As a family values advocate who had premarital sex, faced allegations of adultery and saw nude pictures of herself published on the Internet, self-styled advice expert Dr. Laura Schlessinger has a well-documented history of hypocrisy.
But in casting herself as a victim while quitting her talk radio show this week, Schlessinger leapt past the bounds of typical talk radio phoniness into uncharted levels of self-delusion and hubris.
Even after the world criticized her decision to hurl the N-word at a black caller nearly a dozen times on her show last week, it's obvious: Dr. Laura still doesn't get it.
"I want to regain my First Amendment rights," she announced Tuesday on Larry King Live, saying she'll leave her syndicated radio show when her contract ends at the year's end, but continue book writing, blogging and appearing on YouTube. "I want to be able to say what's on my mind … without somebody getting angry, some special-interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors."
Hold on, Dr. Laura. The First Amendment doesn't guarantee speech without consequence, just speech without undue government intervention. Indeed, protesters' work persuading advertisers to abandon shows with questionable content may be the height of democracy; using the free market to register public protest in ways conservatives have practiced for decades.
In truth, Schlessinger's tirade was Exhibit A in a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of prejudice. Last week, presented with a black woman dismayed by the way her white husband's friends used the N-word in her presence, Schlessinger accused her of being overly sensitive before the caller had finished more than a sentence or two.
Transfer that attitude to ideas about her caller's intellectual ability, child-rearing skills or ability to hold a job, and you have the root of the worst prejudice this nation has endured. Too bad Schlessinger was too busy feeling persecuted to learn the right lesson.
Indeed, she may have gotten off easy. Three years ago, when shock jock Don Imus called a women's basketball team "nappy-headed hoes," he got fired from both MSNBC and CBS Radio within eight days. Schlessinger's voluntary departure feels like a decision she'd already been considering, too abrupt and far-reaching — especially for a woman who owns her own radio show reportedly reaching 8 million people — to be wholly inspired by this controversy.
Now, after so many years advising callers to take responsibility for their lives, it is curious to hear Schlessinger accept none for herself. And 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 a press conference with the nation's TV critics amid controversy over calling homosexuality a "biological error." She even abruptly canceled an interview on Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28, alleging the anchors insulted her before the segment started.
So it is small surprise that Schlessinger is jumping to a smaller corner of the media world, where fans will likely echo her prejudices, she can rake in the speaking fees and worries about facts, or hypocrisy can be ignored without consequence.
But no matter how much she points fingers elsewhere, it should be clear: Schlessinger's biggest victimizer stares back at her from the mirror, every day.