The Difference Between the Martin Bashir and Phil Robertson Cases

Bashir violently referred to an actual specific person


Some liberals are calling conservatives hypocrites for advocating the firing of Martin Bashir while denouncing the suspension of Phil Robertson on Duck Dynasty.

Personally I never called for the firing of Martin Bashir. There's no real point in firing cretins from a cretin network. They'll just be replaced by more cretins. And it's more useful to let the cretins discredit themselves and keep their jobs. Bashir embarrassing his equally radical employers was better than becoming a scapegoat to some imaginary standard of journalism that does not exist at MSNBC.

However, it was quite legitimate to call for firing Martin Bashir because...

1. Bashir referred to an actual specific person. He wasn't saying that conservatives in general should have X done to them. He used a specific woman, who has already been the subject of numerous death threats since she had the temerity to be part of a political campaign running against the greatest man in history.

Robertson was discussing homosexuality in general. Not specific individuals.

2. Bashir's rant had a violent edge. He was discussing a violent act being inflicted on a woman to teach her what real slavery is. Robertson did not remotely make anything involving a threat or any remote suggestion of violence. He was discussing why he believed homosexuality was wrong.

3. Bashir made his statements on MSNBC. Phil Robertson made his in a magazine. At the time he was doing publicity for Duck Dynasty and there was apparently an A&E handler with him, (which raises the question of whether A&E wanted this whole thing to happen), but he wasn't appearing in an A&E owned forum.

4. Finally, the obvious, Phil Robertson doesn't claim to be a journalist. He's not expected to abide by any professional journalistic standards. Bashir is.

MSNBC wants to be considered a news network. Which means it is legitimately expected that its personalities should abide by some distant echo of appropriate standards. Considering that it employs the likes of Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz, that's a lost cause, but at the least its personalities should avoid proposing the sort of thing that Bashir proposed.

A&E is not a news network. There is no reason to expect that reality television stars should be bound by any professional codes of conduct. It's just the opposite.

Suspending a reality show star for offending people is like suspending a baseball player for hitting a home run. It's his job.

Free speech obviously does not apply to the whims of corporate owners. But popular pressure is legitimate. And it goes both ways. Both to defending people who say controversial things on the air and to calling for them to be fired.

The unfortunate reality with cable is that if you subscribe, you are funding MSNBC through carriage fees even if you never tune in. All cable subscribers are to some degree funding MSNBC and A&E and have the right to offer their opinion on how their money is being used even if they don't watch them.