Roger L. Simon reports that ESPN has fired Gregg Easterbrook for some controversial remarks he made at TNR for which he subsequently apologized. So close on the heels of the Rush Limbaugh firing, it doesn’t speak very well of ESPN. While corporations have a right to hire and fire whomever they please–there is no First Amendment right against private employers, only the government–it is still rather outrageous for a journalistic enterprise to be so intolerant of controversial speech.

Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback column is some of the best sports writing out there–which is utterly remarkable for someone whose main job is as a Brookings Institution political analyst.

I’ve refrained from commenting on the original flap because, frankly, I didn’t much care. I’m mighty tired of whining about “racism” and “anti-Semitism” at every turn. The chilling effect on political discourse and constant pulling at scabs that should by now have healed caused by the easily inflamed greatly outweigh the minor transgressions that seem to spark them. Further, as I’ve argued with the charge of “rape,” the constant howling about these things makes it a hell of a lot harder to stir up the proper outrage over real incidents of racism and anti-Semitism.

(Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds, who has comments on the orginal incident and links to others here)

Update (1830): Even Meryl Yourish is outraged at the firing.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matthew says:

    I find it sadly comic that Reynolds, who is ever ready to say tout the power of the Blogosphere, runs away from the fact that in a very short time, he, Roger Simon, and Charles Johnson directly and indirectly encouraged hundreds, if not thousands, of angry voices to shout, without basis, that “Gregg Easterbrook is an anti-Semite!” and voila, the man gets fired. But it’s just spillover at ESPN from Limbaugh, right?

  2. Meezer says:

    Years ago I thought that hate-groups that complained about being harrassed or refused parade permits deserved what they got. I ignored their threats of “It will happen to you, too.” Now it’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.

  3. Rhesa says:

    Matthew: why are you just pointing at Reynolds when even Roger Simon, who played a bigger part in taking Easterbrook to task about that remark than Reynolds did (IMO), thinks ESPN firing the guy over it is disturbing? I think it IS spillover from the Limbaugh thing. Reynolds, Simon etc raised awareness about the wrongness of Easterbrook’s remark, but they definitely weren’t advocating his removal from the cable network. That’s all ESPN – their loss of a nice guy who used the wrong choice of words.

  4. Matthew says:

    Rhesa, I included Simon as well as Reynolds. But I mentioned Reynolds I just think that if this was someone who really deserved to be fired, Glenn would’ve been waxing triumphal about the power of the Blogosphere. But I don’t really focus my ire on bloggers per se. If you re-read my comment, what concerns me are blog readers and commenters, who, on high-traffic blogs, run wild and crazy during spectacles such as this one. Like the Moxie affair and some attacks on Venomous Kate, I have a feeling that a few cranks who read blogs regularly — but not the bloggers themselves — worked overtime to try and get Easterbrook fired.

    Yes, ESPN’s bad experience with Limbaugh may have led to them to enforce a zero tolerance policy, but who brought Easterbrook’s ill choice of words to light? Bloggers. Who said Easterbrook’s apology was “too little, too late”? Bloggers. I ask you to consider that the Blogosphere is a mass movement, and like all mass movements, it can be either a positive, revolutionary force OR a lynch mob, and I think Gregg Easterbrook was lynched.

    I don’t used the word “lynched” lightly. An anti-Semite is a person who demonstrates a pattern of behavior which is biased against Jews. An anti-Semite is not someone who writes one horrible and anti-Semitic-sounding sentence in a bad blog post driven by his intense dislike of violent Hollywood movies. Every commenter or fringe blogger or phone caller or e-mailer or faxer who called Gregg Easterbrook an anti-Semite lynched him. And Easterbrook’s high-tech lynching stands to grossly undermine REAL efforts to fight REAL anti-Semitism, which is the most damning aspect of this whole affair.

  5. Matthew says:

    There should be a “because” after the first Reynolds . . .
    And “used” in the first sentence of the third graf should be “use” . . .
    Bah, I’m too tired to proofread anymore.

  6. Paul says:

    [I could make fun of the fact that someone from a lefty rag got caught this time but that would hide my true feelings… This just has me annoyed, so I’m in rant mode.]

    I was thinking about this as I roamed Walmart today…

    I am growing quite tried of this whole routine.

    Some famous person says something and there is an outrage over the fact that what they said “OFFENDS” someone.

    Well, who the hell cares?

    Kevin Drum offends me when he spouts off about stuff he nows nothing about. Hillary Clinton offends me every other time I see her on television. And Chuck Schumer offends me by simply breathing.

    Should they all be fired because they offend me? NO! (well I think so but apparently I don’t count 😉

    Point is: To those offended… Get the hell over it. I get offended, you will to. If you don’t want to get offended, quit listening.

    Take the “N” word…. Is anyone on this planet *REALLY* offended when they hear it… NO. It is used as a billy club. If someone types “I hate all niggers” are they really causing some great pain in someone’s life or are they proving themselves an ass?

    Maybe I’m be more politically correct tomorrow, but this really is getting tiring.

    (close rant mode)


    But having said the above… When people in power like the PM of Malaysia say things that will cause one group of people to kill another that is a different thing. That is a case where his speech is an ACTION. (shouting fire in a theater) You can hardly make the case Limbaugh, Easterbrook et al are in that league with their comments.

  7. Katewerk says:

    Total and final responsibility for the firing lies with ESPN. Not Reynolds, not the “blogosphere”, not anyone else. ESPN signs his paychecks. Just as responsibility for writing the column lies with Easterbrook, responsibility for the firing lies with ESPN.

    I’m on the fence over this one. Freedom of expression does not mean freedom from consequences. I have a hard time seeing a lot of difference between the firing of Easterbrook by a private corporation, than I did the refusal of private radio stations to play Dixie Chicks tunes.


  8. Rhesa says:

    Matthew: Hmmm – food for thought (for me), I suppose. I ain’t a member of the “Power of the Blogosphere” camp, but I see your point(s).