People in the Media Sometimes get Suspended/Fired for Things they Say and Do

Just off the top of my head:

Via Bongo News:  “Politically Incorrect” Host is Fired for Being Politically Incorrect

Via ESPN:  Limbaugh resigns from NFL show

Via CBS News:  CBS Fires Don Imus Over Racial Slur.

Via an LAT blog: CBS suspends ‘Two and a Half Men’ production after Charlie Sheen comments

Via HuffPo/The AP:  Paula Deen Fired: Food Network Cancels Show After Racism Scandal

Via the NY PostMSNBC fires Baldwin over anti-gay slurs

Via the LAT: Martin Bashir exits MSNBC in wake of Sarah Palin outburst (this was technically a resignation).

These are not First Amendment issues.  People can, and do, get fired for things they say.  The government is not involved, and the government is not the one removing them from their positions for their utterances.  When the government is the agent removing someone from private employment for their words, then we can all go into high dudgeon over the first amendment.

One might wish to argue the justice of any or all of these.  However, what this list demonstrates is that a) the Robertson thing is not unique, and b) media outlets are sensitive to how they appear to the public and will dole out punishments to on air talent when they think it serves their overall image.

I would note that in this rather quick sample we can see a lot of different types of people being suspended for an array of utterances.  In some cases it is liberals being fired for saying things against more conservative issues/persons (e.g. Maher and Bashir).  In others the ideological background of the individual is not the issue, the nature of the comments is (e.g., Baldwin or Imus).

In general, media outlets don’t want to be embarrassed and they have longer-term concerns about their brands than they have over the specifics of a given employee.

Update:  In looking at this admittedly not scientific list, it strikes me that there is no clear pattern of liberals or conservatives getting in trouble nor is there a special religious theme.

FILED UNDER: Media, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    And Ari Fleischer never got fired for this:

    On Wednesday, Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, denounced Mr. Maher, saying of news organizations, and all Americans, that in times like these ”people have to watch what they say and watch what they do.”

    When the White House later released the official transcript of Mr. Fleischer’s briefing, the portion of his comments urging people to ”watch what they say” was not included. When that sparked yet another round of discussion over Mr. Fleischer’s comments, Anne Womack, an assistant to Mr. Fleischer, said yesterday that the transcript did vary from the remarks Mr. Fleischer made. She called it ”a transcription error.”

    Mr. Fleischer had earlier noted the President’s criticism of Representative John Cooksey, Republican of Louisiana, for remarks that were considered disparaging to Arabs. Mr. Fleischer said last night that his suggestion that people ”watch what they say” referred to both Mr. Maher and Mr. Cooksey.

  2. legion says:

    Have you seen the saga of Justine Sacco? It literally _all_ happened yesterday. This woman is (was) a PR flack for IAC. She hopped on a plane yesterday for a business trip from London to Cape Town. Just before she took off, she tweeted the following “joke”:

    Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!

    — Justine Sacco (@JustineSacco) December 20, 2013

    After that, it went viral on Twitter and then Tumblr. To the point where an article on the NYT website was written. And Gawker. And lots of other places. And Her employer “disavowed” her. Someone even bought the domain name justinesacco.com and re-directed it to Aid for Africa.

    All before her plane landed.

    Schadenfreude’s penis grew 3 inches yesterday…

  3. @legion: I saw a reference to Justine on Twitter last night, but had no idea to what it was referring.

  4. CSK says:

    This has been going on for decades. I’ve read that in 1970, a radio disc jockey got canned by his his station (in Boston, I think) for playing “Happy Birthday” on the 25th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

    I find it insanely irritating that some people are trying to make Robertson’s firing into a First Amendment issue. No. None of his rights were violated. He’s free to say whatever he likes. He’s also free to take the consequences of his employer’s displeasure–just as Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin had to do.

  5. Mark Williams says:

    I came over here as soon as I saw the link, hoping to find a post by Mr. Joyner or Mr. Mataconis, but was disappointed (and unsurprised) to see it had been left to OTB’s resident lefty to state this basic fact about the first amendment. Mr. Taylor is correct that losing your job by running afoul of your sponsors can and does happen regardless of your political leaning, religion, etc., but the far more interesting fact is that this fundamental misunderstanding of the first amendment is not spread so evenly among Americans; it is much more commonly found on the right than the left. Why?

  6. Eric Florack says:

    This is on a different level.
    A&E hired that bunch because of what they are, their culture, their attitudes and beliefs.
    They caught on and were/are wildly popular for the same reason.
    Yet A&E spent most of their time trying to muzzle. them from being what they are… the very reasons theyre popular.

  7. legion says:

    @Eric Florack: Really? How is it different from Charlie Sheen or Don Imus? It seems to me it’s _exactly_ the same. A company wants to make money & jumps at something that looks popular, without actually performing due diligence into exactly what kind of person they’re hiring or really thinking about how they’ll manage them. Steven’s right – it’s not a liberal/conservative thing, it’s a greed thing.

  8. JKB says:

    Yes, people are fired by media companies. Often their offense is so egregious or their fan base is so thin, that it causes little comment from others. Other times, the fan base doesn’t like the media company’s actions and respond.

    In this case, A&E did not act to prevent some embarrassment. but, after being pressured by an advocacy group. What they forgot was to consider the other side. They’ll probably end up okay.

    I don’t think Cracker Barrel will after they foolishly weighed in announcing they were removing certain merchandise that some might not like. Talk about not knowing your customers… And yes, the offense is in appearing to have taken a side.

    As Ann Althouse observed the other day, the Left didn’t use to be so pedantic when people used First Amendment rights to call out censorship. I guess things change when you are the Establishment.

  9. Gustopher says:

    Mr. Taylor, with all due respect, I think you are missing something very important in your list. Clearly, the conservatives were being victimized, while everyone else got what they deserve and should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

    The War Against Christmas has blossomed into an out War Against Christians. It’s an era where good, wholesome Christians cannot repeat anything from the Bible that might offend anyone anywhere.

    For instance, no one dares mention the Bible’s support of slavery when discussing Southern heritage.

  10. CSK says:

    @Mark Williams:

    If I understand your question correctly, the religious right in the Robertson case may have been led to “misunderstand” because Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin both made remarks to the effect that A&E’s decision to can Robertson meant that free speech is endangered. Of course, it isn’t. They didn’t go ballistic when Sheen, Baldwin, and Bashir were fired. In fact, the religious right cheered those decisions. They were, on the other hand, angered by the Food Network’s decision to dispense with Paula Deen.

    I suspect the anger may also have something to do with regional loyalty. “Duck Dynasty” is very popular in the south and the midwest, but has virtually no fans in the northeast and on the west coast.

    From the opposing perspective: When Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the pope on “Saturday Night Live,” some Roman Catholics called for a boycott. Some commenters on the left charged that this was censorship. Again, it wasn’t: No government agency was involved.

    It depends a lot on whose ox is being gored. But, as I say, in the Robertson case it probably has something to do with regional identity as well as religious belief. The depth of hatred some in the south have for those whom they regard as Godless northern liberal elites can’t be underestimated.

  11. JKB says:

    For instance, no one dares mention the Bible’s support of slavery when discussing Southern heritage.

    For instance, no one dares mention the Democrat support of slavery when discussing the Democratic party. Of course, that was only for the first 70 years. After that failed, the Democrats supported and built apartheid in the US for the next 100 years.

  12. rudderpedals says:

    Another common thread is that all of these individuals had their own groups of defenders of the indefensible. King Duck probably doesn’t belong here; it’s being staged. Duck Dynasty is still on A&E every day from tomorrow at least until after Christmas – hours every day.

    Nothing happened. Why the nutrage?

  13. @JKB:

    For instance, no one dares mention the Democrat support of slavery when discussing the Democratic party. Of course, that was only for the first 70 years. After that failed, the Democrats supported and built apartheid in the US for the next 100 years.

    I am fairly certain this has been discussed quite a lot, in fact. I am utterly certain that it is not forbidden, or even considered impolite to bring it up. I have seen numerous references, for example, to the fact that person considered the founder of the Democratic Party was a slave owner.

  14. @rudderpedals: Because the issues at hand (sexual orientation, race, religion, sectionalism) all converge in this discussion and dredges up topics we, as American, have not settled.

  15. @Eric Florack: This is, of course, a ridiculous position. Pretty much all of the people on that list were known quantities whose utterances, in retrospect, were not a surprise.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    For instance, no one dares mention the Democrat support of slavery when discussing the Democratic party. Of course, that was only for the first 70 years. After that failed, the Democrats supported and built apartheid in the US for the next 100 years.

    Oh sweetie, there is nothing at all wrong with mentioning any of that (well, except for the incorrect usage of the term “Democrat”)…but while all that is being mentioned, it would do a disservice to the truth to not also mention that after the Democratic Party associated itself with Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, many of those previously Southern Democrats switched their allegiance to the Republican Party and now the GOP is the political home of many of those bigots and their bigoted descendants…

  17. James Pearce says:

    @Eric Florack:

    A&E hired that bunch because of what they are, their culture, their attitudes and beliefs.

    I’ve heard this repeated time and time again during this short little saga. It’s demonstrably untrue.

    A&E hired them to entertain people on a TV show. They did not hire them to go on homophobic and racist rants in interviews.

  18. PJ says:

    @James Pearce:

    A&E hired them to entertain people on a TV show. They did not hire them to go on homophobic and racist rants in interviews.

    Well, Bithead’s sole piece of entertainment are homophobic and racist rants.

  19. anjin-san says:

    @ Florack

    Are you actually questioning the holy right of corporation to pursue profits by any method and means they see fit?

  20. anjin-san says:

    Democrats supported and built apartheid in the US for the next 100 years.

    And today that torch has been taken up by many Republicans, while Democrats work hard to create a society where equal protection under the law is a reality for all.

    “Got your ID boy? Sorry, you are not voting today”

  21. anjin-san says:

    no one dares mention the Democrat support of slavery

    You just mentioned it. Get back to us when the Acorn thugs and goons are trying to break down your front door.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @anjin-san: You forgot the new black panthers.

  23. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Ed Florak takes a ridiculous position? Who could have predicted that?

    Also, you are the house leftie? I didn’t know that!

  24. CSK says:

    Hmm. The Robertson family appears to be claiming now that A&E set Phil up. Apparently they’re upset that the A&E public relations person present during the GQ interview didn’t muzzle Phil. Gee, I thought he was expressing his heartfelt beliefs, beliefs they shared as Godly folk.

    I wonder if any of their devotees will see the contradiction in this.

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    For instance, no one dares mention the Democrat support of slavery when discussing the Democratic party. Of course, that was only for the first 70 years. After that failed, the Democrats supported and built apartheid in the US for the next 100 years.

    I’m pretty sure that people are aware that Southern Democrats supported slavery, then following the Civil War, they supported segregation and apartheid until the modern Civil Rights movement broke that down. I’m also pretty sure that most Americans know that, following passage of the Civil Rights Act, Southern Democrats started moving over to the Republican Party, where they would be comfortable in their race resentment. I’m pretty sure that THAT has been mentioned.

  26. Motopilot says:

    @Eric Florack:

    A&E hired that bunch because of what they are, their culture, their attitudes and beliefs. They caught on and were/are wildly popular for the same reason.

    I can’t really say why they “caught on”… I’ve never seen the show and didn’t even know what a duck dynasty was until this idiocy popped on the scene, but it appears as though at least some of these boys are fake rednecks. Turns out some are really rich yuppie guys that are playing a role and have faked out the rubes who are now crying about freedom of speech.

    http://crooksandliars.com/2013/12/duck-dynasty-yuppies-red-neck-drag

  27. CSK says:

    @Motopilot:

    I wonder if the fans of the show will ever acknowledge that they’ve been had by a pack of faux yokels?

  28. @Motopilot: @CSK: In fairness a few things:

    1. They had the beards and whatnot before A&E: they had another show and set of DVDs prior to the A&E program.

    2. Those photos have been published before in stories about the show–it isn’t a cover-up.

    3. Yuppie and redneck are not necessarily mutually exclusive in the Deep South.

  29. Grewgills says:

    @Motopilot:
    That does add a fun bit of irony to the whole thing doesn’t it?

    I am shocked that someone on a reality show isn’t real! Shocked I tell you!

  30. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    DIdn’t James Joyner, whom you may recall, make a funny about AIDS not too long ago ???