The XX Factor

No Pity for Dr. Laura, Innocent Victim of Free Speech

Now that public pressure has forced her exit , Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the popular conservative radio talk-show host, is reinventing herself as a helpless victim of free speech. Her feelings are hurt; how sad for her. I would venture a guess that she wasn’t worried about hurting the feelings of the woman who called in to her show, or concerned about the tone of the exchange between them that ultimately led to her leaving the show.

She certainly didn’t care about others’ feelings when she demonized gay men as pedophiles- she once said “a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys “-or spoke out against adoption by gay couples.

As a whole, Dr. Laura’s recent comments reflected disdain for black people in general and a view that most, if not all, are angry militants who take marching orders from a scary cabal of black activist intent on demonizing well-meaning white people. (Like her?)

Unlike these two commentators , I found Dr. Laura’s use of the well-known-and this week, well-trod-word offensive and, yes, racist in its intent. She used it as starting point to indict black Americans as being collectively hypersensitive hypocrites and reverse racists who vote along racial lines above all else. This view overlooks the fact that black voters have supported white political candidates over black candidates in the past, even in well-publicized campaigns where race was an issue. (See Martin O’Malley’s 1999 election as mayor of Baltimore.) For example , Congressmen Steve Cohen of Tennessee, who is white and running for reelection this fall, has been endorsed by the NAACP and Pres. Obama, despite being challenged by a popular black politician who was the mayor of Memphis for 18 years.

Dr. Laura’s claims of being misunderstood while innocently trying “to make a “philosophical point” are as intellectually dishonest as her assertions that she was being muzzled by special interests and denied her First Amendment rights. She has had a huge and powerful public platform to spout all the bigoted views she wants and has done so enthusiastically and unapologetically now for 30 years .

Despite the ugliness of her comments, Dr. Laura is indeed entitled to her opinions and her right of free speech-but so are her many detractors. This point seems lost on her. Her words may have resonated with her supporters and listeners, but they also struck a chord with those who found them unacceptable. In the end it was the voice of her opposition that perhaps reflected a more powerful public sentiment: Words matter, and how we use them has repercussions.

We now live in an era where regularly disparaging whole groups of people just doesn’t cut it with most Americans. That’s a good thing.

Photo of Dr. Laura Schlessinger By Phil Konstantin, Wikimedia Commons.