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Radio Host Fired For Slip of Tongue

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A St. Louis radio talk show host, Dave Lenihan, was fired on the air this week after making a racial slur, in what seems, to this pundit anyway, clearly an accidental slip of the tongue.

Just prior to this on-air flub, the host praised the Secretary of State Condolezza Rice’s illustrious career. He did so in a manner that would preclude any normal human from assuming that he was also an undercover racist seeking to destroy Ms. Rice. Here’s the statement in question:

    “She’s been chancellor of Stanford,” Lenihan said on the air. “She’s got the patent resume of somebody that has serious skill. She loves football. She’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon. A big coon. Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that.”

Mr. Lenihan clearly was remorseful and knew immediately he’d made a major screwup. Does that sound like someone trying to project a racist view? And how coy of him to use a racial epithet that’s so old and unused that the typical young person today would assume he was talking about the nocturnal creature most known for knocking over trashcans.

But no, we must make an example of this man and our society’s complete lack of common sense. Now were this, say, Imus, Trent Lott, or Rush Limbaugh, or anyone on the Fox News channel who did this, I might be a bit more skeptical as to their internal motives. But this guy doesn’t have a racist rap sheet. He’s just some radio host who did what each of us has done at least once in our lives: fumbled his words. Mr. Lenihan has continued to express in statements regarding the incident, that he was trying to say “coup” but instead the now infamous slur came out.

This reminded me of a similar incident I had a few years back. While cleaning up the kitchen at my in-laws one day, I off-handedly mentioned Eric having left his glass of milk “vicariously perched on the edge of the table” just waiting for someone to knock it over (typical of his absent-mindedness) and was met with knee-slapping laughter by my sweet, but hardly without faults mother-in-law and Eric, of course. I am often reminded of this verbal misstep which still brings inexplicable laughter from all parties whenever it’s mentioned. I find it embarrasing and mildly annoying, but the consequences and flub weren’t nearly so severe as Mr. Lenihan’s.

Clearly, I meant precariously perched. Precarious, vicarious, my addled brain could hardly distinguish the two very different words. I spoke before I thought thoroughly and so did perhaps Lenihan. “Coup” certainly fits the context far more than “a big coon” which really couldn’t describe anyone, let alone the inimitable Condi Rice. Well, maybe that overweight catfood thief with a furry face and paws that shows up on our back deck, but that’s about it.

The host in question, now out of a job and publicly ridiculed and forever labeled a racist is clearly bewildered.

    He still trying to figure out what happened and was drafting a letter of apology to Rice. He said he never uses the slur he uttered and thinks Rice is “a fantastic woman.”

    Lenihan, formerly a drive-time host at WGNU radio in St. Louis, had been at KTRS for less than two weeks.

    “It was my dream job,” he said. “Ratings were going well. It kind of stinks.”

Yeah, it stinks alright.

Look, no decent person wants to hear a bunch of nasty racial slurs, but this story, and the aftermath, is disturbing. One look at the context in which is was said makes it perfectly clear that this guy just said a word that sounds like another. A rather unfortunate word and one with ugly connotations to be sure, but what was his point?

Oh, clearly it was a ruse to expose his ugly truth, that he is in fact a racist. Or, perhaps he just isn’t terribly articulate — kind of like President Bush, who we all know will not get fooled again.

A perfect example of the PC overreaction to this story was exemplified by the roundtable discussion of the incident on NPR’s News and Notes with Ed Gordon. The pundits couldn’t have been less objective if they were Condi Rice themselves (whom I can only imagine thinks the whole to-do is undignified and embarrassing to say the least). This is the same African-American person who is constantly ridiculed by liberal African-Americans for being a sellout. How very convenient to use her for their own PC mindpolice agenda.

I am no racist apologist and very few things offend me more than the notion and action of racism in today’s society, but damn, this whole story needs some common sense interjection.

Don’t we have real problems, like the violence against women in South Africa, or the bird flu, or the deadly War in Iraq?

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About Dawn Olsen

  • Carmine

    I adore Condoleezza Rice and would gladly vote for her for president. But my word, when PC insanity leads to this poor buffoon Lenihan being fired that is just plain wrong. I could see how nut case intolerant feminists like Katha Pollit or Ros Baxandall would salivate over the opportunity to destroy someone’s carreer like this. But I am sure Dr. Rice is vastly more kind and reasonable than any of those types. So I hope she somehow rises above all this and makes a pitch to save this poor guy his job. After all the PC crowd still refuses to recognize that Muslims are actually murdering women on a daily basis. We need to respect their culture even if it does lead to the death, stoning and honor killing of their own daughters, sisters and mothers. The PC academics still pretend that somehow Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot were actually good if misunderstood Marxists. All their murders were somehow the fault of America and colonial nations that made them do it. And of course, PC is synonomous with anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Please Dr. Rice don’t be like the fraudlent professional victims who now want to claim you as one of their own. Dr. Condoleezza Rice you are above these third wave PC losers. Dr. Rice you are a real intellectual and a real international leader; let this poor little bufuddled guy keep his job. Really.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Maybe he has Ron Burgundy Syndrome and someone wrote that on his notes.

    I bet it was WES MANTOOTH!

  • http://www.davisvilleproductions.com Lisa Bee

    I think you meant, “racial EPITHET”, not epitaph. Otherwise, I’m with you on this one. What a waste of time to go after this guy for an honest mistake.

  • Dawn

    See Lisa, there’s the proof that it’s easy to mistake like sounding words. But in this case I will fix it, thanks for the heads up.

    So glad so many hear the voice of reason, I was sure that people would call me a racist too.

  • http://sterfish.blogspot.com Sterfish

    It’s unfortunate that he lost his job over a slip of the tongue. I could understand it if the guy didn’t understand what he had said, if he had joked about it, or wanted to say it with malicious intent. However, it seemed like he not only realized exactly what he said (and how bad it actually was) but he felt incredibly guilty about it. He should’ve had the chance to apologize on the air and keep his show.

  • Dave Nalle

    I think that in this case ‘racial epitaph’ might be the correct phrasing, at least in terms of this guy’s career.

    Dave

  • Dawn

    I first heard this story on Rover’s Morning Glory and he got a really mixed reaction from the audience, some people actually thought the guy was covering up some hidden racial agenda.

    And then after listening to the Roundtouble on Ed Gordon’s show (I have diverse radio selections in my repertoire) I really wasn’t sure what to think.

    After a fair amount of thinking about it and reading the story in various news outlets and not ONCE hearing that this guy has a track record for racism and in fact really digs the Secretary of State, it’s just ignorant and single-minded to assume anything other than the fact it was an accident.

    Does anyone remember the guy who was fired for using the word “niggardly” in a closed meeting a few years back?

    What the heck happened to this country? I mean there is REAL racism in the world, we sure don’t need to make shit it up to prove it.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    However, it seemed like he not only realized exactly what he said (and how bad it actually was) but he felt incredibly guilty about it. He should’ve had the chance to apologize on the air and keep his show

    Ster – Yeah, I agree.
    Dawn- good write up. Its so exhaustingly sad that certain methodologies are put into place for good reasons – originally. The whole PC movement was born of good intentions. Same with ACLU. But it all gets so easily fucked up. And then we are left with everyone being afraid to breathe the wrong way.

    Its a shame that we need laws to promote and protect what one would think would be common sense stuff.

    Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)got it right.
    (and no, this isn’t spam : )

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    However, it seemed like he not only realized exactly what he said (and how bad it actually was) but he felt incredibly guilty about it. He should’ve had the chance to apologize on the air and keep his show

    Ster – Yeah, I agree.
    Dawn- good write up. Its so exhaustingly sad that certain methodologies are put into place for good reasons – originally. The whole PC movement was born of good intentions. Same with ACLU. But it all gets so easily fucked up. And then we are left with everyone being afraid to breathe the wrong way.

    Its a shame that we need laws to promote and protect what one would think would be common sense stuff.

    Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)got it right.
    (and no, this isn’t spam : )

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    I bet it was WES MANTOOTH!

    Probably the ones from public news : )

  • http://insidebrain2005.blogspot.com Matthew Milam

    I’m sorry to tell you guys this, but a racial slur is a racial slur. Asking blacks of all walks of life to simply laugh it off as a mistake is more like trying to have a Phil Collins concert in the ghetto, bullets will fly and hearts will bleed.

    Sometimes you gotta keep the anger to yourself, and that’s a lesson that none of us ever learn. In his unforunate case, it ended up on national television.

  • Nancy

    This reminds me for no reason except that its something blown out of proportion of the incident here in DC where an officer in city government got canned by Mayor Williams because he (the officer) said that the city’s budget for some item or other was “niggardly”, and the idiots he was talking to thought he used the N-word. They refused to back down even after someone showed them a dictionary.

  • Dawn

    No Matthew, sometimes people just don’t speak probably. Just like not every death is caused by murder, not every word uttered is meant to offend. The result might be the same, but the intent certainly isn’t and we usually judge people based on their motives and intentions.

    That’s we have things like manslaughter when someone commits an accident that results in death.

    I mean what’s the point of saying a racial slur if you are only going to apologize profusely for afterwards? How has that helped anyone? It hasn’t, so clearly it was an accident.

    The context is the key hear. The racial intent doesn’t match the context in which the word was said. Why? Because there was not racial intent.

  • http://rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    This is the first I’ve heard of this and my gut reaction is: what kind of stuff was this guy on? “She’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon.” Was he trying to say something else and it came out wrong, or what? Where did “coon” come from?

    What if he had said: “She’s African-American, which would kind of be a big nigger. A big nigger. Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that.”

    Would you look at him any differently? The offense is the same.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    Rodney – from what I read, he meant to say ‘coup’.

  • http://rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Oh, I see. Well, that makes sense. I just couldn’t figure out what he might have meant. If it’s that kind of slip of the tongue, then I could forgive him.

  • Dawn

    There has been some speculation that he thinking of the words “boon” and “coup” – both appropriate for the sentence and context, and instead a conjunction of the two came out.

    Unfortunate, but hardly malicious.

  • http://rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Ah! Now that makes even more sense. I can totally see that. And, the more I think about it, it would make no sense at all for him to call her “big,” because she isn’t.

    If it weren’t so sad, this is a funny story, the idea of calling Condoleeza Rice that.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    i heard the replay. he was clearly appalled that those words came out of his mouth. completely sincere, especially considering how he’d been praising her earlier.

    for some reason, this is reminding me of that freudian slip joke where the guy is having dinner with his mother:

    “What I meant to say, was, ‘Mother, would you please pass the salt,'” he explains, “but what actually came out was, ‘You bitch, you ruined my entire life.'”

  • Nancy

    This was gross overreaction by the management. They could just have censured him; that would have been enough.

  • Dawn

    Wow, Mark, that’s quite a slip.

    I sure hope that wasn’t the case in this situation, as I would have to wonder about this guy’s depth of anger in holding in so much racial resentment towards Ms. Rice.

    That word is not nice at all.

  • Dawn

    Ms. Rice has since accepted his apology, but followed it up with a cryptic message about birth defects and racial injustice.

    I have no idea what she was trying to impart come to think of it. But if someone called me something that derogatory, even by accident, I would be a bit befuddled too.

  • http://insidebrain2005.blogspot.com Matthew Milam

    Befuddled wouldn’t be the only reaction you had if you were told the word often enough in your life.

  • Dawn

    I can’t imagine Condi Rice being called that in the last 40 years of her life. She’s pretty highly regarded around the world I would think.

  • Don’t call me Shirley

    I don’t chink he did it intentionally. It was a spick of the tongue. Oh shit.

  • Don’t call me Shirley

    Condi doesn’t even look like a racoon. I think she looks like the female gremlin from “Gremlins 2″. Anybody?

  • Nancy

    Whatever she is, she’s got the warmth & charm of a cottonmouth.

  • Dawn

    She’s not known for her fuzzy and cuddly charm – but she sure is smart.

    And knows how to stay in shape!

  • MCH

    This reminded me of a similar slip of the tongue I heard about years ago:

    A cab driver picks up a drunk. Several blocks later, a lady gets in. After a few blocks, the driver says to the woman, “Tickle your ass with a feather?” The lady asks, “What did you say?” to which he replies, “Mighty peculiar weather.” After dropping off the woman, the drunk says, “What, hiccup, wush that all about?” The cabbie answers, “I’m trying to see if I can laid.” The drunk says “Let me try one,” so the driver agrees. Soon they pick up another female, drive a ways, and the drunk pipes up in her direction, “Wanna f–k?” The lady barks back “What did you say?” And the drunk nods towards the window, “Looksh like it’sh gonna rain.”

    BOOO!!!

  • http://thelastnerve.blogspot.com cherryl

    dawn, you said “I can’t imagine Condi Rice being called that in the last 40 years of her life. She’s pretty highly regarded around the world I would think.”

    i have to disagree. i’ve heard and/or read her called that and worse. often. by blacks and whites. she is in a peculiar situation of being frankly, looked upon as a traitor by many blacks, and looked upon as yet another shuckin’, jivin’ “coon” by many racist whites, much like the way Colin Powell is regarded in some circles.

    i don’t think the guy should have lost his job though. he helped raise money for one of her campaigns way before all this and is truly a fan of hers.

  • http://insidebrain2005.blogspot.com Matthew Milam

    To 28:

    Smart and in shape doesn’t make a person able to deal with right and wrong. It just means they can form a sentence. Blacks don’t hate her because she’s an uncle tom, but that she cannot simply come out and say that this crap of a war was just that.

    She want’s the power too bad.

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Disappointing, for sure. It shouldn’t even get to his background and whether or not he was a supporter in the past, although that is helpful. Listening to the tape, it’s pretty clear he slipped and immediately apologized profusely.

    It’s an indicator of our tense racial and political climate that this led to a termination. I wish it were clear no-one would have tried to protest if he hadn’t lost his job, but that’s probably not true.

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