Friday, May 09, 2003

Of smackdowns and tire irons. Daily Howler Bob Somerby alluded to this yesterday and promises more today. No doubt the Incomparable One's take will be worth reading, but in the meantime, here's what he's talking about.

On Wednesday, Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC's Hardball, ended his program with a brief discussion of the Globe's decision to suspend sports columnist Bob Ryan for a month. Ryan, as you may recall, said on a television program that he would like to "smack" Joumana Kidd, the wife of New Jersey Nets star Jason Kidd, and then dug himself into a deeper hole by declining several entreaties to take it back.

Matthews had two guests with him -- Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation, and Michael Graham, a right-wing radio talk-show host whom I had never heard of before.

Vanden Heuvel said that "as a woman" she found Ryan's remarks "offensive, cruel, ignorant," but added, "As an editor, it bothers me that a newspaper would suspend a columnist" -- surprising only until you remember that she must put up with Alexander Cockburn.

But then Graham went off. Roll the transcript (it's at the very end):

I'm not a woman or an editor. But as a human being, I found the line a joke. It was a joke. It was just an off-the-cuff comment. Anyone listening to Hillary Rodham in her speech last week about patriotism, that screaming, screeching fingernail, I wanted to bludgeon her with a tire iron. That's what I wanted to do.

Of course, Graham's gutter talk, reprehensible though it is, is hardly atypical these days. Ryan doesn't deserve to go around with a scarlet "S" on his chest for the rest of his career, but he does deserve to do his penance and serve as an example.

Maybe the most impressive thing about the Globe's decision to come down harshly on Ryan is the paper's willingness to go against the cultural tide.

And to Ryan's credit, his comments to USA Today show that even though he was blown away by the length of his suspension, he definitely gets it.

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