In an interview this evening on CNN's Larry King Live, Dr. Laura Schlessinger announced that when her radio contract expires at the end of the year, she will not seek to renew it. Schlessinger said that she was ending her show in order to "regain my First Amendment rights." According to Schlessinger, in the wake of her racial screed last week, highlighted by Media Matters, "my First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups."
Schlessinger was fifth on TALKERS magazine's 2010 list of "most important radio talk show hosts in America," behind only Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage. According to Schlessinger's website, more than 200 affiliate stations broadcast her syndicated show. During her CNN appearance, Schlessinger stated, "I'm number three in most listened to talk show hosts in America."
On August 10, Schlessinger launched into a racially charged rant, during which Schlessinger -- in her own words -- "articulated the 'n' word all the way out -- more than one time." Schlessinger also told an African-American caller that she had a "chip on [her] shoulder," and suggested that "If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race." The next day, Schlessinger apologized.
On August 12, Media Matters posted full audio and transcript of Schlessinger's rant, which had apparently been expunged from her website. We also documented her history of incendiary remarks. Schlessinger became the subject of a firestorm of media coverage. She responded by slamming the media that "rebroadcast" her rant.
On August 16, Media Matters released a joint statement with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Women's Media Center, and UNITY Journalists of Color, condemning Schlessingers comments and stating that "This week, we will hold these advertisers accountable and find out exactly where they stand." Today, Motel 6 announced that in the wake of her comments, it would be severing its relationship with the radio host.
At the top of her interview with King, Schlessinger said of her rant that she "was trying to make a point to help" the African-American caller with "her hypersensitivity." She added that she was "trying to make a philosophical point," but that she was "wrong."
Schlessinger then announced:
I'm here to say that my contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year, and I've made the decision not to do radio anymore. The reason is, I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart, and what I think is helpful and useful, without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates and attack sponsors. I'm sort of done with that. I'm not retiring. I'm not quitting. I feel energized, actually -- stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country.
Asked how her freedom of speech was being denied by criticism of her comments, Schlessinger explained that "I don't have the right to say what I need to say. My First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don't want to debate, they want to eliminate. So, that's why I decided it was time to move on to other venues where I could say my piece and not have to live in fear anymore that sponsors and their families are going to be upset, radio stations are going to be upset, my peeps, as I call them, are going to be upset."
Schlessinger went on to criticize Media Matters directly. After King referenced "this group that was after you, Media Matters," Schlessinger said, "well, that's their job in life." She also said that a list of advertisers contacted by Media Matters who distanced themselves from Schlessinger due to her comments "proves my point." She also called Media Matters a "special interest group" that "decide[d] I should be silenced because they disagree with my point of view."