Even as she leaves her radio show in disgrace, Dr. Laura still doesn't get it
Even after slinging the n-word nearly a dozen times at a black caller, an avalanche of condemnation and a decision to finally spare listeners her tone-deaf advice by leaving the syndicated radio game at year's end, Dr. Laura still doesn't get it.
Announcing her intention not to renew her contract after this year on Larry King Live Tuesday, Dr. Laura Schlessinger made herself out to be the victim. "I want to regain my First Amendment rights," she told King. "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, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that."
After so many years advising callers to take responsibility for their lives, it is curious to hear Schlessinger accept none for herself now. The First Amendment prevents government from limiting free speech; it does not not guarantee speech without consequence. And for Schlessinger, the consequence of releasing such ugly racial rhetoric on the radio has been a heartening deluge of criticism and advertisers reconsidering their sponsorships. (I wrote a column eight years ago about how negative reaction to Schlessinger's prejudice was not censorship.)
In truth, Dr. Laura was Exhibit A in a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of prejudice. She had decided what her black caller's problem was, before the woman had even opened her mouth, based largely on her skin color. Transfer that attitude to ideas about her intellectual ability, childrearing skills or ability to hold a job, and you have the root of the worst prejudice this nation has endured.
The biggest tragedy here: Schlessinger is too busy feeling persecuted to learn the right lesson.
Indeed, I was struck by how differently Schlessinger was treated than shock jock Don Imus, whose decision to call Rutgers University's women basketball team "nappy headed hoes" three years ago got him fired from both MSNBC and CBS Radio within about a week. Schlessinger's departure may not have been voluntary -- the situation reeks of a "quit or be fired" scenario -- but at least she was allowed to pretend the departure was her own decision.
Now Schlessinger insists that she is the victim; that those pointing out her own prejudice are "NAACP-ing" her. It'sa a disturbing glimpse into a bizarro world where racism is rationalized and those who aren't willing to tolerate her backward ideas are the ones with a problem.
This isn't the first time she's ducked criticism by ducking out. Eight years ago, when she tried to host a syndicated TV show, Schlessinger canceled an appearance at the TV Critics Association's summer press tour over controversies about her past stance on gay people -- she once called homosexuality a mistake and advocated against gay people adoptiing children, repeating a long-discredited stereotype that homosexuals were more likely to be child molesters.
Known for her sharp responses to wayward callers, Schlessinger even abruptly cancelled an interview on Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28, alleging the anchors talked badly about her show before the segment started.
So it is small surprise that Schlessinger would step away from her radio show before the full consequences of her actions emerged. No matter how much she points fingers elsewhere, it seems obvious Schlessinger's biggest victimizer is staring back at her from ther mirror.