Dr. Laura, Free Speech & Hypocrisy!

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.

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
This entry was posted in Civility, Freedom of Speech, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Dr. Laura, Free Speech & Hypocrisy!

  1. ndefalco says:

    “That some African-Americans still use it does not make it right for anyone to use it.” Some? Try a LOT. And if they’re under 25 try ALMOST ALL OF THEM. They will never stop using it. Unfortunately, for Dr. Laura, the double-standard will never stop either. Not only do most A-Americans get a free pass with the “N” word, they also get a free pass with cracker, honkey, whigger, whitey, etc. I say unfortunately for her, because she knew better. She knew better and still tried to go against the grain. Stupid move. In broadcasting and entertainment, using the “N” word is career suicide. Just ask Michael Richards. But, let’s not pretend that the word is fading into the background. Rap artists alone will keep in alive and well in the mainstream.

    Other than that, I pretty much agree with your article.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. You may be right about the number of young, under-25 African-Americans who use the word. I try my very best not to listen to rap music at all. There’s no question there is a double-standard for conservatives when it comes to these issues, but as you say, Dr. Laura knew better. Regardless of what other people do or say, there are things we know that are inappropriate or offensive in any context. Those of us who are white can and should refrain from using the “N” word, but its usage will not fade from mainstream culture unless and until the African-American community itself determines that this word is unacceptable to use, even as “art.” I’m not optimistic about the latter. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

  2. K Gray says:

    Dr. Laura messed up. But adding just a twist: What if it’s in literature? A few years ago I read a claim that Texas schools were “banning” books (implying that this was the religious right gone amok) – so I decided to look them up. Guess what book seemed at issue? To Kill A Mockingbird. Someone in an upscale Dallas suburb had complained that it contained the n-word and racially insensitive stereotypes. How ironic.

    • Howell Scott says:

      K,

      Except in very limited circumstances, I am not for banning any type of speech, even that which I might personally find offensive. As a former attorney, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of my all time favorite movies. I hate to confess that I have not read the book in its entirety. I would not ban books like that or Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer. I think we have to look at things in context and, in this case, there is no excuse for Dr. Laura doing what she did. As someone else pointed out, she knew better and did it anyway. I am still somewhat baffled at Sarah Palin’s response, so if you have any idea why she would defend Dr. Laura without at least condemning her remarks, let me know. Thanks for your thoughts on this and for stopping by again. Have a great day and God bless,

      Howell

  3. Montana says:

    I am so happy that the ugly (inside and out) crazy old gym teacher reaped what she had sowed. She could have gotten her argument across by saying “N word” and not using the word and by not saying “don’t NAACP me” but like Michael Richards AKA “Cosmo Kramer”,she ends up the the trash heap of history, a history of her own making. I am so happy that the free market AKA sponsors started to pull their ads (I guess they were exercising their free speach) and she finally realized that she was just another “run of the mill gabby” and her days were numbered. She realized that she was not as smart as she thought she was, finally!

    Palin was the one who got bent over the use of the word “Retard”, Palin also said that the people have the right to build the Mosque in NY, but out of respect for the 9/11 families they shouldn’t, but I guess this same standard is not applicable to Laura Schlessinger. Do you see the hypocrisy? The problem with Palin is the same when she mistakenly referred to Ronald Reagan Eureka College, being in California and we all know its in Illinois, same thing, she does not fact check anything she is going to say. She is soooo Palin!

    • Howell Scott says:

      Montana,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree that the principle, “you reap what you sow,” is applicable in the case of Dr. Laura. As I said in the post, I got to where I could not listen to her anymore because she came across as mean, condescending, and insensitive. There’s no question that advertisers and listeners have a free speech right not to spend money underwriting Dr. Laura’s show or listening.

      What I find odd is Palin’s response. For someone who talks about sensitivity on issues like the mosque and special needs children, she has displayed quite the opposite in her defense of Dr. Laura. This was not some “left-wing” cabal that went after Dr. Laura. For a woman of her supposed intellect to utter the full “N” word eleven times is indefensible. To try to defend it is mind-boggling. I do not dislike Sarah Palin, but I have always thought that there is something just a little bit off about her that I could not put my finger on. With statements like she has made regarding Dr. Laura, it’s becoming easier to figure it out. Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. God bless,

      Howell

  4. KGray says:

    I ‘m not defending Dr. Laura; heard her show once on a cartrip and that was enough.

  5. KGray says:

    Woops – as to Sarah Palin, I’ve no idea. To me tweeting is an open opportunity for regret.

    • Howell Scott says:

      K,

      Sorry for the delay in responding. Have been doing my civic duty by serving as a juror on a criminal case all day. Just got back home. I have a Twitter account, but have not used it yet. I agree about the opportunity for regret, but none seems forthcoming in Sarah Palin’s case defending Dr. Laura. Thanks for commenting. God bless,

      Howell

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