Shut Yo Mouth!; Tony Kornheiser Suspended from ESPN
The world is officially 100% wussified. ESPN suspended radio and TV host Tony Kornheiser today for comments he made about ESPN stable-mate Hannah Storm’s choice of clothing.
According to Diane Pucin of the LA Times, these are the offending remarks that caused Kornheiser’s suspension:
“On his Washington D.C.-based radio show last Friday, Kornheiser described Storm’s outfit as “horrifying.” He called her shirt “very, very tight” and suggested her skirt, a “Catholic school plaid skirt” was, as Kornheiser said, “way too short for somebody her age.” That age, Kornheiser said, was upper 40s or maybe past 50. The horror! Storm is 47, by the way.”
Kornheiser followed with:
“She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body. I know she’s very good and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people so I won’t. But Hannah Storm? Come on now. Stop. What are you doing?”
Kornheiser’s remarks are clearly out of taste, but they fall far short of the headline grabbing rantings of d-bags like Rush Limbaugh and Don Imus that usually ruffle our increasingly sensitive feathers. The fact is, Kornheiser is a radio guy who is paid to jabber away endlessly and spew hackneyed jokes until he punches out at the end of the day.
Naturally, when one spends eight hours a day fastidiously babbling about sports, that individual is going to make some bad jokes. The hope is that the offending party does not put a foot so far into his/her own mouth that sponsors start to bail. Kornheiser might have tasted some toe, but he did not go knee deep.
It is fair to say this was just a bad joke on Kornheiser’s part. Certainly a seasoned pro like Storm has thick enough skin to shake off an ill-advised remark about her appearance from a radio personality so homely he wouldn’t get an amorous look from her if they were the last two people on Earth and hanging from the ceiling of Senor Frogs-Cabo in a drunken stupor.
It is a sad state of affairs when a man who is paid to be funny gets in trouble for such a relatively innocuous remark. Yes, it was stupid. It was mean. But it simply shouldn’t have been actionable. And suspending guys like Kornheiser every time they make a bad joke is just going to lead to boring programming going forward. How much “Mike and Mike” can the world take?
For her part, Pucin disagrees, and SportsChat would like to respectfully deconstruct her argument:
Pucin says that Kornheiser should be punished because nobody would get away with saying something similar in his workplace:
“But how many of us, in our work place, could get away with publicly calling out our co-workers’ appearance? Think about it. What if Judy in accounting said that Joe in human resources needed to lose the form-fitting shirt that accentuated his overly-prominent breast area? What if John in the mail room suggested Joan the receptionist needed to quit wearing the tube top because, well, she was too old for it. Hey, it might all be true. But you just can’t say it for public consumption, not if the public is only the 20 people in the cubicles down the row and certainly not if the public are thousands of listeners (are we overly optimistic about how many people listen to Kornheiser’s radio show? Maybe).”
SportsChat does not know how they do it at the LA Times, but in the real world people get away with calling out their co-workers appearance all the time. But for the sake of argument, lets say Judy in accounting said that Joe in human resources needed to lose the form-fitting shirt that accentuated his overly-prominent breast area.
Most likely, she would make a few people around her laugh, and that would be the end of it. If somebody did squeal to Joe, chances are he would just let it go unless he decided to thrust the full weight of his man-breasts and HR resources into avenging this grievous insult because his mommy did not teach him that names will never hurt him.
If he was smart, Joe would also maybe take the hint, buy some new clothes and do some push-ups. It’s a cold world sometimes.
It goes without saying that if he took the complaint to his boss, he would likely hear something close to, “Joe, we are dealing with the worst economy in 80 years, and I am buried in work just trying to break even. I am sorry Judy made fun of your teets, but is there any chance you and her could hash this out like big boys and girls? I’m too busy making sure you get to do things like eat, pay your bills and send your disproportionately chesty son to college. Don’t hit the door with your distractingly large pectorals on the way out!”
More importantly, people need to get over the whole “what if you did that in the work place” argument when comparing themselves to entertainers. It is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.
Marilyn Manson can be lowered into his “workplace” in a garbage can suspended from the rafters while flames shoot out of his butt and the word “Cocaine” is illuminated in 100 foot letters, but if SportsChat tried to pull that every time he entered an editorial meeting, he would be SportsChat no more.
Similarly, Bar Refaeli can show up for work at Sports Illustrated in a thong bikini and not expect to get any recriminations from above. SportsChat is guessing that if Pucin tried the same thing at LA Times HQ, there would be some whispers.
And lets not get into what would happen if you tried to pull some locker room butt-slapping at the workplace.
Not all “workplaces” were created equally. Get over it, and stop trying to pretend otherwise.
Unfortunately, the truth is ESPN suspended Kornheiser purely out of hypocrisy. And Pucin allowed them to make her an accomplice.
This is the statement released by ESPN:
“Tony Kornheiser’s comments about Hannah Storm were entirely inappropriate. Hurtful and personal comments such as these are not acceptable and have significant consequences. Tony has been suspended from PTI for two weeks. Hannah is a respected colleague who has been an integral part of the success of our morning SportsCenter.”
But we all know Kornheiser was not suspended because ESPN truly cares about any of those things. He was suspended because he attacked another ESPN employee. Pucin admits as much:
“Really, though, here’s what ESPN is doing. It is saying that it can’t stop the outside world from ripping its on-air talent. But it’s really not happy when its on-air talent rips other on-air talent. Not a lot different from any business.”
If that is what ESPN is doing, they should just come out and say it. They should not hide behind a veneer of outrage which can only make it harder for humorists to operate going forward.
Essentially, Pucin’s argument is that Kornheiser should be disciplined because that is what would happen at “any business.”
David Letterman has made fun of the executives and programming at CBS for decades now. It is not rare for him to make fun of personalities and actors who appear on other CBS programming. Yet he isn’t fired or disciplined even though SportsChat is pretty sure CBS is a business. And you know why that is?
Because he is JUST JOKING. Jokes! Does America still get jokes? It’s what Letterman is paid to do. And to a lesser extent, so is Kornheiser.
Pucin closes with this nugget:
“What Kornheiser won’t be doing is his mighty popular ESPN talk show. But he’s still got radio. One might say Tony has a face for radio. But that just wouldn’t be right.”
Kornheiser may have made a bad joke, but at least he didn’t close with one that is 200 years old. And isn’t it slightly hypocritical to end a post judging Kornheiser for his bad joke with a similar crack at his appearance?
Or is that just wrong if you work at the same publication?
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