“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson joins long list of media personalities penalized for comments

Fallout regarding A&E Network‘s suspension of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson for his anti-gay and anti-black comments in a GQ Magazine interview is reaching a fever pitch. For example, “Phil Robertson” is trending very high on Twitter, with commenters voicing their opinions on both sides. However, Robertson’s suspension is hardly surprising given the long list of tv, radio, musical and other personalities who have been commercially penalized for their comments made either on or off the air. This list spans the political spectrum, and includes:

Martin Bashir —  Just last month, MSNBC host Martin Bashir criticized Sarah Palin for her comparison of U.S. deficits to slavery. Bashir cited a particularly disgusting slave owner practice against slaves, and implied that perhaps Palin should receive this treatment too. Bashir first offered a sincere on-air apology, but nevertheless was gone from MSNBC days later.

Alec Baldwin — Also last month, MSNBC canceled Alec Baldwin’s new program “Up Late” after Baldwin used an anti-gay epithet during a heated confrontation with a paparazzo, that was captured on video.

Paula Deen — Earlier this year, Food Network host Paula Deen revealed in a discrimination lawsuit deposition that she had used the N-word in the past, had made racist and ethnic jokes at her restaurant more recently, and had voiced a desire to hold a Southern plantation-style wedding with an all-black staff. The lawsuit plaintiff, a former employee of Deen’s, also alleged that Deen ordered another restaurant employee to dress in an Aunt Jemima costume. Deen aired a video apology for her insensitivity, but the Food Network did not renew Deen’s contract thereafter.

Ed Schultz — In 2011, MSNBC host Ed Schultz called conservative media figure Laura Ingraham a “right wing slut” and a “talk slut” after Ingraham criticized President Barack Obama for having a beer with the Prime Minister of Ireland after a tornado struck Joplin, Missouri. Schultz gave a heartfelt apology and took a one-week suspension from MSNBC.

Juan Williams — In 2010, Juan Williams, who worked as a news analyst for National Public Radio (NPR) but also for Fox News, appeared with Bill O’Reilly on Fox’s program “The O’Reilly Factor” and made the following comments about blaming Muslims for the 9/11 attacks:

Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Two days later, NPR terminated Williams’ contract, issuing the following statement regarding Williams:

His remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.

Randi Rhodes — In 2008, liberal radio show host Randi Rhodes was performing stand-up comedy in San Francisco, and in her act Rhodes called Hillary Clinton a “whore.” As a result, Rhodes’ employer, Air America, suspended Rhodes, and then terminated Rhodes’ contract several days later.

Don Imus — In 2007, longtime radio personality Don Imus had an on-air racist rant about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. Imus’ employer, CBS Radio, fired Imus, but Imus was back on the air approximately eight months later at another radio network.

Isaiah Washington — Also in 2007, actor Isaiah Washington was dropped from the ABC television series “Grey’s Anatomy” after using an anti-gay epithet on set against co-star T.R. Knight (who later came out as gay), and then, backstage at the Golden Globes Awards, denying that he had done so.

Bill Maher — Just days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, comedian Bill Maher stated on his ABC TV “Politically Incorrect” program that:

We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, not cowardly.

The backlash against Bill Maher included not just those in the Bush administration, but also some large sponsors of Maher’s program. By the following May, ABC canceled “Politically Incorrect.”

The Dixie Chicks — In March 2003, during President George W. Bush’s Iraq War, Natalie Maines of country music band the Dixie Chicks told her audience at a live performance that she was “ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.” A huge corporate and conservative backlash ensued, in which many country music stations and some conservative-leaning media corporations such as Cumulus Media and Clear Channel Communications pulled the Dixie Chicks from their stations’ playlists and/or held anti-Dixie Chicks rallies.

Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder — Back in January 1988, famous oddsmaker Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder stated on a CBS “NFL Today” pre-game tv broadcast that:

The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade … the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.

After a media firestorm and public outcry, CBS Sports fired Snyder.

Al Campanis — One year before Jimmy the Greek made his comments on air, Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis said in an ABC TV “Nightline” interview that there were so few black Major League Baseball managers because blacks:

may not have the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager…. How many quarterbacks do you have, how many pitchers do you have that are black? The same thing applies…. Why are black men or black people not good swimmers? Because they don’t have the buoyancy.

Amid a storm of protest, Campanis exited the Dodgers organization a few days later.

Mistaken Reading of the First Amendment

Some of Phil Robertson’s defenders, including Sarah Palin and Louisiana Governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, are citing Robertson’s First Amendment right to say what he wants. However, the First Amendment may protect a speaker from being jailed by the government for his opinions, but not from being criticized in the public marketplace of opinion, or penalized by one’s employer or sponsors in the commercial marketplace.

2 Responses to “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson joins long list of media personalities penalized for comments
  1. dwg
    December 23, 2013 | 8:18 pm

    The whole juxtaposition of “star” with something called “Duck Dynasty” is making me daffy.

  2. Messaging Matters
    December 23, 2013 | 10:12 pm

    Then good thing this doesn’t involve the Kardashians … yet!

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