Cal Thomas, Rachel Maddow, and Civility
Cal Thomas made a tasteless joke at Rachel Maddow's expense. He describes the lesson in civility he learned.
Cal Thomas made a tasteless joke at Rachel Maddow’s expense. He describes the lesson in civility he learned.
Last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, I failed to live up to one of my highest principles. Here’s the background. The story about the Obama administration’s attempt to force Catholic and other faith-based institutions to offer employees free contraception in their health care coverage was still fresh. I was asked to be on a panel before what looked like a crowd of about 1,000 conservatives, hungry for “red meat.”
A clip was played from Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program. It featured her commenting on the subject. I stupidly said before thinking, “I think she’s the best argument in favor of her parents using contraception.” I then added, “and all the rest of the crowd at MSNBC, too, for that matter.”
It didn’t matter that far worse things have been said in print and on TV about me. I am not supposed to behave like that. I co-wrote a book with my liberal Democratic friend, Bob Beckel, called “Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America.” We also write a column together for USA Today. One of the principles in which I believe is not to engage in name-calling; which, to my shame, I did.
The next morning I felt bad about it, so I called Maddow to apologize. It wasn’t one of those meaningless “if I’ve offended anyone …” apologies; it was heartfelt. I had embarrassed myself and was a bad example to those who read my column and expect better from me.
Maddow could not have been more gracious. She immediately accepted my apology. On her show, she said publicly, “I completely believe his apology. I completely accept his apology.” To be forgiven by one you have wronged is a blessing, it’s even cleansing.
Maddow also accepted my invitation to lunch and we will soon meet in New York. I am looking forward to it. Since the incident, which, of course, garnered a minitornado of media and blogosphere coverage, I have watched a couple of her shows.
Without engaging in any qualifiers, she is a strong and competent advocate for her position. Why do so many of us only watch programs that reinforce what we already believe? Where is the growth in that? Whatever else she may or may not be, she is my fellow American.
I have many liberal friends acquired over the years. They are impossible to avoid in the media, but I don’t wish to avoid them. They became my friends because I stopped seeing them as labels and began seeing them as persons with innate worth.
That is what I failed to do in my first response to Maddow. One might expect a pro-lifer like me to support the birth of fellow human beings and not suggest they should never have been born.
Thomas has always struck me as a decent fellow. Rather than the classic Washington gaffe of accidentally revealing one’s true thoughts, I suspect what happened here is that he succumbed to the temptation for cheap humor and pandered to a partisan crowd. The joke was quite literally thoughtless.
I share Thomas’ instincts for reading thoughtful people who disagree with me and treating them as fellow countrymen and citizens of the planet rather than treasonous enemies worthy of scorn. It is, however, not a mindset that lends itself to making a name for oneself in punditry or selling a lot of books.
I’m particularly befuddled at the animus that so many on the right direct at Rachel Maddow. While I’ve watched only a handful of episodes of her show–I just don’t watch much talking head TV these days–she’s always struck me as quite pleasant and fair. I understand why people dislike Keith Olbermann or Rush Limbaugh; they’re bombastic point scorers preaching to the choir. But Maddow is more akin to William F. Buckley or George Will, bringing the temperament of a Rhodes Scholar and Oxford PhD, not a street fighter or shock jock.
via Oliver Willis