Jury foreman in Bubba/MJ case says verdict was about free speech, but she "hated" trial
As controversy swirled and media coverage exploded following the court verdict this week that shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem did not defame rival radio star Todd "MJ" Schnitt, jury forewoman Kristy Craig feared a lesson was being lost.
So she typed up an email to the Tampa Bay Times, eventually agreeing to become the first juror from the trial to speak on the record, stressing that a verdict for Clem did not equal an endorsement of the material on his show.
"I hated this case," wrote Craig, 36, of Tampa. " 'Hate' is not a word used often in my vocabulary, but I hated it. I hate the word 'whore.' I did not count (though, sitting through over 60 hours of testimony, I had plenty of time to), but I assume I heard the word 'whore' upwards of a hundred times. As a woman, I hate what it implies."
Her email continued: "(But) I love that I can hate the antics of Bubba the Love Sponge. I love that he can say all that sexist, worthless drivel to 400,000 radio listeners every day. I love that I can change the station."
And more: "“I love that I can wake up tomorrow and tell my students how lucky they are to live in a country where we can hate and love at the same time. I love that they can choose love. They can choose to be kind. They can choose to have class. And they can choose to love those who don’t, while hating what they do. Living with the power to choose is a sacred, powerful thing. I am grateful for it."
For Craig, the two-week trial's verdict was centered on upholding the First Amendment, giving Clem the freedom to say some pretty awful things about his radio rival and his rival's wife. And anyone who objects can change the station.
But she was most disturbed by the material aired on both Schnitt's and Clem's shows that was presented to the jury, concerned that some might view the court verdict as a validation of the content on one program over another.
"I'm not a fan, to be honest, of either party," she said in a telephone interview. "Upholding the First Amendment doesn't mean we support Bubba the Love Sponge or his opinions in his show. For me, as a woman, it was important to make that clear."
Schnitt filed his lawsuit against Clem back in 2008, saying his rival made "false, highly offensive and defamatory statements" about him and his wife, Michelle, as competition heated up between the two on morning radio.
During the trial, Schnitt testified that fans of Clem's show, known as the Bubba Army, confronted him in public and raised fears for his safety. He also criticized Clem for calling his wife a whore, leading Clem's attorneys to play audio of Schnitt using similar terms about her on his radio show.
Craig said such material was an important turning point for her.
"Two were playing that game," she said. "That, for me, sealed the deal."
Reminded thatan alternate juror said Schnitt should "put on his big-girl panties" and accept that criticism comes with his job, Craig offered her own version:
"I think they both need to put their big-boy pants on and find something valuable to talk about," she said. "However, we live in a country where you’re free to say what you want, and you’re free to sue people for it. And you’re free to get a jury of your peers to place judgment on it. I can’t complain about that while enjoying what being an American offers.”
Later, she noted, "Nobody wants to sit around and listen to two men call each other names. I work with 12-year-olds; I do that with them and try to teach them better."
And Craig had a final conclusion, written as the last line in her email to the Times:
"I love that I have some awesome CDs in my car. I am never listening to the radio again."