don’t have a huge problem with what she said on her radio show. I have a small issue with the fact that the caller said it bugs her that the neighbor uses the “N” word around and then Dr. Laura Schlessinger proceeded to use the “N” word several times. I think there would be a lot less controversy if she had just said the phrase, “the ‘N’ word”, instead of actually saying the “N” word repeatedly. On Larry King Live, the following exchange took place :
KING: Before we get to the announcement, the one thing that you said was interesting. You said that on HBO, black comics use the N- word.
SCHLESSINGER: Rap music.
KING: But, Jewish comics can kid Jews, Hispanic comics, Josh Lopez, kids Hispanics all the time. Gay comics kid the gay situation. It’s OK, isn’t it? But not OK when the non-N-person uses it.
SCHLESSINGER: Well, I was trying to make a point to help her about what I felt, because that — about her hypersensitivity. And in general, in America, our hypersensitivity about race instead of us feeling more like (INAUDIBLE), and I made the poorly. And so, I upset some people. I offended some people. I hurt some people.
And within 15 minutes, which is what I had to finish the hour, I took myself off my show for the rest of the day because I was so upset because I realized I had blown it. I didn’t help her by, you know, making that point.
And, you know, about 8:00 that night, I had sent an apology that I was going to do in the morning on my show to LARadio.com. So, it wasn’t until 48 hours later that there was a media brouhaha about it and I had already — I had already policed myself and apologized and said I was sorry.
KING: Do you — do you realize that it’s OK if blacks want to kid blacks or make fun of themselves, but it’s not OK for this lady to have a white person use the word?
SCHLESSINGER: I’m sorry if, you know — I always tell people on my show to do the right thing. I thought I was trying to be helpful. I was trying to make a philosophical point.
But I was wrong. I apologized.
And there are people who won’t accept my apology. And they have their own reasons for that. I feel bad for that. But, my listeners heard my being contrite, being remorseful, being sincerely apologetic because it’s not my nature to go out of my way to hurt people. And, you know, get on with things.
KING: So, you’re still regretful?
SCHLESSINGER: Well, of course. Any time you do something wrong, you should be regretful.
Dr. Schlessinger actually makes a great point here. There are people that are hypersensitive. If my race of people had worked as slaves for over 200 years, I would probably be hypersensitive as well. However, it wasn’t necessary or helpful for Dr. Schlessinger to push into the caller’s sensitivity. Her blatant use of the “N” word was inappropriate and should have been replaced with the phrase “the ‘N’ word.”
So, now for where she went completely and utterly wrong. Also on Larry King Live last night, she said:
KING: So, what are you here to tell us tonight?
SCHLESSINGER: Well, I’m here to say that my contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year and I have made the decision not to do radio anymore. The reason is: I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind, and in my heart, what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent, and attack affiliates and attack sponsors.
I’m sort of done with that. I’m not retiring. I’m not quitting. I feel energized actually, stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country.
KING: So, you’re giving up — you are giving up the one area of your fame?
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, my dear. I write books. I have blogs. I have my Web site.
KING: But people think Dr. Laura, they think her radio talk show.
SCHLESSINGER: This is the area — this is the era of the Internet.
KING: So, you are going to do Internet stuff?
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, yes, I am now.
KING: Why is your freedom of speech denied on radio?
KING: Because people can criticize what you say.
SCHLESSINGER: You know, when I started in radio, if you said something somebody didn’t agree with and they didn’t like, they argued with you. Now, they try to silence you. They try to wipe out your ability to earn a living and to have your job. They go after affiliates. They send threats to sponsors.
KING: That’s their right, too.
SCHLESSINGER: Yes, but I don’t have the right to say what I need to say. My First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don’t want to debate. They want to eliminate.
So, that’s why I decided it was time to move on to other venues where I could say my piece and not have to live in fear anymore that sponsors and their families are going to be upset, radio stations are going to be upset, my peeps, as I call them, are going to be upset.
KING: Did you tell your syndicate today? The people who syndicate you?
SCHLESSINGER: Ten minutes before I came on.
KING: This show?
KING: You just told them?
KING: What did they say?
SCHLESSINGER: That there was absolutely no need to do this.
KING: Who syndicates you? What radio?
SCHLESSINGER: TRN, and (ph) Masters, and I said, this isn’t a matter of need.
KING: Are you going to have a new contract?
SCHLESSINGER: This is — yes. Yes, we’ve added five stations this week and we added sponsors. This is not an issue of I’m losing anything. You and I were — anointed as, in the top seven of the most important radio hosts in America. I just got nominated for a Marconi, had great ratings.
This is not an issue of hiding, running, collapsing or quitting.
KING: So, if you’ve added sponsors, although we get, this group that was after you, “Media Matters” —
SCHLESSINGER: Well, that’s their job in life.
KING: They said Motel 6 stopped advertising.
SCHLESSINGER: This proves my point.
KING: Netflix, OnStar, they’re going to distance themselves, Advanced Auto Parts. But if you’ve added new sponsors —
SCHLESSINGER: And I’ve also added sponsors.
KING: So, where have you lost freedom of speech? You can say whatever you like and they can criticize and they can try to take you —
SCHLESSINGER: Larry, you’re missing the point.
KING: I am?
SCHLESSINGER: Living with a constant fear of affiliates and sponsors being attacked is very distracting. It’s — it’s — the list that you just made. I didn’t even know about that. I knew about Motel 6. I didn’t know about the rest of that.
But I expected it to happen because these companies are in the business are in business. They’re supporting their own families. They’re supporting other families. They don’t want to be in the middle of controversy. They want to be doing their business.
So, it’s not a matter necessarily of them agreeing with the special interest group. It’s a matter of them wanting to skirt the problems. I don’t need —
KING: Who is the special interest group?
SCHLESSINGER: Well, like “Media Matters” and some of the other groups that have lined up to decide that I should be silenced because they disagree with my points of view. I never called anybody a bad word. I was trying to bring — and obviously, it has become a national discussion now — I was trying to make a philosophical point and I made it wrong.
But I wasn’t dissing anybody. I was trying to make a point. And for that to say I should be silenced is the reason that I’m saying to you, I obviously am losing First Amendment rights.
The First Amendment guarantees our right to the freedom of expression from government interference.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
– The First Amendment from the U.S. Constitution.
The US government has not interfered in Dr. Schlessinger’s First Amendment Rights, so her First Amendment Rights remain intact. What she needs to realize is that as she has a freedom of expression, so do her listeners, sponsors, radio affiliates, etc. Everyone has a right, within our laws, to react to what Dr. Schlessinger said anyway that they want including boycotts, pressuring her sponsors and radio affiliates, etc. Also, she is mistaken if she thinks the same type of controversy wouldn’t erupt if this controversial discussion took place on the Internet instead of on the radio. THE CHOICE OF COMMUNICATION MEDIUM WAS NOT THE PROBLEM!
I’m sure that Dr. Schlessinger feels that she is being attacked. Dr. Schlessinger seems to mistakenly believe that her First Amendment Rights should force listeners to listen to her without being able to react in a negative manner. Unfortunately for her, while her rights are being protected, so are everyone else’s because THIS IS AMERICA AND EVERYONE HAS RIGHTS!