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Thursday, March 23, 2006

On forgiveness and other stuff - Dave Lenihan, KTRS, and the C word 

I'm sure that I'm not the first person to blog about the Dave Lenihan thingie. (I've cited other bloggers below.)

Let's start with a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about what (former) 550 KTRS morning talk show host Dave Lenihan said while discussing the possibility that Condoleezza Rice could become NFL Commissioner, replacing the man that Howard Cosell christened as Paul "I'm Too Tall" Tagliabue:

She’s just got a patent resume, of somebody that’s got such 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, OK? I didn’t mean that. That was just a slip of the tongue.

In response, KTRS fired Lenihan within twenty minutes. Station manager Tim Dorsey went on the air:

"It was a most unfortunate racial slur," Dorsey said on the air. "There can be no excuse for what was said. Dave Lenihan has been let go. ... There is enough hate. We certainly are not going to fan those flames. That is not what we're about."

KFI, who is willing to defend freedom of speech on other stations (even if their own management restricts the freedom of speech of its own on-air personalities), has jumped into the matter. John Ziegler interviewed Lenihan last night, during which Lenihan stated that he intended to say "coup in" but mashed the words together. Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bill Handel rebroadcast portions of Ziegler's interview this morning, condemned KTRS, then noted that he'll probably lose an affiliate for his Handel on the Law show. Handel was more disturbed about the zero-tolerance aspect of KTRS' position, where even an honest mistake can get you fired.

But at least one blogger doesn't think it was an honest mistake:

I'm finding the reaction to the firing of the radio show DJ to be disturbing. Many folks don't think he should have been fired for his "slip of the tongue."

Humm. The fact that "slip of the tongue" rolled so easily out of his mouth tells me something very important about Dave Lenihan. He uses "coon" to describe black people. Yup. I think it's as simple as this-- he uses racial epithets to describe black people, and now EVERYBODY knows how he talks! Well. . . how he talks when he's not around black folks!...

How many times has this DJ referred to Condi as a "c?" People are trying to say he was actually complimenting Condi's skills to be the next NFL Commissioner. Hardly. I had a situation years ago, when an ignorant friend of a friend of a friend thought he was complimenting me. He said I was "pretty for a 'n' girl." Hardly a compliment, or a slip of the tongue. I can't believe I wasted a good drink, when I threw it on him and walked out of the party....

My thoughts to Dave Leniahn:

Dear Dave:

When complimenting a person, it is never appropriate to refer to their skin color, let alone use a racial slur in said compliment. People feel sorry for you, since the radio station fired you, and you have children to feed. I worry more about what you are teaching your children, than what you are feeding them!

May your children point out to you, how wrong you are on this subject. I sincerely hope your children don't go around calling others racial slurs. Perhaps you heard your family saying such things when you were a child, and you think it's okay, if the respective folks aren't around to hear you.

I'm sure you'll have another job within a day or two, and then people will go back to ignoring you....

I'm not sure if the blogger above heard Lenihan's "coup in" explanation, but this blogger did and still isn't impressed (the post is titled "Closet Racist Slips Up On Air"):

Lenihan was in the middle of praising her when he inadvertently let a racial slur slip....

"I was trying to say 'quite a coup' but it came out 'coon,"' he said. "I caught myself and apologized. It wasn't anything I was meaning to say. I never use that word.

"I think she's a fantastic woman. I was even talking about if she ran for president, I'd work on her campaign."

Tell us how you really feel, Dave. Do the opposite.

There are also comments on a St. Louis media page:

03-22-06 What you thought you heard ... was not what he meant to say. The comedy that is KTRS is being rewritten every day. This morning, Round 2 FNG Dave Lenihan misspoke and used the word "coon" instead of "coup" when speaking of Condi Rice taking over the NFL. He was fired within minutes and corporate fall guy Tim Dorsey apologized profusely on the air. (Audio via STLToday.com) Channels 2, 4 and 5 were predictably all over it as soon as it happened, as was the P-D. Tom Calhoun offers the best, most reasoned look at the fiasco I've seen yet on his blog. And the ring girl walks by holding up a sign: Round 3 is about to begin.
03-22-06 Speaking of Dave Lenihan ...
What happened this morning at KTRS was nothing less than another representation of the ongoing inability of management there to manage. He speaks quickly on the air and Lenihan misspoke himself as he delivered effusive praise of Condoleeza Rice. Listen to the audio, linked below. It's obvious he did not say it to be intentionally cruel or racist. The word "coon" doesn't even fit in the context of the sentence he was forming.
Lenihan's a bright guy...a Chiropractor and a teacher. And because of the predictable over-the-top media swarm (this thing's even linked on Drudge), I understand he's been suspended from his teaching position. The guy is being unfairly castigated because he bumbled a word, and it began with the actions of Tim Dorsey, who has been bumbling the management of KTRS for almost a decade.
Now let's look to Dave's future. The Internet has plastered this patently false story around the world. At least one of his former workmates has stated unequivocally on his website that he should have been fired. The truth of the matter, though, is that Lenihan is guilty of nothing more than a simple slip of the tongue. There's considerable evidence to back that up...especially the audio record.
Now, how does he get his reputation back?
03-23-06 Fisking Dorsey and the P-D ... As of about 1AM on this date, the STLToday.com website has headlined the "Lenihan fired for calling Condi a coon" story. Let me make it very clear that this is a witchhunt and that KTRS should be ashamed for falsely sourcing the story and the Post should be embarassed for publishing such a travesty of what actually happened.
03-23-06 KTRS' Kramer makes his point ...
About Lenihan: Okay. Dave Lenihan was fired today. As he should have been. He referred to Condi Rice as a COON, a racial slur. He says it was a slip of the tongue. After listening to it, it sounded rehearsed to me. It pisses me off that he's made the station look like something it isn't. I'm proud of my radio station, and those involved in helping make it successful. For this guy to come on and within EIGHT days, have this happen. Way to go Dave.
Way to work with the crew, Keith.

Needless to say, most of bloggerdom defends Lenihan, and frankly, his apology sounded sincere to me. And even Julie, while wondering whether "deep down inside, he meant it," still believes "I don't think you should be fired ever for something you said." KFI wouldn't like this woman (and frankly, even I wouldn't go that far).

But if you think that radio people get skitterish around controvery, think about what happens in academia:

The racial slur that got a local radio personality fired has also landed him in trouble at another job....

Today, the Logan College of Chiropractic in Chesterfield, where Lenihan was an instructor, said he has been suspended while the school reviews his conduct.

“He is a faculty member and he has been suspended pending an internal investigation,” school spokesman Thomas Keller said.

Keller said that Lenihan has been with Logan since Sept. 2004, where he teaches anatomy and neuroanatomy.

According to the school’s Web site, Lenihan has a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.

And the local NAACP chapter has weighed in:

NAACP chapter president Harold Crumpton called [KTRS station manager Tim] Dorsey at the station for an explanation and learned Lenihan had been fired. He said he accepted Dorsey's apology and commended him for his swift action.

Crumpton said the word "coon" is a derogatory term referring to blacks in the South, and "intended to inflame passions ... like the "n word."

He said he was disturbed that the word could be uttered "at a first-class news outlet, and home of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals don't act like that. They're a first-class operation."

He said Dorsey took the right action, adding it should send a message to other stations to do a better job of judging the character of on-air personalities.

Meanwhile, Wonkette is having a little fun with this; don't know if the NAACP is going to target HER, though.

Well, we’re sorry, Dave. It happens to the best of us. But hey, gook on the bright side. Tomorrow is another dago. Etc. etc. etc.

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, the supposed victim of this terrible hate crime, is working on other stuff:

Concerned about the fate of a Christian convert in Afghanistan on trial for his life, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday seeking a "favorable resolution" of the case....

Abdul Rahman, 41, a medical aid worker, converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago, a fact that came out publicly during a civil custody case between him and his wife in front of local authorities. The authorities charged him with rejecting Islam, a crime under the country's Shar'ia-based law. The penalty, if guilty, is death.

Fox must be reporting this wrong. We all know that Islam is a religion of peace.

But getting back to the initial point of this - Lenihan made a mistake, apologized, and asked for forgiveness. Why are some of us refusing to forgive?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Personally, I agree with the station manager firing Lenihan, as well as the clinic putting him on probation. The apology was NOT sincere, he meant what he said, and he said it without thinking because that's how he truly feels. Sure, everyone is entitled to free speech, but that doesn't ensure you get to keep your job.
I read it differently from you. Even if he subconsciously believed that Rice was less than human, that wouldn't jibe with the effusive praise that he was giving to Rice. I buy the "coup in" comment.

It's ironic that many radio professionals are saying that his immediate apology was the worst thing he could have done. The pros are saying that if Lenihan had said nothing and just proceeded on, there would have been much less of an outcry; in other words, Lenihan was stupid when he called attention to his mistake. Perhaps it's just me, but this drives me to believe his apology WAS legit; if I slipped and said something inappropriate on the air, I'd probably apologize and go to commercial too.
Forgiving him doesn't mean there aren't consequences to his actions. The consequence to calling the Secretary of the State a "coon" is the loss of his job. Plain and simple.
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