July 5, 2000
10:31 AM   Subscribe

"Fire Bryant Gumbel for His Intolerant Remark"?? -American Family Association-- What the hell is going on with people in this country? I can't have an opinion any more? Bryant wasn't being intolerant... He simply didn't like the guy. He was uttering his opinion under his breath when he thought the microphone was off and he was off camera. (It took a lip reader to ascertain what was actually 'mumbled') Must I agree with everyone's opinion ALL the time and actually 'LIKE' everyone all the time? Or what? Do I get a 'timeout'?
posted by chiXy (42 comments total)
The thing I find most amusing about this is Gumble allegedly said Knight was a "_______ idiot" and the AFA took that as an insult against Christians. Wouldn't that imply the AFA thinks the word 'idiot' is synonymous with 'Christian'? If that is the case then I guess the AFA's leadership are all a bunch of 'Christians'.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 10:42 AM on July 5, 2000

The AFA is confusing irreverence and disrespect for intolerance. It's my constitutional right to dislike any man if I so please. You'd think that the AFA would have a firm understanding of terms like "intolerance".
posted by sixfoot6 at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2000

"To use language like this to describe a Christian is intolerant," AFA President Donald Wildmon says. "CBS ought to fire [Gumbel] immediately. In this day of tolerance and diversity, Mr. Gumbel’s obvious intolerance and bigotry is unacceptable."

In light of the topic (exclusion of homosexuals in the Boy Scouts), the irony level of the preceeding quote is:
  A) High
  B) Hello
  C) Good Evening
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:55 AM on July 5, 2000

CrazyUncleJoe, you intolerant bastard. If you continue to make bigoted jokes at the expense of people named "Wildmon", we're going to have you fired from MeFi. Your refusal to tolerate the discussion of this issue without interjecting witty remarks is intolerable.
posted by sixfoot6 at 11:05 AM on July 5, 2000

So let me get this... ahem... straight: the AFA is calling Bryant Gumbel "intolerant" because Gumbel made a "mumbled" comment about the intolerance of the BSA? Why does this seem a little strange to me?
posted by elf_baby at 11:11 AM on July 5, 2000

I picture this whole exchange on a giant playground... does anyone else feel like we are living in a kindergarten class? I feel surrounded by obtuse 2 year olds on a daily basis... [ahem, except here, of course]
posted by chiXy at 11:28 AM on July 5, 2000

This is just what I needed to get me to wake up earlier and start watching morning tv.
posted by brian at 11:41 AM on July 5, 2000

From what I can tell, the remark is not intolerant, but it is impolite. It seems unprofessional to lose your cool on the air no matter who you are talking to. If the story were reversed and the AFA guy mumbled the same thing about Gumbel, it would be as big a story. The irony of the complaint is noted and appreciated.
posted by thirteen at 11:44 AM on July 5, 2000

Don Wildmon is one of the most outspoken radical x-ians; his daily radio show is a study in ignorance, misinformation, fear-mongering and narrow-minded political grandstanding.

For him to try and hide underneath the banner of "openness" and "inclusiveness" is a slap in the face to everyone who is not white, male, christian and straight, and has had to fight for the right to be heard.

posted by katchomko at 11:55 AM on July 5, 2000

Gumble scores points with me on this one. I just wish he had the balls to say it on the air. The American Family Association can eat my shorts on toast. I am very intolerant of them. Don Wildmon is a fucking idiot. Isn't this something he's use to hearing?

posted by y6y6y6 at 12:13 PM on July 5, 2000

CrazyUncleJoe, you intolerant bastard.

I find this comment to be intolerant of CrazyUncleJoe's intolerance of intolerance of intolerance of intolerance. Five wrongs don't make a right! Matt, can we fire sixfoot6 immediately? If you don't I'm going to organize an advertising boycott of Metfilter.

Oh... damn.
posted by daveadams at 12:18 PM on July 5, 2000

Of course, I meant "Metafilter," not "Metfilter."
posted by daveadams at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2000

I'm sorry but I disagree with the attitude of most of the people in this thread. It seems to me that everyone is siding with Bryant Gumball simply because they agree with his opinion, not because anyone is actually concerned over 1st amendment rights. I agree with thirteen entirely. This is hypocrisy.
posted by andy at 12:28 PM on July 5, 2000

Impolite? You're worried about civility? Since when does that guarantee ratings? Gumbel has teetered on the brink of unprofessional behavior his entire career. I'm surprised he never hit Katie Couric with a chair when they worked the Today show together. Before my third cup of coffee in the morning I'd sure be tempted to. Hell, wouldn't you? All buttery sweet and nice that early in the morning. Some times watching the show I swear during commercial breaks they were at each other's throats. You could almost feel the tension through the airwaves, and the syrupy saccharine false-smiles when they looked at each other. Gumbel probably had dreams where he baked Willard Scott over a rotissere spit, too.

Unfortunately, CBS isn't even touching this topic online. And they wonder why they're usually in third place in the ratings game: no balls. Didn't get to see the episode of The Early Show in question. By the time that's on the air, I'm already at work, and I don't watch TV much anymore anyway. But I have seen Gumbel at work before. I only wish Gumbel had the balls to say it to the guy's face with the microphone on. And then pay the FCC fine with pride and glee. Then get on Howard Stern and boast about it at length. Repeatedly saying, "I'm on CBS now!" all the way.

CBS needs to booster its morning show ratings in the first place. It's why they hired Gumble. Time for him AND them to put their money and their expletitives where their mouths are. I'd have to see the transcript to know for sure, but chances are the guy was a jerk. Gumbel has repeatedly put guests in their place when he interrogates-- er, I mean interviews them. He's good at it. This AFA guy just obviously had no clue he was outgunned and outsmarted. And no, I don't generally like Gumbel, but I grudgingly have to admit the guy is one hell of an interviewer. And he may have inadvertently just pushed himself up a few notches in popularity with the homosexual community. Considering how Gumbel is generally on most people's shitlists anyway, this can't hurt him none.

But this does typify why I don't watch TV anymore. Even Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect walked on eggshells when last I saw it. Damn shame. Tell it like it is or keep your mouth shut. Real simple. I mean we're talking a morning show here. This isn't supposed to be cold objective journalism. People don't tune in for that.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:50 PM on July 5, 2000

I *do* agree with Mr Gumbel on this one, I'm afraid, but even so all we really need (hello, sarcasm) in the US is for every insult against an individual person to be twisted into a terrorist hate crime... I don't want to live in a society where "You dumbass, you ran that red light and almost killed me!" is a religion-bashing remark if the dumbass is religious, anti-woman if the dumbass is female, racist if the dumbass isn't white, heterosexist if the dumbass is a man in a dress...

posted by Sapphireblue at 1:10 PM on July 5, 2000

I didn't realize that I was giving any attitude. But gee I do hope people will think I'm cool when I say that I don't believe it's an issue of right or wrong, it's simply the fact that we can no longer have an opinion on anything in this country -- either on air or off. I don't care if Bryant called the Pope a "_______ idiot"... it's his right to say it on air and off or even print it on a bumper sticker if he chooses.

idiocy - bigotry - imbecility - and those damn banana hammocks old hairy canadians wear on the beach here --- are STILL legal
posted by chiXy at 1:13 PM on July 5, 2000

dave adams, we don't have to toloreight that kind of mispelling.

I'd like to respond seriously to andy's point. The irony of the intolerance issue is really just a humorous aside. I honestly don't think the story would be any larger if it was Robert Knight, the guest, who had made the comment under his breath. If anything, that story would be less interesting to the public. Who cares if some guy swears at Gumbel?

It is most certainly unprofessional to lose your cool on the air, and if CBS decides to fire Gumbel, it should be purely for that reason. It seems to me that this episode barely raises the issue of first ammendmend rights. I don't care about Gumbel's opinion of the individual in question, or its connection to the issue that was being discussed.

What concerns me are the three errors made by the AFA, as evidenced in Wildmon's quote: first, he misinterprets "a fucking idiot", believing it to be an insult that refers to all Christians with simillar values. Second, he implies that a negative opinion of a thing, issue or person implies intolerance of that thing, issue or person. This is not true, and a foolish position to take. I imagine that Gumbel has little trouble tolerating that man and the BSA decision in general. Finally, the AFA makes a big stink, implying that CBS is an intolerant network for letting a man get away with expressing his personal opinion. Think about everyone that Bill Mahr and Howard Stern talk trash about on other network spots.

CBS should be firm, Gumbel should apologize, and the issue will dissappear quickly.
posted by sixfoot6 at 1:16 PM on July 5, 2000

This points to something more insidious, though. Sorry to bring a little seriousness into it. The X-ian right has for years appropriated the organizational tactics of the old liberal left - some of their organizational methods and tactics are straight out of old Union organization handbooks and stuff like Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

In this case they're clearly going a step further and trying to approprate the civil-rights movement's rhetoric of "intolerance" and anti-racism to their own ends. It's unseemly for a bunch of (predominantly, but not at all exclusively) white folk to go claiming bigotry and intolerance in the first place. To do so in such a public way is, in a way, a Big Deal.
posted by mikel at 1:38 PM on July 5, 2000

"To use language like this to describe a Christian is intolerant" -- I can take this in one of two ways. Either he means:

1. Only smart people can be Christians, so it's wrong to say one is an idiots. Idiots and Christians are mutually exclusive.

2. It's OK to insult people--as long as the insultee is not a Christian. It's OK to call someone an idiot if he's agnostic, or Buddhist, or Hindu...
posted by spetracco at 1:41 PM on July 5, 2000

"To use language like this to describe a Christian is intolerant" -- I can take this in one of two ways. Either he means:

1. Only smart people can be Christians, so it's wrong to say one is an idiot. Idiots and Christians are mutually exclusive.

2. It's OK to insult people--as long as the insultee is not a Christian. It's OK to call someone an idiot if he's agnostic, or Buddhist, or Hindu...

posted by spetracco at 1:42 PM on July 5, 2000

You know, after reading this CNS News article on the subject, I'm beginning to see that there is a lot more hypocracy surrounding incidents like this than I had first thought. I guess it's often hard to be open-mined with people who seem close-minded. Ironic, indeed.

Also you can view the actual video clip be checking out this article.
posted by sixfoot6 at 1:44 PM on July 5, 2000

Oh, no.

Just because 6'6 treated the subject seriously doesn't mean I have to. I mean, according to the AP, they had switched to the weather and he was getting out of his chair - it's not like he looked into the camera and said "What a _____ Idiot. We'll be right back with that ____ ____ Jane Clayson." I demand that all people taking this thread seriously be fired, or at least apologize for their irrationally unhumorous behaviour.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:51 PM on July 5, 2000

While I agree with his assessment of Knight, I am compelled to point out that Gumbel himself is no less than a fucking idiot. It would appear to be a job pre-requisite in the TV news industry.
posted by quonsar at 3:10 PM on July 5, 2000

[WARNING. This item contains an uncensored vulgarity. We apologize if this actually offends you.]

I'm taking this topic deadly seriously, but from the perspective of the George Carlin School For Independent Thought. *smirk* TV is a dying piece of dung cuz the FCC has perpetually forced a firehose at it since the 1950s. ...Or whenever it was put into existence whichever.

Sometimes it misses the mark completely. I don't know what it was thinking with NYPD Blue which was on regular TV prime time. But other times they don't know when to let up, like with the cable show South Park which shouldn't have been as censored as it was.

Total and complete lack of consistency. And you CAN'T be consistent with censorship cuz it is perpetually subjective. Which is why it's wrong. If Gumbel wanted to question the man's stupidity he should do it to the man's face. He shouldn't have felt like he had to say it under his breath. He shoulda just come out and called the guy on the carpet while the cameras were running. If Gumbel can't do that, CBS should fire Gumbel and replace him with someone who CAN.

Can you imagine George Carlin at 7am in the morning on something like The Early Show?

"...And that's the news for this half hour. George?"

"Wha? Oh, thanks Jane. I.. I'm uh.. here talkin' for the next few minutes with a mister ah.. What's yer name? Wait don't tell me I got it on dis card right here. It's mister fucking idiot himself Robert Knight of the Family Research Council. Welcome to the show, Mister Knight. ...Mister Knight? ..Hello? Cat got your tongue? You fucking idiot. Where's my third cup of coffee?"

[tone] "We are experiencing technical difficulties please stand by. Stay tuned for The Price Is Right! on most of these CBS stations!"

"I - I can't believe you said that to me!"

"Yeah I can't believe they're paying me to say that to you. WHERE'S MY COFFEE?"
posted by ZachsMind at 3:20 PM on July 5, 2000

This is actually not surprising in the least. The Wildmon camp of right-wing Christianity (because, of course, some right-wing Christians aren't actually nuts) has for the last several years been attempting to redefine "intolerance" in order to support pushing their agenda. If you don't like sitting quietly while all the other students pray to God, well, YOU are INTOLERANT. If you don't like the Boy Scouts choosing who they want to represent them, YOU are INTOLERANT. If you don't want Operation Rescue to express its views by blocking access to abortion clinics, YOU are INTOLERANT. Et cetera.

This isn't half-cocked or half-baked; it's deliberate. They have decided they want to own this particular debate and frame it in terms such that white male Christians are properly understood to be the most-discriminated-against minority on American soil.
posted by dhartung at 3:33 PM on July 5, 2000

Rrgh. What bugs me about this stuff is that people (& the gov.) believe they have the right to arbitrarily force others to do, say, write, only that which doesn't offend them. Offense is entirely subjective of course, one man's art is another man's porn. But 'offense' has taken on a new meaning; it's not just something that hurts you in some way, now it's anything you don't like.
Is it so hard to let other people speak their 1st-amendment-lovin minds?
KKK's got a right to say stuff, so do I. But if I try to shut them up, I'll rack up some bad self-expression karma myself, who's gonna speak up for me? and so forth.
posted by sonofsamiam at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2000

Which I think is exactly Wildmon's point... Hey, I think he's a Fascist, too, but he's an American Fascist, which means in order for the First Amendment to work, it's gotta protect his speech, too. I just don't see how any reasonable, level-headed person can think this is any different from Wildmon's perspective than the recent hoo-hah over Laura Schlensinger's television show - oh, except, this time the kettle is calling the pot... uh... Oh. Never mind.
posted by m.polo at 4:34 PM on July 5, 2000

I feel like several of the people on this thread are interpreting the issue according to the way that Wildmon and Knight are slanting it.

How can Bryan Gumbel's free speech ("What a f**king idiot") be considered an impingement on Knight's free speech? Knight got his airtime. He got his message out. Gumbel's remarks were intended to be off the air, and at any rate didn't prevent Knight from speaking his mind. How does this become an issue of Knight being denied his right to free speech?

Wildmon & Co. have, MANY times, organized, or threatened to organize boycotts of advertisers' products in order to stop specific messages from being broadcast on TV. Most famously, Wildmon managed to kill an entire Pepsi campaign that featured Madonna. He also organized letter-writing campaigns. One campaign focused on keeping a kiss between two teenage girls (on the show Picket Fences) off the air.

Yet when leftist and gay rights advocates use the exact same tactics to protest Dr. Laura calling gay people a "biological mistake", Wildmon et al call them enemies of free speech.

When Wildmon & Co. use these tactics to prevent depictions of homosexuality on TV, they call it 'protest'; when gay advocates use these tactics to prevent hateful words against homosexuality on TV, they call it 'censorship'. Clearly only Wildmon & Co. are entitled to free speech. Everyone else is free only to speak the words Wildmon & Co. like to hear.
posted by wiremommy at 5:38 PM on July 5, 2000

I just can't get enough of this one. It's a real LOL thing with me. You gotta check out this link provided to us by sixfoot6. When you see it all in context it's even more incredible.

Gumbel was blatantly allowing his opinion during the interview to shine through via facial expressions and his general attitude. It's wholly unprofessional, and there's no journalistic integrity here at all. But morning news shows like The Today Show, Good Morning America and CBS's The Early Show do not disillusion the public generally to such integrity.

It's like drivetime radio. It's just something they run to get people to turn on the TV while they get ready for work in the morning. It's informative, but it's entertainment, and the media has long been accused of putting a distinctive liberal slant on the news overall. Personally I don't mind that because I happen to have some liberal values. I happen to agree with Gumbel here. In fact I woulda been laughing in the guys' face were I sitting in Gumbel's chair. I woulda let the guy talk longer so he could dig himself further into the hole.

Two questions into the interview, Gumbel already made his opinion clear. He repeatedly interrupted Knight. He raised his voice when he defended James Dale as a man who supported everything the Boy Scout's represented for several years. Dale made one appearance at a gay parade and suddenly all his efforts for Scouting are washed away. Suddenly he's not what Scouting is all about, even though before this event no one had a problem with him.

Don't ask don't tell doesn't work, okay? It just doesn't work. For the military or for Scouting.

"Did he become immoral?" Gumbel asked Knight three times. When he finally got a straight answer from Knight, the look on Gumbel's face is one of utter astonishment and pity for Knight's closedmindedness. And when he asked Knight if scouting was safer or purer now that they've officially excluded gays, the answer Gumbel heard made him question why he was even sitting there talking to this fruitcake.

It looked to me as if the interview was supposed to go on for a minute or two longer, but Gumbel just cut the guy short and wanted out of there. He probably wanted to go take a clean hot bath all the sudden. Knight's opinions are not only shortsighted and bigoted, they're downright scary. It should also be noted that Gumbel gave the opposing viewpoint on this more time earlier in the segment, and was much more cordial, but that's because what he was hearing from Gloria Feldt just made more sense to him.

It can be argued that how the media slants the information it makes available affects how people view it, but I think this represents the sheer humanity of the situation. There's no conscious decision to do that. It's an honest response to what people in the media are exposed to. As long as we have humans and not computerized personalities like Ananova running the show, we're gonna get that slant.

Personally, I'll take Gumbel's humanity over Ananova's practiced delivery any day of the week.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:30 PM on July 5, 2000

posted by baylink at 6:47 PM on July 5, 2000


Actually, we might have this all wrong! Come to think of it, Gumbel coulda been calling Mark McEwen a fucking idiot. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 7:04 PM on July 5, 2000

What's the use of journalistic integrity if it forces one to disregard personal integrity?

Has Gumbel ever claimed to be a real journalist anyway?
posted by john at 9:08 PM on July 5, 2000

after watching the realvideo of the event, it reminds me a great deal of the first Larry Sanders show I saw, and how it was the first to show the host after the curtain went down (of course it was fiction, but something tells me it was pretty close to the truth for late-night talk show hosts). There were plenty of times Larry would say something like Bryant did, under his breath, at the end.

The argument was pretty heated, and I think Gumbel was still pretty hot and pissed off when the camera inadvertingly focused on him. Many of us would have done the same in a similar situation. I know I've said some snarky things when an argument ended in frustration.

Was it unprofessional of Bryant? Certainly. He should issue an "I'm sorry" statement, and get a slap on the wrist (if anything) from CBS, and the whole thing will blow over.
posted by mathowie at 9:27 PM on July 5, 2000

Those responsible for the sackings have themselves been sacked.The point in the end is this: CBS counts on the senior market to thrive in both primetime and daytime. Their flock of publicists will decide if its a good move to reprimand Gumbel, in an attempt to gain younger, more liberal minds, or to "let him go because of creative differences." At this point all this is is a publicity-making disciplinary decision.
The FRC can clamor all they want for justice, but if no one answers, then a martyr Knight does not make. Given the attention this issue has already gained here, it may be too late to just ignore the whole silly incident.
posted by Awol at 1:44 AM on July 6, 2000

It's things like this that probably make Dennis Miller happy that he's on HBO, free to voice his opinions.
posted by Cavatica at 4:39 AM on July 6, 2000

that's what they want you to think
posted by tiaka at 8:09 AM on July 6, 2000

Not to harsh on Zach, but I think it can be more than "argued" that "how the media slants the information it makes available affects how people view it" This is far from the most egregious example. When (to crib my friend Bob's phrase) media-criticism barrelled fish John Stossel mocked students and later swore at them at an anti-date-rape rally at Brown University, he wrote it off as an example of students' political correctness, did a heavily-slanted (and edited) story on 20/20 and nobody noticed. Gays and the religious right are both big blocks that can make a stink with advertisers, but it shouldn't just be the job of the interested public to watch for journalistic bias.

Digging around FAIR's website and examining how the news is presented can be revelatory, although those convinced of a liberal bias in American media may be less convinced. (In that case, I'll refer you to AIM, whom I think are more right-wing cranks than media critics, but YMMV). Journalists and, more importantly, the media conglomorates that employ them need to do better.
posted by snarkout at 11:42 AM on July 6, 2000

Awol aside, I don't think anything's going to happen. This is burning up the wires of the far right media, but not any real news sites. Romenesko isn't reporting on it, which says to me that if he isn't really on vacation, they're just having him lay low a while.
posted by dhartung at 4:28 PM on July 6, 2000

Point taken, Snarkout. It was not exactly my intent to belittle the admittedly horrible history of yellow journalism in this country. We've had a problem with it since before the days of William Randolph Hearst. However there is a difference between editorial policy slanted by economic and political interests, and one interviewer's personal opinion affecting whether or not Planned Parenthood gets thirty seconds more onair time than Boy Scouts of America.

I've seen both extremes. Attempts to have zero human involvement for objective journalism does nothing but make the reporting boring and bland. Allowing the content to be controlled by economic, corporate, political or even religious interests only allows one side of a given story to be heard.

And there is not a single news media entity today that is not somehow affected by some corporate or economic interest. I mean if we want to get really paranoid we can assume that nothing we see in the news media is accurate. Someone somewhere is pulling the strings and deciding what is seen and how.

The point I was trying to make above though is that this Bryant Gumbel incident is an example of how the big picture works. A bunch of individuals involved in the news media each have their own jobs to do, and how they each do their job is going to be affected by what that individual thinks and feels. Not every journalist is left-wing liberal, but many of them are.

To be honest, I don't think Gumbel would consider himself liberal. In fact in some interviews I've read about him, I'd say he's a very conservative dude. He's got money. He can afford to be conservative.

In this instance he had all the facts about this BSA case laid in front of him, the woman from Planned Parenthood was making sense to him and the guy from the BSA was blowing smoke up his ass. He responded naturally and rationally to the situation, and we as the audience got to hear not only both sides of the story, but also the interviewer's opnion of that story, which brings a very human taste to the proceedings.

Walter Cronkite was a respected anchorman in his day, because he presented the news very straightforward. However, there was also a warm and compassionate side to the man which shined through every now and again, warming his otherwise staunch exterior to the hearts of millions of Americans. I wouldn't call Cronkite a yellow journalist.

Granted, Gumbel's no Cronkite, but he has his own ...uhm, endearing.. personality and there are a lot of people who like him. ...I don't think I've ever met them, but still... =)

I like having a human face to the news. Maybe that IS yellow journalism, but in moderation I see nothing wrong with it. I don't think Gumbel should be fired. In fact I wish he'd show more of his, "man that guy was a fucking idiot" side of himself in front of the camera on purpose. Maybe I'd actually start tuning in again if I heard there was more of that. One of the reasons why my television is presently off is because most of what I used to see on TV was written by committee, and it's boring.

What I see on the 'Net is much more individual thoughts, and I prefer that.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:38 PM on July 6, 2000

I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you all that you are all a bunch of fucking idiots.

That and interviews are more like editorials than journalism.

Fucking idiots.
posted by rich at 12:44 PM on July 7, 2000

Once, while BG was still under contract by NBC but off the Today show, I saw a (soon-to-fail) news magazine centered around him. After interviewing some right-winger on affirmative action or whatever, I seem to remember Gumbel saying something to the effect of "It's strange that people think this way," post-interview to his co-anchor.

He likes to break with journalistic objectivity every once and awhile. It's his "thing." Why? Because he's full of himself. Not a great reason to make brash, off-the-cuff, call-em-like-you-see-em comments, mumbled or not, but I prefer people saying what I'm thinking rather than listen politely to stupidity.

Byrant has a mouth on him, and I like it. CBS does too, but can they survive him? Can he survive them?
posted by rschram at 1:44 PM on July 7, 2000

The only interviewer I watch is Charlie Rose anyway.
posted by john at 1:49 PM on July 7, 2000

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