I don’t listen to Dr. Laura Schlessinger anymore. It’s not that she’s boring. It’s not that I always disagree with the advice she gives to callers. Why don’t I listen anymore? Well, how can I answer that in a nice way? I stopped listening because I think Dr. Laura comes across as insensitive and condescending to many people who are in distress. Not that I’m excusing people’s behavior and why they get into the messes they do, but I do not want to waste my time listening to Dr. Laura berate someone to the point of tears. It’s not productive for me in the least and I’m not sure how productive it is for the callers or for the listeners for that matter.
On August 10, during her syndicated radio show, in response to a call from an African-American woman married to a white man, Dr. Laura completely lost it. Asked how to deal with her husband’s white friends when they make racist comments, including the “N” word, Dr. Laura, in her on-air “counseling,” proceeded to use the “N” word herself, saying that “black guys use it all the time.” (listen to the full audio here) When the woman objected, Dr. Laura told her:
“Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.”
All told, Dr. Laura ended up using the “N” word eleven times in the course of her conversation with this African-American woman who had called the show for help with a serious problem that was affecting her marriage. To add insult to injury, Dr. Laura finally told the woman
“If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race”
Dr. Laura has since apologized for her on-air outburst, but has indicated that she will no longer host her radio show when her contract expires at the end of the year. Decrying what she deems as an assault on her First Amendment right of free speech, Dr. Laura says she no longer wants to be constrained to speak her mind. Weighing into the controversy last Wednesday was none other than Sarah Palin, who wrote what can only be considered two tone-deaf tweets in defense of Dr. Laura:
Dr.Laura:don’t retreat…reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence”isn’t American,not fair”)
Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!
I’m not sure there are many mainstream Americans or politicians, regardless of their party affiliation and leanings, who believe that Dr. Laura’s use of the “N” word one time, much less eleven times, would be appropriate. This is not an issue of First Amendment rights anymore than the Ground Zero mosque is an issue of First Amendment rights. No reasonable person disputes Dr. Laura’s right to utter inane and offensive speech on her radio program. However, the First Amendment does not require any radio stations to carry her program or require any advertisers to underwrite her show or any listeners to tune her in. This is about doing what is appropriate and decent. Dr. Laura has the legal and constitutional right to make a complete fool of herself and to even spew the “N” word just as the Muslims have the legal and constitutional right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but that doesn’t make it right.
Contrary to the Hawaiian politician who wants to ban even the use of the “N” word, I do not think that speech (except in very limited circumstances) should be out-and-out banned. However, this word, with its long and horrible history, should not be used at all. That some African-Americans still use it does not make it right for anyone to use it. If Dr. Laura does not understand that, then maybe she should retire from her radio gig.
And, if Sarah Palin does not understand that, then maybe she should stop tweeting for a while and figure it out. From someone who seems worked up about the insensitivity of a mosque near Ground Zero, you would think that Palin would at least acknowledge that Dr. Laura’s comments were inappropriate and something that she could neither support, endorse, or condone in any form or fashion. Instead, we get “don’t retreat, reload.” The Al Sharptons of the world will always look for ways to be outraged. But principled conservatives should not have to let Rev. Al tell us that the use of the “N” word, in any context, is highly offensive and inappropriate.
While the left will continue to give a free pass to liberals whose speech is offensive and insensitive, conservatives should not be hypocritical in our responses when the offenders are those we otherwise like or agree with. Dr. Laura exercised her First Amendment free speech rights when she uttered the “N” word eleven times while trying to “help” someone in need. I’ll defend her right to speak her mind, but I do not have to support, endorse, or condone that which is clearly insensitive and offensive.