Friday, April 11, 2008

Randi Rhodes and Air America Radio

I listen to Air America Radio at work sometimes. Randi Rhodes was one of my favorite hosts.

Recently, Air America suspended Randi because she said some, shall we say, undiplomatic things about Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro. Randi has now left Air America radio, and will begin a new show on a local talk radio station in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday.

I've been torn about this situation since I heard about it. I was one of the first to jump on Don Imus when he had his little "nappy headed hos" moment. Thus, I had to ask myself whether this situation was different from that one, and if so, how, and, most importantly, should I be angry at Randi, or should I be angry at Air America?

My partner and I came to an interesting conclusion.

Point One: Don Imus gratuitously insulted young, innocent basketball players with absolutely no provocation, using racist, sexist, and otherwise offensive language with no justification whatsoever.

Point Two: Randi Rhodes insulted two public figures who have repeatedly been the butt of satirical jokes and are natural targets given their position of prominence in American politics. She did use offensive language, repeatedly.

Thus, we have a crucial difference here. Don Imus insulted innocent basketball players; Randi Rhodes insulted public figures who are natural targets for political attack.

Was she justified in calling them "fucking whores?" Probably not. But let's keep in mind that she was doing so in the context of a stand-up comedy routine. That puts a spin on it that has to be taken into account. Let's also remember that John McCain had a similar talk show host problem at the end of February, and that right-wing radio hosts regularly spew hateful filth all over the airwaves, and they never lose their jobs.

I think that the conclusion has to be two-fold.

1) Randi Rhodes probably shouldn't have called Clinton & Ferraro "fucking whores," but there is no way that her comments rise to the level of Don Imus or what right wing talk show hosts say on a daily basis.
2) Air America seriously overreacted when they suspended her, and have, as a result, lost one of the most perceptive, intelligent, and entertaining talk show hosts on the air today.

I for one will be listening to Randi's new show on Monday, and I encourage those of you who agree with me to do the same, and to contact Randi and let her know she hasn't lost you as a listener. At the same time, I will continue to listen to Air America radio hosts such as Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, and Rachel Maddow, all of whom are wonderfully perceptive and intelligent hosts in their own rights.