Air America Under Investigation for Bush Gunshot Skit
AIR AMERICA RADIO INVESTIGATED AFTER BUSH ‘GUNSHOTS’ (Drudge Report)
The red-hot rhetoric over Social Security on liberal talkradio network AIR AMERICA has caught the attention of the Secret Service, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. Government officials are reviewing a skit which aired on the network Monday evening — a skit featuring an apparent gunshot warning to the president!
The announcer: “A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn’t safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here’s your answer, you ungrateful whelp:
Just try it, you little bastard.
“Even joking about shooting the president is a crime, let alone doing it on national radio… we are taking this very seriously,” a government source explained.
AIR AMERICA President of Programming and co-COO Jon Sinton said in a release: “We regret that a produced comedy bit that was in bad taste slipped through our normal vetting process. We do acknowledge that it was an internal error and internal discipline will be enforced.”
Rhodes apologized for the skit on her show today. “It was a bit,” Rhodes said. “It was bad. I apologize a thousand times.”
My word, this is asinine. I seldom find jokes about assassinating political leaders funny, and this is certainly no exception. I can even understand why, under circumstances where there is proximate harm possible, why joking about assassinating the president would be criminal. It’s more than a bit of a stretch, though, to interpret a national radio show skit as a legitimate threat.
Drudge provides a link to a fan site’s mp3 of the skit. Not surprisingly, doing so has overwhelmed the servers and the file in unavailable.
Update (1911): Eugene Volokh clarifies:
Joking about shooting the President certainly isn’t a crime as such; threatening to shoot the President is. Threats (whether against the President or not) are indeed constitutionally unprotected, but to be a punishable threats, a statement must at least be understood by a reasonable listener as a true threat, rather than just hyperbole (or humor).
The upshot is that, while people who make jokes about killing the president or bombing an airplane may well be subject to harrassment, they’re not subject to criminal penalty under current law.