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Unforgiveable Dumbness
January 17, 2005 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Weatherman fired for on-air MLK day racial slur. I hope someone has video because I wouldn't mind seeing this dood go out like a sucka.
posted by wbm$tr (106 comments total)

 
Oh boy.
posted by The God Complex at 6:00 PM on January 17, 2005


Maybe he was trying to say Junior and King at the same time? Similar things have happened to me, but then again, it could just be a pretty telling freudian slip..
posted by nile_red at 6:05 PM on January 17, 2005


While we're waiting for the video, here's a gratuitous chance to embarrass Fox News by posting the Shepard Smith/JLo slipup.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:07 PM on January 17, 2005


oops.. fixed
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:08 PM on January 17, 2005


Weatherman fired for on-air MLK day racial slur. I hope someone has video . . .

I don't hope so.
I would be quite happy to spend the rest of my life without hearing another racial slur.
posted by Axandor at 6:09 PM on January 17, 2005


I kind of doubt he intended to say it. Who would think they could get away with it? Who would do it to make a point? Nobody, really. Seems like an honest, unfortunate slip of the tongue. The apology was definitely warranted, but it sounds a bit reactionary to just fire him. I guess I'd have to hear the audio to be sure, though.
posted by Hildago at 6:11 PM on January 17, 2005


Jooonior Kiiiiing. Kooonior Jiiing. Sounds like an honest mistake to me.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:12 PM on January 17, 2005


They've already taken down the guy's profile on the KTNV website, but I read some of the others:

With a member of the NAACP on the news desk, he wasn't going to apologize his way out of his comments.

The chief meteorologist will have to do the weatherman's job. At least he hosts a segment called, "Hey Nate, do my job!" I hope that bow tie doesn't mean he's involved with the Nation of Islam. P.S. - He's married to a world champion synchronized swimmer!

I wish I could wake up and listen to Rikki Cheese reading the news. When your name is Cheese, do not wear yellow outfits.
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:15 PM on January 17, 2005


From the article "I made an accidental slip of the tongue when talking about the Martin Luther King holiday, and what I said was interpreted by many viewers as highly offensive. For that I offer my deepest apology. I in no way intended to offend anyone. I'm very sorry.""

I love how no one actually admits anything anymore (there was a recent ask metafilter post about this). There is a difference between saying "I said something offensive and I'm sorry" and "what I said was interpreted by many viewers as highly offensive... I'm sorry" (emphasis added).

I love that we've come to this. The message suddenly becomes "I said something that some people found fault with, and for just those people, I'm sorry if you were offended." Real big of him.
posted by mathowie at 6:16 PM on January 17, 2005


http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2005/Jan-17-Mon-2005/news/25678882.html
posted by Postroad at 6:20 PM on January 17, 2005


I love how no one actually admits anything anymore

It's called legalese, dude. He was probably coached by the station on how to avoid a lawsuit.

I sem to recall a Kermit Scaefer "blooper" from a mid-60's college footbal game where the announcer confuses NCAA with NAACP, then catches himself and says "that'll be the day..."

I wonder how he's enjoying working at Denny's.
posted by jonmc at 6:20 PM on January 17, 2005


happy m.l.k., gangstas! (and sucka weather mc's--dat's how you go down, fool)
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:29 PM on January 17, 2005


what I said was interpreted by many viewers as highly offensive.

The magic of the passive voice. "Mistakes were made."
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:34 PM on January 17, 2005


Axandor,
The point of seeing the video would be to see if he actually meant to say the slur, or if it was an honest mistake. It seems very unfair to just condemn this guy without taking a look, because as several people have pointed out, he could have just made an error. I understand that racism is a touchy subject, but that doesn't mean fairness and proof need to be tossed out every time an allegation is made.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:38 PM on January 17, 2005


As much as I suspect it slipped out because he uses that term in private, I should mention it is possible that he joined "king" and "junior" and caught himself midway. I once called an (Asian) friend a 'gook', because I blurred 'geek' and 'goof'. I assure you, I was mortified, and until I clarified (and I think my horror made him believe me) he wasn't too happy either.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:42 PM on January 17, 2005


The magic of the passive voice. "Mistakes were made."

True.

Despite all the legal ramifications, I would love to hear some controversial-figure-of-the-moment answer with either "Sorry, I fucked up," or "Screw you, you're too sensitive."

Either way, I had have more respect for him than this mealy-mouthed motherfucker.
posted by jonmc at 6:44 PM on January 17, 2005


I would be quite happy to spend the rest of my life without hearing another racial slur.

And maybe... just maybe, one day the world will be filled with puppies and ice cream and rainbows for everyone.
posted by Witty at 6:46 PM on January 17, 2005


No harm in hoping, witty.

Although, it's not really the slurs themselves but the thoughts behind them that are the problem. Since I know racists who would never dream of using a slur, and generally decent people who do, out of ignorance and habit.
posted by jonmc at 6:48 PM on January 17, 2005


This is heart-warming stuff. Think of the ratings bonanza if they'd kept this guy ;)
posted by The God Complex at 6:50 PM on January 17, 2005


No jonmc, I guess there isn't.

I hope I win a million dollars and grow great big muscles. {flex}
posted by Witty at 6:52 PM on January 17, 2005


was it a freudian disaster or did he try to purposefully sneak it in there? .... that's why i would want to see the vid
posted by wbm$tr at 6:55 PM on January 17, 2005


If it was a non-Freudian slip of the tongue, then isn't a mild apology sufficient? One of the few cases where "I apologize to those who were offended by what happened" or something similar is suited.
posted by abcde at 6:58 PM on January 17, 2005


God forbid if I ever said something I didn't mean too.

It is certainly reasonable to think that he wouldn't do this on purpose. Can you imagine how you would have felt to realize that not only did you screw up, but that you just said what you did on television on this holiday?

I am sure he was miserable. And, I would be too.
posted by UseyurBrain at 6:58 PM on January 17, 2005


I think I'm in the "slip of the tongue" camp. It's just too bizarre for an intentional slur.

THat said, I also think that the station was probably right to fire him. If his job was to talk on live TV, then he has just proven that he's not very good at that. And he's only been with the station for 3 months, so he might still be in his trial period.
posted by sour cream at 7:07 PM on January 17, 2005


Without video it's hard to say what really happened. I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose but there's no way to say whether it was a case of tongue tied going horribly wrong or a braino where he said what he was thinking or he commonly thinks when seeing a black person.
posted by substrate at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2005


Racial Slurs?
posted by tomplus2 at 7:10 PM on January 17, 2005


I thought it was all a matter of emphasis? Either way, it's a word. Calm down people. Zappa would have hated this post.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:10 PM on January 17, 2005


"I made an accidental slip of the tongue... and what I said was interpreted ... as highly offensive."

I love how no one actually admits anything anymore

Hm, I don't think this really pertains here though. As, not having heard the audio, we don't know whether or not it was a slip of the tongue, which seems highly plausible, how is his apology in any way inappropriate? Some vowels and consonants got muddled, as often happens to everyone, and what came out was interpreted by some people as offensive. But as far as we know the dude didn't mean to say anything offensive.

Is it different from that case some time ago when that guy got fired for using the word 'niggardly'? It's a word that some (ignorant) people might interpret as highly offensive, though it is not. He's doing the right thing and apologizing to those who feel offense based on a misunderstanding. It hardly merits jonmc's calling him a mealy-mouthed motherfucker.

On preview what abcde said.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:11 PM on January 17, 2005


Can you imagine how you would have felt...to discover that you're an amateur after all, whose tongue does not do its flip-flops as one's should in one's early career on the bottom of the heap?

i.e., incompetence is why people get fired. you don't belong on air making those kinds of mistakes.

perhaps he would be more suited to selling insurance, or automobiles...or jangling a banjo...

merv? someone get this man a job. dat's edutainment.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 7:14 PM on January 17, 2005


Many variations exist, including "Nig", "Nigel", "Niggy", "Niggly", etcfrom tomplus2's link

I don't know but I don't see how anyone could call someone (or be called) "niggly" without busting out in laughter. Words people...words.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:17 PM on January 17, 2005


Fired over a spoonerism. What a shame.
posted by Witty at 7:20 PM on January 17, 2005


zappa...hmm...maybe that's why i hate noodling.

ooh, except for his bitchin' daughter, mooncake i think.

hung, i've been referred to as "niggly", but always took it as a lighthearted compliment. should i have been churlish?
posted by gorgor_balabala at 7:31 PM on January 17, 2005


You can view his Audition Tape here.

This guy deserves to be fired for flagrant lameness.

"Thunder is the sound of angels bowling. My mommy told me that."

"Cold air is like Mother Nature's fresh cold breath. It's like she ate an Altoid."

Good grief. I'm sure that some smaller market will be willing to accept spoonerisms in exchange for on-air angel references.
posted by dfx at 7:41 PM on January 17, 2005


The message suddenly becomes "I said something that some people found fault with, and for just those people, I'm sorry if you were offended." Real big of him.

What's the problem with that?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:46 PM on January 17, 2005


It hardly merits jonmc's calling him a mealy-mouthed motherfucker.

what I said was interpreted by some MeFi readers as highly offensive... I'm sorry.

;)
posted by jonmc at 7:52 PM on January 17, 2005


The message suddenly becomes...

Why would you apologise to someone who didn't find fault with your statement?

On preview: what uncanny said.

Getting the slur aired is a small price to pay for getting rid of someone who thinks like that from broadcasting...although it seems far more likely to be unintentional.

SaucyValium: that J-blow clip is excellent. And fox, too - what a bonus!
posted by cosmonik at 7:57 PM on January 17, 2005


I lean towards freudian slip, rather than slip of the tongue. A Spoonerism exchanges the initial consonants of two words, but it doesn't change the number of syllables in the words. King/Junior, if a spoonerism, would be Jing/Koonier, not Coon/whatever.

I'm using the spoonerism as the benchmark because I think it's the mistake most slip-of-the-tongue people are assuming he made.

Is there a linguist in the house?
posted by mudpuppie at 8:06 PM on January 17, 2005


j.p hung:
I thought it was all a matter of emphasis? Either way, it's a word.

There ain't no such thing as 'just a word'. Words mean things; that's why they are words and not just random collections of sound. This rejoinder is in my personal top ten of intellectually deceitful arguments.

Calm down people. Zappa would have hated this post.

So what?
posted by jokeefe at 8:06 PM on January 17, 2005


And of course, racism rears its internalized head, and is promptly shoved back into its hole by the powers that be, and the American conversation on racism is safely kept out of the public dialogue, and we spend time most of our time talking about the scapegoat rather than the ideas that we fear so much.
posted by Embryo at 8:09 PM on January 17, 2005


either way he's all done. and rightly so.

g'night y'all.

thanks for making my first post a fun one.
posted by wbm$tr at 8:11 PM on January 17, 2005


I wonder if this was a force of habit "slip." If this is how you talk around the house, then this is how you will end up talking at work.
posted by skallas at 8:24 PM on January 17, 2005


He possibly could have jumped to the "oon" sound in Junior while saying King. I don't know. I'd like to be able to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I don't know the guy.
posted by punkbitch at 8:26 PM on January 17, 2005


And of course, racism rears its internalized head, and is promptly shoved back into its hole by the powers that be, and the American conversation on racism is safely kept out of the public dialogue,

Since when?

I go to the bookstore and I see literally hundereds of titles on race. I turn on the TV, and it's a rare moment when I don't hear some great white dope accused of racism or a talk show "dissecting" racial issues. Racism is certainly alive and well in American society, but "silence" is not the culprit. It's myopic ideologues and oppurtunists who chum up the waters with semantic minutia instead of concentrating on concrete ramifications.
posted by jonmc at 8:32 PM on January 17, 2005


gorgor_balabala, it's moon unit zappa.
posted by Igor XA at 8:34 PM on January 17, 2005


ah, yes igor, thank you.

i believe we now have a concrete ramification.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:44 PM on January 17, 2005


i.e., incompetence is why people get fired. you don't belong on air making those kinds of mistakes.

perhaps he would be more suited to selling insurance, or automobiles...or jangling a banjo...


If you remove the racial element from it, and look at it as purely an issue of his ability to speak well on camera, how is the mistake he made any different than saying, "Let me buy this tricycle" instead of "let me try this bicycle?"

Or something equally mundane.

Would he, should he, be fired for making that kind of mistake? I'm assuming you'd say no. So, the reason he's being fired seems to be for not being extra careful when talking about black people. He should have tip-toed around the issue of discussing black people on the air.

Gee, I don't know if I like that idea. I think if it was an honest mistake, we all act like adults and get over it. If it's a malicious slander, kick his ass to the curb.
posted by Hildago at 8:46 PM on January 17, 2005


racism rears its internalized head, and is promptly shoved back into its hole by the powers that be, and the American conversation on racism is safely kept out of the public dialogue,

I go to the bookstore and I see literally hundereds of titles on race.


Exactly. I find myself damn near as bombarded by "public dialogues" on race—within the entertainment world, the political world, the news world, the art world—as I do by any pervasive advertising campaign. People aren't talking about racism? Which people? And what if the situation is like this one where there isn't a scrap of proof the person is an actual "racist"? How is KTNV-TV—the Powers that Be, in this case—"shoving the issue back into its hole" when its actions were to immediately apologize & fire the guy in question? They've don't appear to be covering anything up. I guess they could have the guy drawn & quartered in the town square in hopes of engendering a few "dialogues", but it wouldn't achieve anything greater than the apology already has. I guess I'm not understanding how your comments relate to the story.
posted by dhoyt at 8:51 PM on January 17, 2005


Racism is certainly alive and well in American society, but "silence" is not the culprit. It's myopic ideologues and oppurtunists who chum up the waters with semantic minutia instead of concentrating on concrete ramifications.

Not to mention apologists who deny that racism is a problem or should be discussed.
posted by xhepera at 8:52 PM on January 17, 2005


IANAL, not even a cunning one, but..

Being partially deaf, I've spent most of my life breaking down linguistic patterns. And spoonerisms are a lay of wife for me.

I just spent the last 15 minutes repeating Mr. King's name over and over again in a variety of accents, and the best I could come up with was:

Mata Luta Kinja
Monta Lata Kada
Monga Lunga Ka
Moona Loona Joona

I've been trying to force "coon", but it just won't happen. The Closest I came was, "Martin Luther Jing Kunior" - which is why I want to see and hear video before passing personal judgement.

I've got more to say, but shaking a tit and shaking a tower have greater priority at the moment.
posted by zerokey at 8:54 PM on January 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


shaking a tit and shaking a tower have greater priority at the moment

I've been trying to decypher that comment for the last four minutes, with no success.
posted by cosmonik at 9:02 PM on January 17, 2005


Taking a shit and taking a shower.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:04 PM on January 17, 2005


"I just plain hate black people!"
</familyguy>
Anyone else wondering if Fox (*ptui*) is doing reruns for a reason? Might it be coming back? Anyone?
posted by uosuaq at 9:18 PM on January 17, 2005


I love how some people can be so sure this guy is a racist because of an article that gives no indication of whether the slur was intentional or a slip of the tongue. Without a video (or some corroborating evidence of him being a racist in some other facet of life), there is absolutely no way to tell whether he is deserving of the label.

The Closest I came was, "Martin Luther Jing Kunior"

But what about "Martin Luther Kun-- (i mean) King Junior." Need video evidence, and I tend to suspect it was innocent.

Anyone else wondering if Fox (*ptui*) is doing reruns for a reason? Might it be coming back? Anyone?

Ummmm. Yes.
posted by rooftop secrets at 9:21 PM on January 17, 2005


Spare me the LameFilter defenses of this guy - maybe some of you were born yesterday, but I've been around long enough to hear that particular racist "joke" all the way back to the 60's.

Observe for yourselves that he is not alone, this year or any year.
posted by anser at 9:27 PM on January 17, 2005


And maybe... just maybe, one day the world will be filled with puppies and ice cream and rainbows for everyone.

Hey, I was just saying.

I certianly don't expect it.

But I also won't make any effort to seek out another example.

I simply find zero value in racial vitriol.
posted by Axandor at 9:27 PM on January 17, 2005


I actually find it fitting that this gentleman lost his job over his mistake. Years ago the good ol boys in the back room would have laughed it off while the black janitor had to suck it up. Yes people make mistakes and people need to held accountable for their mistakes. I f I mistakenly break something I have to pay ffor its replacement. In his line of work the words that he says are held to a higher standard than that of the general public. Having worked in local news before myself, I'm confident that he should have known the stakes. The media is under a microscope just like the the rest of us.
Had he not been fired or at the least suspended some people in the audience would have seen the lack of an official reaction as an endorsement. In this day and age a weatherman slipping the word coon next to the name MLK is comparable to the recent Nazi flap in England. Its just bad form. If he were a garbage man or a taxi driver or even a banker such a slip of the tongue would have had different consequences. but hey such is life.
posted by wonway at 9:29 PM on January 17, 2005


Axandor - I'd think it'd be worth seeking out other examples, and if they're from people in accountable positions, make sure they pay for it. Being vigilant against this kind of conduct is more effective than ignoring it, as unpleasant as it may be.
posted by cosmonik at 9:35 PM on January 17, 2005


There ain't no such thing as 'just a word'. Words mean things; that's why they are words and not just random collections of sound. This rejoinder is in my personal top ten of intellectually deceitful arguments.

Words ARE just words when there's no intent. If the guy made an honest "slip of the tongue" mistake... or whatever, then his "word" carries none of the offensiveness that it would if he had just flat out called MLK a 'coon'.

mudpuppie - I'm saying that the guy may have caught himself in the middle of a spoonerism (or some form thereof) and stopped before finishing the mistake... leaving himself with an even more unfortunate result. I mean the guy's name is Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I can see how someone might lazily rattle that name out and end up with something along the lines of Reverend Martin Luther Koon...{ugh}King Jr.

I wonder I what MLK would think about this, the guy getting fired that is.
posted by Witty at 9:35 PM on January 17, 2005


Just wondering, anser, how you can be so sure he was familiar with the phrase because he himself was a racist. For all you know, he could have recently read the slur in a thoughtful book about racism and language, and the oddness of it stuck in his head and got blurted out in a stupid, unprofessional moment - the kind of moment that happens to everyone. You really don't have a clue what went on in that guy's head. The brain is certainly strange and complex enough; a simple "Aha! This is what he really feels!" seems way out of line.

I do agree that the apology was lame, though - apologizing provisionally based on someone else's perception of your actions is ridiculous.
posted by mediareport at 10:18 PM on January 17, 2005


Wait: when did it become taboo to refer to black people as coons?

In all honesty, who calls black people coons? Isn't that like the deepest south slur from the 30s? It's the equivelant of calling a woman a "dame." Nobody actually says that in their daily life.

It was either an accidental slip or a Freaudean slip caused by some horseplay right before airtime.
posted by b_thinky at 11:55 PM on January 17, 2005


I used to intentionally play with Spoonerisms. One time, in high school, I was playing a game from the "Apple Presents Apple" disk called "Funnels and Buckets." Without thinking, I Spoonerized it and said "Bunnels and Fuckets." I almost got a trip to the principal's office for that; it was only the fact that the teacher knew I never swore that allowed me to convince him I hadn't done it with malice. (Yes, I used to not swear. I made up for it later.)

So I have some sympathy for this guy and have no trouble believing it was unintentional. Speech errors are common.
posted by kindall at 12:42 AM on January 18, 2005


Back when I was in High School the assistant principal was forced to make a public apology for saying the exact same thing over the school intercom.

He wasn't fired, but then again, this is Texas.
posted by Uncle Ira at 2:02 AM on January 18, 2005


I was thinking about the old days just yesterday . . . .

Q: But there was that "Martin Luther King, Jr." incident in DC?

A: Yes, sometimes there's a fine line between parody and cruelty, and Grease crossed the line only once during his otherwise unmarred broadcasting career spanning over 2 decades. Sometime in the late 80's, he was noting the passing of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday (which had then only recently become a national holiday). Grease said something about "killing 4 more and getting rest of the week off." Grease was suspended, and apologized for the incident on an 'Editorial Rebuttal' on WRC-TV in DC.
Haven't the rest of you made mistakes or are you all perfect?

posted by LeLiLo at 2:09 AM on January 18, 2005


b_thinky, if you look at anser's Google search, you'll see plenty of people using it today. I'd never heard the term before, so it surprised me as well. But it appears that racists in America are all stuck in the 1860s. Maybe because that's the only time period they can find supporting literature for their viewpoint.

I agree with the firing. If your entire job is to get on camera and talk, you should definitely be canned if you screw it up this bad.
posted by breath at 2:31 AM on January 18, 2005


Witty says: Words ARE just words when there's no intent.

And therein lies the problem with weathermen. There is no intent in most of the words they use, unless it's to use as many as possible. As we head into the overnight hours tonight, I have to wonder whether they get paid by the syllable. "Precipitation event," indeed. What happened to "rain?"

Most weathermen offend me. They should be fired for offenses against the English language.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:41 AM on January 18, 2005


My lezzer friends have started using the c word.
My black friends are using the n word.
I use words like queer, shirt lifter etc..

Maybe he has black members of his family?
posted by dprs75 at 3:13 AM on January 18, 2005


Why aren't all live news broadcasts on a delay? If the news starts at 6:00, the talk starts at 5:59:50 or whatever, the broadcast starts at 6:00, and they have ten seconds to say "Shit! Technical difficulty! Go to commercial!" or whatever the standard procedure is. Then this stuff (whether intentional or not) would never get out of the studio. Who would know or care whether the news was actually ten seconds older than advertised?
posted by pracowity at 3:41 AM on January 18, 2005


You all are all so worried about racism, even unintentional racism, you miss the point. This man lost his JOB over a small mistake! Like, his JOB, you know? Or am I mistaken, and jobs are real easy to get in the so-called "land of the free"?

Personally, I think you should all take strong offense and protest the casual dismissal of an employee over a single mistake. Geez, you let Bush get a second 4 years as PRESIDENT, but you fire a weekend weatherman for one slip? You let Rumsfield continue as Sec. of Defense? That Rice woman gets a big promotion. But OMG, that weatherman needed to be FIRED!
posted by Goofyy at 4:24 AM on January 18, 2005


I always love the little Bart Simpson gleam certain people get in their eye when they realize they can say "niggardly" all they like..
posted by Space Coyote at 4:47 AM on January 18, 2005


I talk on the police & fire radios all night and I can assure you that we--as trained professionals--screw up with a certain amount of frequency. We have a tape of our screw ups that we play from time to time when we start feeling too self-important.

I told one of our officers who was dealing with a livestock issue and wanted me to contact the brand inspector that I was unable to make contact with the "band instructor."

My partner toned the fire department to help an elderly person get up off the floor and described it as "assist with living" instead of "assist with lifting."

Several months back, one of the dispatchers sent the police to an altercation at a "sports bra" instead of the "sports bar."

My point is that shit happens and then you move on.
posted by leftcoastbob at 5:32 AM on January 18, 2005


actually 'niggardly' is wayyy out of favor. for obvious reasons.

although rolling stone magazine once used it in a review of eric clapton's '461 ocean boulevard.'

c'mon .... who said that 'coon' doesn't get used anymore? ridiculous. there are millions of southerners who use it daily i'll wager.
posted by wbm$tr at 5:57 AM on January 18, 2005


Racism is a distraction used so you won't notice someone is reaching into your wallet and removing your life's blood. Its quite clever because it distracts folks of all races equally. Its a devisive issue used to make sure we plebes don't unite against the real bad guys.

Maybe we'll get over such nonsense once we are all fully enslaved equally.
posted by Goofyy at 6:18 AM on January 18, 2005


Witty says: Words ARE just words when there's no intent.

sure. call up your local fbi office, give them your name and address and say "the president must die." i'm sure they'll buy the "there's no intent" argument.

i think our man here indeed made "just" a slip -- he slipped up and uttered a word he uses in private on the air. coon is indeed a racial slur that is in use in the south (on the other hand, i don't understand why some people of mostly western european descent in east texas and louisiana refer to themselves as "coon asses.")

but goofyy has a point: this dude gets fired while people in the govt who make bigger fuckups get praised and honored on a regular basis? i would rather have seen a punishment that fits the crime: make him perform community service at a youth center in an inner city area (i don't know if one's employer can compel one to do such things though).

firing is harsh, but i think it actually feeds the "the heterosexual, christian white male is the most victimized member of american society" ideology that so many (though by no means most or all) conservatives embrace.
posted by lord_wolf at 6:49 AM on January 18, 2005


Not to mention apologists who deny that racism is a problem or should be discussed.

My statement did neither. Read it carefully. I merely stated that there is no silence on racial matters. There's not a whole lot of substance being said either, sadly. Mainly, there's a lot of noise and lip service, sprinkled with loud demagoguery from all sides.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 AM on January 18, 2005


And FWIW, I think the weatherman should be fired, too. He's supposed to be a professional, and the fact that he has a "slip" like that is not a good sign of his character. I was mainly expositing on the mealy-mouthed nature of his apology that mathowie noted in his comment.
posted by jonmc at 6:58 AM on January 18, 2005


While stuck in more backwood areas I have heard that very phrase, the exact one, uttered by many a good ol' boy. And I live in New York.

It's a common slur directed specifically at King. I suspect this may be a phrase uttered by the weatherman off camera so frequently he said it on air without even thinking.

What are the odds that someone could manage to turn the name of one of the most famous civil rights workers in American history into a racial slur? And even beyond that, one normally directed against the very group he was a member of and worked to help, simply by accident or coincidence? And even more than that, into a common term used by the more cro-magnon members of society to mock that very civil rights worker?
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:30 AM on January 18, 2005


Not to mention apologists who deny that racism is a problem or should be discussed.
My statement did neither. Read it carefully. I merely stated that there is no silence on racial matters. There's not a whole lot of substance being said either, sadly. Mainly, there's a lot of noise and lip service, sprinkled with loud demagoguery from all sides.

jonmc, I wasn't pointing a finger at you. I, in fact, agree with your points.
posted by xhepera at 7:37 AM on January 18, 2005


xphera, my apologies. I'm kind of sensitive about being accused of racism/sexism etc, since it's something I dislike heartily. So I jumped the gun. My bad.
posted by jonmc at 7:49 AM on January 18, 2005


Yeah, I just BET this racist guy thought he could call MLK a "coon" on television and just slip it in there. Yep, sneaky racist bastard should be flayed alive. Come on, could this guy be that dumb? Doubtful.

Personal anecdote (yeah, I know, the worst form of proof):
I was at a bar/restaurant with a bunch of friends, early evening. I was driving that night, so no alcohol, and I was having trouble making up my mind what I wanted. Did I want a coke or a coffee? The waiter turned to me for my order. I started to say coffee, then changed my mind to coke. So I ended up saying, "I'd like a cock."

Needless to say, I'm both A) very careful to make up my mind before the waiter arrives and B) willing to believe this is an honest but regrettable spoonerism.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:13 AM on January 18, 2005


I wonder why I watched that entire tape.
posted by thejoshu at 8:36 AM on January 18, 2005


Yeah, I just BET this racist guy thought he could call MLK a "coon" on television and just slip it in there. Yep, sneaky racist bastard should be flayed alive. Come on, could this guy be that dumb? Doubtful.

I doubt it was an intentional attempt to get a racist slur on-air, but I can't believe the sheer odds of accidentally turning MLK's name into a racial slur, and one commonly used by racists to describe him at that.

I really do think the odds are that he uses the phrase commonly in his private life, and found himself saying it on air before he could catch himself.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:39 AM on January 18, 2005


Still not as crazy as this guy [wmv].

that didn't rhyme!
posted by sdrawkcab at 8:44 AM on January 18, 2005


Kellydamnit, you're looking at it the wrong way.

What are the odds of such a tongue slip-up? Considering the phonetic difference is a slight change of position, from the close/front/unvoiced to close/central/unvoiced (as per the International Phonetic Alphabet), a move of perhaps a few millimeters, and that in preparation for saying "junior" his tongue would have to move from front to central/back and his brain would be anticipating just such a move, the odds aren't as remote as you'd think. Happens quite often in everyday speech. I'm willing to bet you've made at least one such slip already today. I work at a recording studio, and even seasoned, professional announcers do it when they're not concentrating.

What are the odds such a routine slip would have an unwanted meaning... especially one with a specific and perhaps ironic relevance (that is, calling anyone a "coon" is bad enough; saying it of an African-American is quite another; saying it of one of the most revered leaders of the civil rights movement...), well, now the odds are a little more remote. Then again, somebody wins lotteries; that's the nature of probability. A one in a billion chance still means there's that one time...
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:04 AM on January 18, 2005


(Crap... on preview I think I got the positioning wrong... but it is very similar, regardless. Much of the problem here is in the written version of the event, which uses an English language transcription rather than an IPA one. Check out the phonetic spelling of IPA on their website to see the difference.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:12 AM on January 18, 2005


It's interesting how quickly folks are willing to assume the worst without having seen the video clip. Our PR guy (who is black and gay, for what it's worth) is the weatherman's best friend. He is in the process of writing an op ed piece in defense of his friend which I will post when it is ready. Briefly here is the version I was told by our PR guy: This was the weatherman's first on-air job. He is part American Indian and was raised going to black churches. He didn't say what he was accused of saying, he simply got momentarily tongue-tied and wasn't even aware that there was a problem until the station received one (1) phone call complaining. He then apologized on three separate broadcasts. The first he heard of being fired was when he opened the Sunday paper that morning.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:40 AM on January 18, 2005


but I can't believe the sheer odds of accidentally turning MLK's name into a racial slur, and one commonly used by racists to describe him at that.

But why do you think it's one commonly used by racists to describe him? Perhaps because it's so close to a spoonerism of his name. As ghostinthemachine's example above illustrates, all it would take was his mind skipping ahead to the "junior" part before he finished saying "king"

A Spoonerism exchanges the initial consonants of two words, but it doesn't change the number of syllables in the words. King/Junior, if a spoonerism, would be Jing/Koonier, not Coon/whatever.

Yeah, but there must be a word for the kind of slip where two words get smushed together, rather than exchanged, which is what this seems to be...

It does seem like an unfortunate enough mistake that the guy be fired, simply to clarify that it is in no way acceptable. At the same time, I would also want to see the tape (& the tape of the apology), as I could imagine it being truly innocent.
posted by mdn at 10:42 AM on January 18, 2005


"This country needs a spear chucker, and I think we've got him up on this podium." Eugene Dorff, mayor of Kenosha, Wisconsin, introducing presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. Dorff said later that he intended to say "straight shooter" but slipped.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:52 AM on January 18, 2005


agatha's comment pretty much negates this, but it was a common way to refer to MLK as Martin Luther Coon Jr. in the ye bad olde days.
posted by chaz at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2005


What I think is interesting is that when he fake-apologized, the weatherman changed his recorded "...Coon King Jr." to a newly created "Martin Luther Kong Jr."

Assuming this later switch wasn't an honest mistake, did he think "Kong" was less offensive or that it was a more easily justifiable slip of the tongue.
posted by nobody at 12:04 PM on January 18, 2005


As it turns out the segment with the misheard language was taped. Which means it was reviewed by a number of other people at the station before it even aired and they found nothing wrong with it or they would have cancelled or edited it.

As for calling the apology a fake, I have to ask, what would you say if some combination of syllables you stuttered were misinterpreted by others?

Since the original phrasing was inadvertant and open to interpretation, it stands to reason that he might think the word that he didn't say and didn't have any intention of saying sounded more like "kong" not "coon."

I have not yet seen the tape, but am hoping to get a copy soon--perhaps as others have said above, we should withhold judgement since none of us have the whole story.
posted by agatha_magatha at 12:23 PM on January 18, 2005


As promised, here is the op ed piece from Linton Johnson Chief Spokesperson, Department Manager, BART Media & Public Affairs. I would post a link, but it hasn't been published yet.

As a black person, I am stunned, outraged and completely appalled with these so-called “African-American leaders” and everyone else who is joining in to call Rob Blair everything short of a racist. And I know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be appalled, too.

During Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, he said that he wanted his children (and everyone else) to “…not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character...”

Well, as the son of a family heavily involved in the civil rights movement, and the nephew of a board member of the national NAACP, and most importantly, as a close and longtime friend of Rob Blair, I know the content of Rob Blair’s character. I can attest to the fact that he embodies the spirit of Dr. King, Jr.

The baseless outrage people are expressing is a classic example of reverse racism. I say baseless, because people, including these so-called black leaders, are condemning Rob based on an incident even they admit they never saw!

They presume Rob is a racist, or harbors racist feelings based only on what a few people thought they heard him say.

First of all, if you look at the tape, it’s impossible to even understand what Rob said when he stumbled over Dr. King’s name.

But because Rob looks white (for the record, he’s part Native American) they rushed to judgment and automatically assumed that Rob said the word, “coon.”

Then they rushed to judgment once again and are now saying that clearly anyone who says “coon” must either be racist or harbor racial issues.

Think about it! Had a black person stumbled over the same word, do you think anyone would've heard “coon?” What’s more would they demand the black person’s termination? No!

Why should it be any different for Rob? Everyone who knows him can attest to the fact that Rob Blair embodies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you knew Rob, you'd know he grew up singing gospel music in a black children’s choir.

If you knew Rob, you'd know he’s a man who most of his life has worshiped in Black churches.

If you knew Rob, you'd know he’s a man who made not one, but two trips to Jamaica to help rebuild the country after Hurricane Gilbert destroyed parts of it in 1988.

If you knew Rob, you'd know he’s a man who as a radio personality in Indiana, worked on projects to help bridge the racial divide in schools.

That is the content of Rob's character. Judge Rob by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin. I assure you, Dr. King would.

posted by agatha_magatha at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2005


Good work, agatha_magatha. I like it when someone who actually knows what she's talking about contributes to one of these discussions.
posted by pracowity at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2005


well, based on what agatha_magatha has reported, i regret my earlier condemnation of the man.

it's just that i've seen far too many people make "slips" like this and then swear up and down that b/c they're friends with a few black people that they couldn't possibly be racist or ever think any racist thoughts. which is absurd: i've yet to meet a person who is truly free of biases based on the construct known as race. so i've stopped giving people the benefit of the doubt with regard to this sort of thing, though, as always, if someone apologizes and is sincere, i'm ready to move on.

anyway, if it means anything, a_m, here's one mefite (and black, though not a leader) who will look in the general direction of las vegas and say, "i apologize for unjustly convicting you in the court of public opinion, mr. rob blair."
posted by lord_wolf at 1:55 PM on January 18, 2005


Coon Unit Zappa?

MISTAKE!! MISTAKE!!!
posted by BobFrapples at 2:38 PM on January 18, 2005


I'm inclined to believe it was a slip. It's easy enough to run two words together - Wayne Bridge is known in our house now as Widge due to my boyfriend tripping over his tongue. It was around the same time that he referred to Napalm Death as "Napalm Desk".
posted by corvine at 2:42 PM on January 18, 2005


It's nice to have a forum to get another side of the issue out. One of the things that I enjoy about mefi is that lots of different points of view are present in a (mostly) civilized discourse.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:01 PM on January 18, 2005


Everybody loves a (premature, wedon'thaveallthefactsyet) pile on to make themselves feel self righteous. Thank you agatha_magatha.
posted by ifjuly at 4:20 PM on January 18, 2005


Hurrah to agatha, and Linton Johnson. What makes this sad, though, is that this op ed probably won't get near the publicity and, at the end of the day, weatherman isn't any less fired.
posted by absalom at 5:32 PM on January 18, 2005


i am seriously, literally stupified at this pile-on.

my first thought was just the guy had a mouth-fumble. not that he actually accidentally said the word "coon" but his tongue rolled or some saliva caught in his throat and the "oong" sound came out and in the middle of saying MLK's name this random collusion of mouth physics resulted in something that some knee jerk pundits could construe as possibly racist.

some of you fuckers are always ready with the pitchforks and torches. sheesh.
posted by glenwood at 5:43 PM on January 18, 2005


I just heard Peter Jennings say that the cold Minnesota weather is "not for cissies". That wasn't a stumble, mumble or stutter. Nice one, liberal.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:56 PM on January 18, 2005


Coons? When racoons try to get on our back porch, Momma just chase 'em off with a broom.

—Forrest Gump

And that's all I have to say about that.
posted by bwg at 6:17 PM on January 18, 2005


Ahem. "Unforgivable Dumbness" is the title of the original post. The post also includes the phrase, "I wouldn't mind seeing this dood go out like a sucka." Seems a certain MeFi member should be thinking about the wording of his/her apology right about now.

What about it, wbm$ter? Obviously, your editorializing in the initial post was way out of line. Isn't a public apology appropriate, in this of all threads?
posted by mediareport at 6:35 PM on January 18, 2005


Why assume it was "coo.."? Maybe "King Kong" flashed in his head and he accidently said "Ko.. (oops), King".
posted by dabitch at 5:05 AM on January 19, 2005


My earlier point was that this reaction says more about the people watching than about the weatherman. Jonmc, a lot of people are talking about race, but not many of the people who need to be, and that's the problem. Half of the anti-racism conversation involves just trying to get other white people to engage in dialogue rather than standing back and throwing barbs. Your vastly generalized dismissal of all racial dialogue, along with the totally understandable circumstance of being uninterested in being racist, make me wonder whether you are approaching the conversation with a willingness to tackle things that may actually be inside you in some shape or form regardless of your preference (or as someone mentioned earlier, intent).

And that's exactly what I'm identifying in this event, as well. It is much easier to fire the weatherman than to look at why what he said makes us so uneasy.
posted by Embryo at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2005


Well, on KABC a couple of nights a go the host accidentally said "Dr. Kong". Don't know where that came from.

By the way, before being the PR flack for BART uber-alles (BART to the moon!) he was the transportation reporter for the Bay Area's third rate NBC affiliate.
posted by calwatch at 3:37 AM on January 22, 2005


And that was meant to provide background as to how a PR person might know a weatherman, not as a slam on Mr. Johnson, although certainly there's no love lost between myself and either BART or KNTV.
posted by calwatch at 3:55 AM on January 22, 2005


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