Off the Air
News of more than 150 thousand deaths is no laughing matter to most people. Apparently, that wasn’t the case for the cast of a New York radio show — and now, the joke is on them. DJ Tarsha Nicole Jones and her “Miss Jones in the Morning” cohorts are on indefinite suspension from hiphop station Hot 97. The action followed their broadcast — a week ago — of a song ridiculing victims of the Indian Ocean tsumani disaster. “Tsunami Song” mixed racist slurs against Asian people, jokes about those killed and orphaned, and the tune from “We Are the World,” the 1985 song that raised funds and awareness for African-famine relief.
“What happened is morally and socially indefensible,” Rick Cummings, president of WQHT-FM owner Emmis Radio, said in a statement. “All involved, myself included, are ashamed and deeply sorry.”
So why did it take a week for Miss Jones and company to land in hot water with the station? It’s all about the green: New York Newsday reports that protests by Asian advocacy groups and loud criticism from local politicians led to defections by a number of Hot 97’s advertisers, including McDonald’s Corp., tax-services firm Jackson Hewitt Inc., and phone giant Sprint.
Despite Miss Jones’ on-air apology, her team’s promise to donate a week’s pay to tsunami-relief efforts, and the suspensions, WQHT is still feeling the heat. New York City Councilperson John Liu and others say Emmis’ punishment doesn’t go far enough. Liu’s office will protest tomorrow morning to insist that Jones and the rest of the show’s cast be fired. The demonstration will also call on the Federal Communications Commission to levy fines against Emmis Radio.
Firing the “Miss Jones in the Morning” team would be more than justified. Whining about free speech misses a simple truth here: The Jones gang is free to spout all the hatred and insensitivity they want — on their own radio station or in their own cesspool. As for Emmis execs, they deserve reproach. Shame on them for not going far enough in disciplining its errant employees and for not taking decisive action as soon as the reprehensible broadcast aired.
Off the Payroll
It took a while for the Bush Administration to realize that it isn’t smart to have columnists and commentators on the government dime.
After the early January discovery that conservative pundit Armstrong Williams was paid $241,000 by a public-relations firm at the behest of the US Department of Education to trumpet the Shrub’s No Child Left Behind Act, the Bushies had little to say. But now that the world knows that right-wing commentator Maggie Gallagher received $41,500 to pimp the anti-GLBT Federal Marriage Amendment, even Dubya realized that something had to give.
At a press conference today, Bush laid down the law: “I expect my Cabinet secretaries to make sure that that practice doesn’t go forward. There needs to be independence,” he said. “All our Cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying … commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet.”
‘Bout damn time. How is it that Shrubbie didn’t come to that conclusion on Jan. 7? After the Williams story emerged, the writer came clean, admitting that he had been wrong to take the taxpayers’ money without making a full disclosure. Whatever the reason for his initial inaction, it is good that Bush finally wised up.
As for Gallagher, she says now that she should have disclosed that she was on the gummint payroll, but according to CNN, it appears she doesn’t grasp the enormity of her actions.
On Wednesday, Washington Post media critic and CNN host Howard Kurtz reported that in 2002 syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher “repeatedly defended President Bush’s push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families,” without mentioning she “had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president’s proposal.”
Gallagher said in a statement published Wednesday that she was hired by HHS because of her “lifelong experience in marriage research, public education and advocacy.”
She was paid to prepare presentation on the benefits of marriage for HHS managers, to draft an essay on the topic for HHS Assistant Secretary Wade Horn and to prepare brochures on the topic, Gallagher wrote.
“I was not paid to promote marriage. I was paid to produce particular research and writing products … which I produced,” she wrote.
Gallagher, a frequent television guest and a former editor at the conservative National Review, is the author of three books on marriage and president of the new nonprofit organization, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, based in Washington.
And this differs from Williams’ situation in what way? The whole thing makes me think of a funny story (likely apocryphal) I heard eons ago:
Oscar Wilde asked a society woman if she would consider having sex with someone for $10 million. The woman was taken aback by the question and thought about the prospect for a moment. Eventually, she answered, “Yes, yes I would.”
Wilde had another question: “Would you do it for $10?”
“Absolutely not,” she replied, feeling insulted. “Just what do you take me for?”
“My dear, we have already established that,” Wilde said. “Now, we are merely haggling over the price.”
Anyone with eyes can see what Gallagher is.
By the way: How typical for the Bushies to pay a woman less than a man for performing the same job.
tip o’ the baseball cap to Blogcritics’ Dave Nalle for reminding me that Oscar Wilde was responsible for that funny story