Thursday, April 26, 2007

Free Speech Isn't Supposed to be Just Rosie

There isn't any real evidence that Rosie O'Donnell was shown the door at ABC, even though it isn't really possible to know for sure why these two parties with obvious common interests have decided to part company. The story is that Rosie wanted a one-year extension for being the lead host of "The View" and that ABC wanted to lock her into more time. The New York Times also reports that Rosie's salary demands were too high.

ABC could have been feeling some heat in this post-Imus world (though Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly's employers seem to have NASA-grade tiles between them and the civilized world). Rosie, who is often restless in her work -- she gave up her top-rated daytime talker and walked away from her eponymous named magazine -- could just be playing her "I couldn't care less" card again.

But you can't blame anyone for speculating about the reasons someone gives up a major, attention-getting pulpit. Or has it taken away.

In This Corner: Donald Trump!

Donald Trump's feud with O'Donnell made for great tabloid headlines, and neither could seem to let it go. Call me
Nobody who wanted Rosie to shut up and go away should be proud -- or comfortable -- if it was political uneasiness not just a dispute over time and money that ended O'Donnell's tenure.
old-fashioned, but whatever taunts from Rosie started this spat, Trump behaved like a cad. Look it up. I'll help.
1. colloq
A man who behaves discourteously or dishonourably, especially towards a woman.
Thesaurus: knave, churl, blackguard, caitiff, cur, rat (slang), heel (slang), skunk (slang), swine (slang), worm (slang); Antonym: gentleman.
That feud just ginned up ratings for all concerned. More significantly, O'Donnell became the hobby for a handful of cable pundits, notably MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, who argued that Rosie should not be sharing the stage with a journalist of Barbara Walters' stature as a pundit (rather than comic relief), promulgating such ideas as that World Trade Center building 7 was intentionally demolished during the 9/11 attack and asserting that "radical Christians" were as dangerous as "radical Muslims."

It's difficult to know now what the standards are these days for broadcasters. Imus is out for saying "nappy-headed hos" but everyone who utters or prints that phrase while reporting on Imus gets a pass. Nobody will use the "N" word but nobody has any trouble saying "n-word" repeatedly when talking about the "N" word. I'm waiting for some shock jock to say to someone: "Hey, n-word!" just to see what happens.

Rosie never used coarse language on the air and never attacked the weak. She does have uncommon political views on some subjects and was, to say the least, outspoken on a show that is about talking about the issues of the day. The only show, by the way, that not only invites women to join the panel but is entirely made up of women. As much of a cynic as I may seem, that can't have anything to do with this, could it? Scarborough can't possibly be stepping up to defend poor, defenseless Walters, who doesn't even know what is good for her, poor thing. A chivalrous knight to Trump's knave?

Your Business is My Business

I was against term limits not because I was a Democrat and it was a Republican initiative. I just didn't like the idea of trading my right to be represented by Ted Kennedy (for example) for the right to banish Jesse Helms (for example). Giving away rights when so often there are powers who want to take them away seems idiotic. So it is especially chilling when people who make their living exercising free speech call for others who are exercising free speech to be silenced.

Maybe ABC made it impossible for Rosie to renew and maybe it didn't. Maybe Rosie was tired of it all and doesn't care that the timing looks like she may have been bullied. But nobody who wanted Rosie to shut up and go away should be proud -- or comfortable -- if it was uneasiness with her opinions and not just a dispute over time and money that ended O'Donnell's tenure on "The View."

You could be next. Especially if stupidity, lying or being pathologically misinformed become litmus tests right after having wacky ideas about a thing or two becomes unacceptable.

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