August 9, 2000
9:24 PM   Subscribe

Craig Kilborn calls for the assassination of George W. Bush on national television. "Just a little joke, of course. huh huh huh." Yeah, sure, maybe, though not at all funny, and also wildly illegal. CBS and Worldwide Pants have been forced to apologize, and the Secret Service has an active investigation. It should be noted, though, that this aired last Friday, and CBS and Worldwide Pants said and did nothing until this got talked about on a New York radio show yesterday. Why do I get the feeling that if, say, Regis got on his show and made the exact same "joke" about Al Gore, he'd be fired before 10:30 am and be blackballed for the rest of his life?
posted by aaron (29 comments total)

 
By what you said do mean you think Kilborn was ignored because a Republican was the target?

I don't think so. A Gore joke would probably be more urgent because he's the veep.

Tasteless joke though, regardless of what party you're in.
posted by owillis at 10:05 PM on August 9, 2000


Considering Kilbourn does nothing but crude and tasteless humor I'm sure this was "ignored" because people are sick of flying off the handle everytime some says something especially stupid. I can't see why you're so surprised, maybe you've never watched the show, nor why you assume Republicans are such victims.
posted by skallas at 10:20 PM on August 9, 2000


Once you become a major party's presidential candidate, you already are the president, as far as the Secret Service is concerned, and get protection. And yeah, I think this was overlooked because he's a Republican. "Entertainers" and "commentators" make such threatening statements every once in a while, and nothing happens. (A couple of years ago Alec Baldwin was on some TV talk show and called for Rep. Henry Hyde to be publicly stoned, and the result was that Hyde and his family had to hire protection. Nothing was done.) Then they claim that they're just jokes.

Of course, hardly anyone watches Kilborn's show, so who knows. But the Secret Service was on it within about ten minutes of the broadcast.
posted by aaron at 10:21 PM on August 9, 2000



the real joke is that people like Hyde are paranoid enough to think someone would take Alec Baldwin seriously... not to mention actually bothering to put the Hydeslapper out of his misery.
posted by chaz at 12:09 AM on August 10, 2000


Why do I get the feeling that if, say, Regis got on his show and made the exact same "joke" about Al Gore, he'd be fired before 10:30 am and be blackballed for the rest of his life?

Because you have the same poor-me persecution complex that has been the defining characteristic of American conservatives for 50 years. Please let me know where I can send a hanky for you to cry into.

Craig Kilborn has no audience. That has a lot more to do with the lack of attention paid to this story than an organized left-wing conspiracy to treat assassination humor with a double standard.
posted by rcade at 12:36 AM on August 10, 2000


Personally, I think it's the first funny thing he's done since "The Daily Show".
posted by Optamystic at 12:58 AM on August 10, 2000


Well, since any opinions even slightly right of the middle are generally very unwelcome on this board, I'm going to keep my mouth shut. But to you, chaz: What a naive thing to say. And to you, rcade: Why does this have to become a party bashing issue? If you have such a strong desire to go after the Republican party, why not start your own thread?
posted by Popstar at 7:43 AM on August 10, 2000


[skallas] I can't see why you're so surprised, maybe you've never watched the show, nor why you assume Republicans are such victims.

[rcade] you have the same poor-me persecution complex that has been the defining characteristic of American conservatives for 50 years

[owillis] do mean you think Kilborn was ignored because a Republican was the target?

I think rcade is right in that Republicans (except perhaps Bob Dole and Ben Stein) don't seem to have much of a sense of humor*. There are a lot more funny liberal than conservative pundits. I mean, can you imagine a stand-up contest between George Will and James Carville? Carville may be a wacko, but he's funny.

* Realize I said "seem" as in, maybe they do have a sense of humor, but it sure seems like they take everything just a bit too seriously. I mean, did you watch the RNC convention coverage by The Daily Show?

[Popstar] Well, since any opinions even slightly right of the middle are generally very unwelcome on this board, I'm going to keep my mouth shut.

See? No sense of humor. If you argue a good point without taking lame potshots at Clinton administration and Democrats in general all the time (even if they deserve it!), even the liberals will listen to you, I promise!

posted by daveadams at 7:47 AM on August 10, 2000


::shrug:: Okay, I'll just start posting snarky remarks in the middle of liberal threads, and we'll see who's got a sense of humor. Hey, anyone know any battered protestor jokes? :)

By the way, the question of whether or not it's funny is completely irrelevant here. Kilborn comitted a crime under federal law, a crime that carries a maximum jail term of three years in the pen. Even "jokes" about threatening a presidential candidate are going to get the Secret Service on your ass.
posted by aaron at 8:35 AM on August 10, 2000



Let me throw out a little conspiracy theory: maybe the reason this particular "threat" is being taken seriously is that Kilborn's show is produced by David Letterman's company, and Dave is publicly pressuring Dubya to appear with Gore in a less-than-serious debate on Letterman's show. Now, Dubya wants to avoid at all costs (a) any public forum where his lack of depth on the issues will become visible and (b) any forum where his own offensively smirky sense of humor will come out, and the Letterman debate format has every possibility to do both. So, how do you say "no" without admitting you're hiding? Discredit the people offering the forum as hopelessly biased and unfair, and Kilborn's "assasination joke" helps set up a perfect excuse. In fact, considering Kilborn's whole personna is so much like the real George W. Bush the Republicans don't want you to see, it wouldn't surprise me if he's really a Bush supporter who threw in the joke as a FAVOR to Dubya. But then, what do I know? My late night TV choice is "Galloping Gourmet" reruns on Food Network.
posted by wendell at 9:08 AM on August 10, 2000


Wendell makes a lot of sense. I can't really imagine anyone having a stick shoved so far up thier ass that they would seriously consider Kilborn's joke a threat.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 9:51 AM on August 10, 2000


Uh oh... Nyar thinks I make sense. Now THAT's somebody you better keep an eye on.

BTW, if Kilborn and/or his writers had any brains OR balls, he should just go on his show with a sincerely-worded apology, and finish it with "...and besides, we made a mistake on the graphic. We meant the 'snipers wanted' sign to go on a picture of Al Gore..." Then sit back and wait for the annoyed-looking Secret Service agents to arrive.
posted by wendell at 11:01 AM on August 10, 2000


As Michael Moore pointed out in his book, Congressman Bob Dornan repeatedly made death threats against President Clinton. As far as I know, Dornan never apologized and was never prosecuted, so the idea that "if it had been a Democrat they would have reacted more quickly" is bunk.
posted by wiremommy at 11:33 AM on August 10, 2000


And besides...

It's funny 'cause it's true.

*)
posted by solistrato at 11:42 AM on August 10, 2000


Okay, I'll just start posting snarky remarks in the middle of liberal threads, and we'll see who's got a sense of humor.

You did, Aaron, remember?
posted by wiremommy at 11:45 AM on August 10, 2000


I need some liberal threads to go with my liberal shoes.. then all the liberals will welcome me as one of their own.
posted by chaz at 12:47 PM on August 10, 2000


I wore my liberal threads in Philly recently and gotten clocked by a cop who wouldn't give me my props.
posted by jblock at 1:39 PM on August 10, 2000


I don't have a copy of Moore's book, but did this information come from the same section where Moore was trying to have Dornan comitted to a mental institution? The same section where he found out that Jesse Helms had made certain comments about Clinton that could be interpreted as threatening ... comments which were widely reported and which led to Moore discovering that the Secret Service had opened a file on Helms?
posted by aaron at 2:33 PM on August 10, 2000


Yes, it was from the chapter where Moore was trying to have Dornan committed. One of Moore's reasons to (satirically, of course) consider Dornan insane was that the Congressman kept threatening the President, which Dornan should have known was illegal. No need to go crazy with the italics.
posted by wiremommy at 5:46 PM on August 10, 2000


Popstar is wrong when s/he says that rcade made this a party-bashing issue. Partisan squabblin' is a major component of the very top post.
posted by jbushnell at 6:23 PM on August 10, 2000


Aaron, going back to your point about liberal vs conservative humor: the difference between a Bush assassination joke and a joke about "battered protestors" is the difference between fantasy and reality. It's like the difference a "kill-all-the-lawyers" joke and a joke about the Holocaust.

Also, although the Bush joke, as you describe it, doesn't sound very funny at all, I don't think you have established that it is part of a pattern of media bias towards Democratic or liberal politicians.

(I happen to agree with you that the media tends to be more in agreement with Democratics than Republicans on many issues [however trivial the difference between them is], but I believe the reasons for this are structural and not based on the "personal choices of individual reporters")

And regarding Dornan, you mean he hasn't been committed yet?
posted by johnb at 6:42 PM on August 10, 2000


This has almost threatened to break out into a jokewriting 101 class...but it's run out of hot air. And no one's mentioned Pat "I'm no Nazi" Buchanan yet!

Maybe we should do the right...er, correct thing: elect Michael Moore president! Read his book, see his tv show or visit his site.
posted by goodhelp at 10:02 PM on August 10, 2000


BTW, let's note here that while being a certified candidate gets you secret service protection, so far as I'm aware the only human being whose life it is illegal to threaten is in fact the President.

Anyone know which statute that's in?
posted by baylink at 7:21 AM on August 11, 2000


18 USC 871, Threats against President and successors to the Presidency. This includes threats "mailed" or simply "made", and covers the Pres, the VP, their legally-defined successors, and the P/VP elect between the election and the inauguration.

18 USC 879 "Threats against former Presidents and certain other persons protected by the Secret Service", subsec. (a) (3) covers "a major candidate for the office of President or Vice President, or the spouse of such candidate; who is protected by the Secret Service as provided by law", but the maximum penalty here is just three years, not five.
posted by dhartung at 8:29 AM on August 11, 2000


On the Internet, nobody knows you can't do your own research. :-)

Thanks, Dan. Ain't Cornell great?

These things both seem to hinge on the (unprovided) definition of "threaten". "Snipers Wanted", while suggestive, may not actually qualify. It would *certainly* make an interesting court case.
posted by baylink at 1:17 PM on August 11, 2000


Well, obviously Kilborn's not going to be doing any jail time, but there's no question that if you say it, you'll be investigated. Quote from a news story: "...we don't find such parodies very amusing," said Special Agent Jim Mackin, a spokesman for the Secret Service.
posted by aaron at 4:02 PM on August 11, 2000


"We're from the FBI, ma'am. We don't have a sense of humor."

Which movie is that from?

Oh yeah: "No, ma'am. We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we're aware of. May we come in?" Agent K. Men in Black. I love the IMDB, even if it did get hijacked.

That search, though is a POST, rather than a GET, which I detest. You can't *bookmark* POSTs, they should *never* be used for search engine queries.
posted by baylink at 10:11 PM on August 11, 2000


The thing that bothers me most about this is simply stated thusly: it isn't funny to joke about wanting to hire someone to kill another human being, no matter who that human being happens to be.

Alec Baldwin's Tonight Show comment that "Henry Hyde should be killed." (not stoned, killed) was not meant as humour, and went right into another category. Same with Dornan and Helms' threats against Clinton.

But the concept of saying that this is a joke, it's satire, it's par for the course for a public or political figure is just wrong and distressing.
posted by Dreama at 5:59 PM on August 12, 2000


I've said it before, I'll say it again. Craig Kilborn should have never left The Daily Show.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:54 PM on August 12, 2000


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