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Rush Limbaugh's claim that it's acceptable for him to say "nigga" -- with the "a" at the end -- because some African-Americans have used that derivation of the racial slur drew strong criticism from several black journalists and commentators who called him "harsh" and a "bully."
"I just think this is not good," said Juan Williams, a regular Fox News commentator. "Obviously I think this whole level of conversation is pretty base and divisive. It's so harsh."
Gregory Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said Limbaugh should know better.
"We don't use any other offensive words on the air, why is this okay?" said Lee, who is also South Florida Sun-Sentinel executive sports editor. "As a professional broadcaster, he should have a deeper understanding of why. He knows why, but he knows this will help pump money into his empire by saying things of this sort."
At issue is a comment Limbaugh made on his syndicated radio show July 16th, in which he reacted to a CNN interview with Rachel Jenteal, a friend of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and witness in the murder trial of George Zimmerman. Jenteal had testified at the trial about her phone conversation with Martin the night he was shot and killed by Zimmerman.
In the CNN interview, Jenteal was asked if there was anything she wished she had said at the trial, she answered that she wished she had said, "nigga" in her court testimony.
After he played an audio clip of the CNN interview Limbaugh stated:
This was between 9 and 10 pm last night on CNN, who is in a quest to become the, again, most respected news organization in the country, perhaps even in the world. So, "nigga," with an "a" on the end, well I think I can now. Isn't that the point? 'Cause it's not racist. That's the point. I could be talking about a male, a Chinese male, a guy at the Laundromat. I could be talking about a man. That's what she said it means.
Jenteal herself weighed in on Limbaugh's views today on Huffington Post Live, saying she thought his comments sounded racist.
Chicago Tribune editorial writer and syndicated columnist Clarence Page said Limbaugh used the word simply to provoke a reaction.
"This is just Rush playing his usual classroom bully role, trying to be provocative for the case of being provocative," Page said. "He is feeding the lame brains out there who just want to get mad at somebody."
Page added, "Racial etiquette is like any other etiquette, there is a proper time and proper people to use certain language with and other times there is not. The N-word is like any other obscenity, you use one kind of language around a bunch of sailors smoking and drinking, you don't use it in church. What makes it provocative is that there is hardly a word in the English language that is more provocative than the N-word."
Eric Deggans, media writer for the Tampa Bay Times and a frequent CNN commentator, said Limbaugh's claim is nothing new.
"It's an old conservative argument, black people use the N-word so we can use the N-word, I think that is nonsense," Deggans said. "Why do you even feel the need to want to use the word? There's plenty of black people who disapprove of the use of the N-word in any shape or form. Some conservatives say, 'well, black people don't say anything when black people use the N word,' and that is totally wrong."
Deggans later noted, "The thing to me about Limbaugh is that he has gone from being somebody who has highlighted the hypocrisies of liberals in a funny way to becoming a punitive person, a person who is a scold, who gets on the radio and this whole thing about the N-word, there is nothing funny about it or entertaining about it, it is just awfulness and harshness."
Roland Martin, the former CNN commentator and veteran media voice, agreed.
"I have always made it clear that I do not believe that the N-word should be used," Martin said in a phone interview. "It is a word, a hateful word that has been used against black folks for a long time." He said that debating it makes no sense: "When was the last time you saw Jews in this country having a debate, 'hmmm should we use the K-word?' or Hispanics debating, 'should we use the W-word?"
Hard-Right Ideology, Lack Of Experience Drives Reporters' Fear Of Koch Takeover
New reports that the politically conservative Koch brothers are interested in buying the Tribune Company's eight regional newspapers -- which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune -- are sparking concerns from newspaper staff members that attempts to influence the editorial process in favor of their far-right political views may follow.
Among those concerned is Clarence Page, a top Chicago Tribune columnist, who said he would oppose a takeover of the paper by David and Charles Koch because of "the fact that they seem to be coming in upfront with the idea of using a major news media as a vehicle for their political voice."
In addition to the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, the Kochs are reportedly seeking to buy The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), and the Daily Press (Hampton Roads, VA).
The Kochs are major funders of the American conservative movement, funneling tens of millions of dollars every year to build a right-wing infrastructure geared toward reducing the size and impact of government. As the Times detailed, at a 2010 convention of like-minded political donors, the Kochs "laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes." Part of the stratgy called for investing in the media.
And that has staffers at Tribune Company newspapers -- several of whom requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs -- nervous about the possibility that a Koch takeover could bring with it an ideological focus on the news that risks turning the papers into what one reporter calls a "conservative mouthpiece."
According to those staffers, such concerns are rampant at the papers. "Nobody I know in the newsroom would find it a happy event to have the Koch brothers owning the paper," said one longtime Chicago Tribune staffer, who suggested that the purpose of the takeover is so that the brothers can use the publications to "promulgate their political views."
"I haven't heard anyone here who has welcomed the idea of the Koch brothers... the Koch brothers, that scares people," added an LA Times scribe.
"I think we all have concerns when you think an owner might try to influence editorial content," explained Angela Kuhl, Newspaper Guild unit chair at The Baltimore Sun. "That is sort of contrary to what the newspapering business should be about, free press. You don't necessarily want owners and publishers dictating content."
It's the Kochs' explicit call for investing in the media to achieve their political end that has Kuhl worried. "I read the story that said they have a three-pronged approach to how to move the country in the way they think it should head, and one is to influence the media."
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Since initial reporting that President-elect Barack Obama was considering naming Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, many in the media have raised the specter of personal and political "drama" -- which they claim follows Hillary and Bill Clinton wherever they go -- negatively affecting the Obama administration. The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page acknowledged that the media are hoping for "drama" resulting from a Clinton appointment; Page responded to the question of how Obama is "going to keep the drama at bay" by saying: "Well, do we want that? We're journalists."
Chicago Tribune editorial board member and syndicated columnist Clarence Page wrote that John McCain "shifted his emphasis on immigration reform to border protection after his earlier emphasis on providing a path to citizenship for illegal workers failed to get through Congress. In other words, he was not flip-flopping on his core beliefs, but he was willing to listen to critics." However, McCain's current stance on immigration represents a reversal of his prior position -- not simply a "shift in emphasis": McCain had previously argued that border security could not be disaggregated from other provisions in legislation on comprehensive immigration reform.