Hate and Hypocrisy in the Cox Empire

Let’s face it: Right-wing talk radio acquired the moniker “hate radio” for a reason. It’s full of racism, religious bigotry, paranoia, homophobia and sexism.

One would think the media would be near-unanimous in condemning the use of public–repeat: public–airwaves to broadcast speech more appropriate to a meeting of a Klan Klavern. Over at the Cox-owned Atlanta Journal-Constitution, they did express outrage at recent comments by Don Imus. But Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial writers only went ballistic when hate speech was broadcast on stations that compete with Cox’s own radio and TV outlets. The newspaper had no such criticism aimed at often more virulent racism on Cox stations.

Indeed, part of Imus’ outburst was highlighted by a racist remark about the hairdos of a women’s basketball team, and his reference to the athletes as “hos.”

Yet a year ago, Cox’s lead talk-radio host, Neal Boortz, referred to a black congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney: “She looks like a ghetto slut. It looks like an explosion in a Brillo pad factory.” Hairdo and derogatory sexual references are hardly distinguishable from the remarks that got Imus fired.

Why the media should be surprised by Don Imus’ recent megaracist outburst about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team is beyond me. Imus has been erupting with similar filth for years. The fact that so many media pundits go on his radio and television shows to hawk their books is probably one reason Imus’ racism has been given a pass.

The April 12 Journal-Constution contained an editorial denouncing Imus and calling for him to get the boot. Imus and his producer “ought to be fired,” harrumphed the editorial, penned by Maureen Downey.

The editorial chastised CBS for syndicating Imus, Atlanta station WFOM-AM for airing him and MSNBC for broadcasting his morning television program.

But, hmmm, something seemed to be missing from the editorial. Oh, yes, the fact that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s sister stations in Atlanta – ABC-affiliated WSB-TV and WSB-AM – are competitors to CBS, WFOM and MSNBC. Acknowledging that Cox has a stake in slamming its competition would be what we in this business call “journalism ethics,” something that’s apparently in short supply at the Atlanta newspaper.

But the story gets worse for Atlanta’s pathetic excuse for a daily newspaper. WSB-AM, Atlanta’s top-ranked radio station, has its own contingent of blowhard racists and hate-mongers. The syndicated Michael Savage and Atlanta-based Boortz have long records of racist rhetorical excesses, sexism, religious hatred and incitement of class warfare. Savage especially makes Imus look like an amateur in the hate department.

Cox knows this, of course. But when the Cox cash registers are ringing, forget about ethics and civil discourse, and bring on the ratings-garnering bigots. (Editorial Page Empress Cynthia Tucker and Downey did not respond to questions about their Imus commentary.)

I think it’s just dandy that Cox is calling for the ouster of broadcast personalities who spout racism. The hypocrites at Cox should first get the log out of their own eye before pointing to the mote in another broadcaster’s eye.

John Sugg is editor of Creative Loafing. He can be reached at john.sugg@creativeloafing.com