Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Savage cynicism. MSNBC is getting praise in some circles today for firing talk-show host Michael Savage after a homophobic outburst on Saturday. But why? He was given a Saturday-afternoon gig this spring because his syndicated radio show draws millions of listeners, featuring exactly the kind of homophobia that lost him his MSNBC show.

The question isn't whether MSNBC executives actually believed Savage could contain himself when the TV cameras were rolling. It's quite a bit more basic than that. Did they really think they could avoid the sting of homophobia by hiring a homophobic host and then telling him not to act like a homophobe when the TV cameras were rolling?

Even if Savage had managed to behave himself on Saturday, he was still playing the hatemonger every Monday through Friday. And, until this week, he had the imprimatur of NBC News, which I guess used to mean something.

Washington Post television columnist Lisa de Moraes's acid lead this morning gets right to it:

MSNBC was shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- to learn that its well-known homophobe host Michael Savage is actually -- gasp! -- homophobic, and the network has sacked him, effective immediately.

By the way, here is the worst of Saturday's outbursts, as reported by de Moraes:

Savage: "So you're one of those sodomists -- are you a sodomite?"

Caller: "Yes, I am."

Savage: "Oh, you're one of the sodomites. You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today -- go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis."

Savage, on his website, claims that he didn't know he was on the air. You can't make this stuff up. He writes:

[T]his was an interchange between me personally and a mean spirited vicious setup caller which I thought was taking place off the air. It was not meant to reflect my views of the terrible tragedy and suffering associated with AIDS. I especially appeal to my many listeners in the gay community to accept my apologies for any inadvertent insults which may have occurred.

Now, even if Savage is telling the truth, which I suppose is a possibility, he still wants you to believe that he's not homophobic because he only makes grotesque jokes about AIDS and oral sex in private. Oh, okay.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation takes the high road today, issuing a statement saying that it "applauded" MSNBC's decision. That may make good tactical sense. Why not be gracious when your enemy finally does the right thing?

But the real story is told in GLAAD's overview of Savage's history of gay-bashing, "MSNBC & the Anti-Gay Savage."

MSNBC.com carries only an Associated Press story about the firing.

The website Michael Savage Sucks appears to be on vacation today, which is too bad. But it will certainly be worth checking out when it's updated.

MSNBC deserves no kudos for finally realizing that Savage was harming the reputation of the News Channel That Nobody Watches. The operation's behavior has been so unrelievedly cynical that you can only wonder why Savage was really canned.

Was the MSNBC brass really "shocked -- shocked"?

Or, given that Savage's ratings sucked, did they just decide that now was as good a time as any to pull the plug?

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