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?