BY JONATHAN VALANIA Michael Smerconish looks just like Mr. Clean, or, as he is known to Russian housewives, Mr. Proper. Michael Smerconish is also a country club Republican, a talk-radio host and, as of late, a regular fixture of the Inquirer’s Sunday Op-Ed page. Bully for him, we’re all for equal time and open debate even if we think he has his shiny head up his ass most of the time. Sadly, because of guys like Smerconish — Machiavellian media climbers that will say ANYTHING to ensure their butt space in the game of musical chairs that is the talking head punditocracy — people don’t even expect to hear the truth anymore, let alone demand it. We’re here to change that. Mr. Smerconish is a cunning fellow who likes to pass himself off as too guileless and gee-whiz earnest to have an agenda. It’s a little cat & mouse game he likes to play with the reader. But two can play that game. Which is why we have launched the MICHAEL SMERCONISH EXPLAINER, wherein we will attempt to explain, line by line and in bold, why Michael Smerconish is wrong to, well, Michael Smerconish. Ready? OK, let’s dig into this past Sunday?s column:
Let’s get the essentials out of the way. Don Imus said something indefensible. He needed to be punished.
OK, so far so good.
The public flogging he has suffered, plus the two-week suspension his bosses initially announced, should have been sufficient. I do not believe that MSNBC (where I often appear) or CBS Radio (my employer) should have fired him. And I cannot fathom how Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson became the arbiters of appropriateness, given Tawana Brawley and “Hymietown,” respectively.
We’ll give you this much: Jesse Jackson has long-since abdicated whatever moral authority he may have conferred on himself that awful day in 1968 when he leaned over the lifeless body of Martin Luther King and dipped his hand in the blood and wiped it on his shirt. And we, too, have said on numerous occasions that nothing coming out of Al Sharpton’s mouth has any credibility until he exorcizes the ghosts of Tawana Brawley‘s lies.
Only Imus knows for sure what was on his self-admittedly drug-damaged mind when he said those things. His apology sounded sincere. I myself do not believe he said something racist per se. It was a reach for a cheap laugh, not something said to be injurious to the Rutgers women.
Huh? What part of ‘nappy-headed ho’s’ don’t you understand, whiteboy? Allow us to translate: it means a black slut who doesn’t comb her hair. When a rich white man calls a female team of African-American college students ‘nappy-headed ho’s’ — well, it’s a lot of things: crass, mean, belittling, offensive, deeply insulting, BUT most of all it is R-A-C-I-S-T. However, that’s not why he was fired. No, it was what Adam Smith calls the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market that did that. For some kooky reason, advertisers think endorsing racist remarks is just bad for business.
Ah, but the floodgates are now open. The cyber-lynching by faceless, nameless bloggers of talk-show hosts like me has begun.
I can only speak for myself, but I am neither nameless (check my byline, I’m also on the masthead) nor faceless and I have on numerous occasions emailed you for comment and all I ever get back is email blasts hyping your latest reading at some McBook Store in the ‘burbs. For the record, I would be happy to come on your radio show and debate you in person. But, frankly, I doubt you are man enough to take me up on the offer and share the bully pulpit.
Individuals who hide behind the anonymity afforded by the Internet are seeking to squelch the First Amendment right of people whose identities are readily known and who, unlike their cowardly critics, put their names and credibility on the line each and every day on matters of public concern. Left unconfronted, it is a dangerous practice in the making.
Let’s see if we have this straight: You have a radio show, a column in both the Daily News and the Inquirer, regularly fill in for Bill O’Reilly on his national radio show, and appear on all the cable shout-fest shows on national television — and you feel that your First Amendment rights are being threatened by some guy dogging you on his blog? Please. Man-up, will ya?
The very day Imus was fired at CBS, I was alerted to a posting on Media Matters for America, a sophisticated Web site instrumental in stoking the flames for Imus’ departure. The posting, titled “It’s not just Imus,” identified me as one of seven talk-show hosts in America who bear observation:”. . . [A]s Media Matters for America has extensively documented, bigotry and hate speech targeting, among other characteristics, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity continue to permeate the airwaves through personalities such as Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, Michael Smerconish, and John Gibson.”I have done talk radio for about 15 years, have written two books, authored hundreds of columns, and have appeared on every major television program in which politics gets discussed, from The Colbert Report to Hardball With Chris Matthews. This week alone I was responsible for 17.5 hours of content on my own radio show, wrote two newspaper columns, guest-hosted Bill O’Reilly’s radio show nationwide, and found time to make television appearances on The Today Show, The Glenn Beck Program, and Scarborough Country.
Does the Inquirer pay you by the word? Because if I was your editor I would tell you that re-printing your resume is NOT billable. And if you are going to shamelessly position yourself as a candidate for Imus’ replacement, don’t do it on the Editorial page.
Needless to say, I was anxious to see which of my words, among the millions I have offered over all these years, have been documented by these blogger-watchdogs as “bigotry” and “hate.” What exactly puts me in a category with the likes of Michael Savage? Well, let’s evaluate the quality of the evidence. For me, they identified three examples:Exhibit A. “Substituting for host Bill O’Reilly on the April 4, 2006, broadcast of Westwood One’s The Radio Factor, nationally syndicated radio host Michael Smerconish repeatedly discussed ‘the sissification of America,’ claiming that political correctness has made the United States ‘a nation of sissies.’ Smerconish also claimed, several times, that this ‘sissification’ and ‘limp-wristedness’ is ‘compromising our ability to win the war on terror.’ “Guilty as charged. America is getting muzzled. Those among us who assert their own brand of political correctness while sacrificing the rugged individualism that has been the hallmark of our nation, are seeking to mute the words and actions of others, make them conform to a standard of correctness that is not just silly but also toxic.
Yep, back in the good ol’ days you could say nigger, nigger, nigger and nobody would bat an eye. Hell, you used to be able to string ’em up in the trees, too. Those were the days, huh, Archie?
In the past, this sanitization of that which we say and do would have been debate-worthy, but in truth, only a minor irritant to our quality of life. But I believe that in the post-9/11 world, these trends represent a cancer that has metastasized into the war on terror, where it threatens our very survival. We debate the comfort level at Gitmo while Nick Berg gets decapitated. We’ve become sissies in that regard.
Man, you must have had your running shoes on when you made that impossible leap of logic. Let’s break it down: a local man (tragically and foolishly) wanders into a war zone and winds up beheaded on the Internet by religious psychopaths, so we should just redline the Geneva Convention and shitcan Habeas Corpus? Now who’s being a sissy? Speaking of sissies, a friend of ours once interned at your old law firm. One of the intern duties was escorting attornies to their cars in the parking lot if they feared for their safety, for whatever reason. Most of the male attornies declined the escort, but you, sir, NEVER left the office without an human shield intern watching your back. I am told they all laughed at you behind your back about that. Ya big pussy.
Exhibit B. “On the Nov. 23, 2005, broadcast of The Radio Factor, while guest-hosting, Smerconish took issue with a decision by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to provide a designated prayer area at Giants Stadium. The decision was in response to a Sept. 19 incident involving the FBI’s detention and questioning of five Muslim men who were observed praying near the stadium’s main air duct during a New York Giants football game. Smerconish stated: ‘I just think that’s [the men’s public praying] wrong. I just think they’re playing a game of, you know, mind blank with the audience. And that they should know better four years removed from Sept. 11.” Guilty. When five Muslim men in attendance at the Meadowlands in September 2005 for a Giants-Saints game that was also a Hurricane Katrina fund-raiser, with George H.W. Bush in attendance, saw fit to pray in an area near food preparation and air duct work, I think it was a case of mind blank. That’s a form of terrorism in itself.
What the hell is a “mind blank”? You mean “mind fuck”? Jesus, Michael, this a family newspaper! Don’t work blue, kid. All kidding aside, do you know anything at all about being a Muslim? They have to pray, like, five times a day. If they only did it in mosques, they’d never see the light of day. Which I’m sure would suit you just fine. But sooner or later you are going to have to drop this intellectually-juvenile word-view if you want to be taken seriously as a commentator. I mean really, you sound like a little kid who doesn’t want to eat his broccoli: But Islam’s weird and trying to kill me. Boo-hoo.
Exhibit C. “On the Nov. 23, 2005, edition of The Radio Factor, Smerconish interviewed Soo Kim Abboud, author of Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers – and How You Can Too. . . . Smerconish asserted that “if everyone follows Dr. Abboud’s prescription . . . you’re going to have women who will leave the home and now get a great-paying job, because you will have gotten them well-educated.’ He continued, ‘But then they’re not going to be around to instill these lessons in their kids. In other words, it occurs to me that perhaps you’ve provided a prescription to bring this great success to an end.’ “
So, your takeaway from all of that was: That’s all well and good, but everybody knows women can’t be mothers and career women. Who raised you, Bobby Riggs?
My favorite – and truly an assertion that shows how asinine this situation has quickly become. GuiltyTwo Philadelphia-area Asian sisters wrote a great book explaining the success of their upbringing. The bottom line was their parents’ hands-on approach. I not only hosted them on the air, but also honored them at a book club meeting with several hundred attendees. It occurred to me that if their advice were followed, it would create more “high achievers” with better educational opportunities and job offers, which would, ironically, take them out of the home where they could instill those same values to their own children. But now, that insight is sexist. How long before they start burning my tapes?
Frankly, Michael, it wouldn’t be worth the carbon emissions. Now do us all a favor and get down off the cross, we could use the wood.