They never learn. Maybe they don’t want to, or can’t.
The latest media celebrity to fall victim to his own bad judgment is CNN’s Rick Sanchez, who left the network this week after his remarks on a radio show that another TV anchor, Jon Stewart, was a “bigot.” He later backtracked on the remark, but you can’t unring a bell.
A couple of years ago, radio commentator Don Imus was forced off one network after using “nappy-headed hos” as a reference to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. And Laura Schlessinger, whose specialty — relationships — isn’t given to diatribes, came under controversy for using the “n-word” on the air.
I have to wonder why such things keep happening. Why do people keep saying things on the air — which they HAVE to know will circulate around the world immediately, via the Internet — that could get them canned?
Surely they value their jobs, their prestigious statures in the industry. Anchors on CNN as well as top radio commentators make six- and seven-figure salaries, and command large fees for personal appearances. Why risk all that over one moment of bad judgment?
Of course, talk radio and TV — Sanchez’s show was geared for social media enthusiasts, functioning much like a radio show — demands controversy. If hosts aren’t outspoken, and if they don’t incite conversation among listeners, they don’t stay on the air.
Maybe, just maybe, the hosts can’t distinguish between being a host and a guest. Neal Boortz, who bills himself as insensitive in his combative Atlanta-based radio show — is usually quite mild-mannered when appearing as a guest on TV or other radio shows. Sanchez couldn’t rein himself in on time.
Or perhaps they are willing to go over the edge. Imus’ remark went beyond the political or economic realm to be simply a racial slur. Also, I particularly am offended by people teeing off on children or students, such as the Rutgers women. Wait until someone voluntarily enters the public realm before letting them have it. In that case, they are inviting scrutiny.
Or pick your targets better. Jon Stewart is one of the most popular figures on television these days. Slamming him is like going to India and slamming Mother Teresa, or going to New York and criticizing Babe Ruth. CNN is having enough ratings trouble these days without inviting more negative attention.
Undoubtedly, this will happen again. Someone’s good judgment will vanish in public, and controversy will ensue. Who will be next?