More on the “Courage” of a Disability-Ridiculing Talk-Show Host: Michael Savage Urges Autistic Kids to “Stop Acting Like a Putz”

This is just too cool.

Professors of media, journalism or communication are almost never treated to examples of media idiocy as juicy as Michael Savage’s most recent comments on autism. Unfortunately for us, most media personalities often show just enough coherence to avoid being placed in the “stupid beyond words” category. We can only be grateful that Savage’s courageous assault on disabled children has provided us with a perfect example.

I ask you: What kind of courage and strength of conviction must it have taken for him to speak truth to power with these brilliant observations about autistic children?

I know that some people might argue that by sharing the audio of his mind-bogglingly stupid rant, I am extending his reach. I simply think that, unless you hear his words with all the bile included, you might not fully appreciate how someone with such a tenuous hold on sanity continues on the air.

“What do you mean they scream and they’re silent? They don’t have a father around to tell them, `Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, you idiot.'”

So here’s the latest:

The completely predictable free speech argument is now being raised by some of Savage’s supporters, or whatever you call someone who listens to him. This reveals a profound misunderstanding of the first amendment that is also seen all across the ideological spectrum.

So let’s get it straight: Savage certainly has the right to say anything he wants and to salivate as much as he wants. That is why I never objected to any of the right-wing boycotts proposed by sundry loony-tunes. It really was Jerry Falwell’s right to express deep and grave concern that the purple Teletubby was actually gay. The man was afraid of being hit on by a stuffed animal and we needed to know that!

But no one in a commercial system of broadcasting is entitled to a permanent, sponsored platform.

Savage: You do get to say what you want. Sponsors, though, get to decide if and when an association with you becomes more of a liability than an asset. AFLAC, as they did yesterday when they jettisoned you, gets to decide that – however large your audience – they will pay more of a price by an affiliation with you. Other sponsors get the same choice. If not enough remain to make your show profitable, you still get to express your views. But not on their dime! Or on their radio network.

This is what kills me about you supposed free-market capitalists: You love a free-market until that free market bites you in the behind. Then you weep about your rights to free speech. Or you want to be able to rob sub-prime borrowers without annoying government interference like taxes, and when you screw up miserably, you are on your pathetic hands and knees begging for a bailout.

A free market and free expression means you can rant without restriction and others can do everything possible to get you off the air. Don’t worry, Mike: If enough sponsors choose to stick with a guy like you who is gutsy enough to ridicule disabled kids, you’ll stay on the air. If not, you are welcome to walk outside and start to babble.

One last thing: You have to see the carefully worded statement on Savage’s web site. One day he is calling autistic kids “idiots” and telling them not to “act like morons” and the next he is saying that “My comments about autism were meant to boldly awaken parents and children to the medical community’s attempt to label too many children or adults as “autistic.”

What canned, hack-written, C.Y.A. nonsense.

I beg you, Savage: Spare us the official “I better be sane and backtrack so my sponsors don’t head for the door” statement. These statements are hilarious in their desperation, illustrating how idiocy and cruelty only works on trash-radio until the sponsors get antsy. Then it’s time for a quick conversion to sanity. If you are going to be astoundingly ignorant, Mike, at least do it proudly and openly.

And Mike: Your attempted last minute conversion to sanity is truly a laugh riot. Just know that we can see through to the phoniness and transparent desperation designed to save the sponsors who finally know the truth: They have been paying to reach an audience who like hearing a nut make fun of disabled kids.

We can only hope that none of the sponsors buy it.

Oh, by the way, here is a list – courtesy of Greg Reich – of some of the sponsors who advertised on Savage’s July 18th broadcast. Greg’s blog, Greg’s Take, has an excellent post on his experience raising a daughter with autism.

Digital Media Inc., U.S.A.

Nevada State Corporate Network, Inc.

Roger Schlesinger, the Mortgage Minute Guy



Home Depot


Gold Bond

FreshStart America

Heritage Foundation

Debt Consultants of America



Skewering Hypocrites and Liars With Civility: In Praise of Tim Russert



The last few days have been filled with tributes to NBC Chief Washington Correspondent  and host of Meet the Press Tim Russert.  


I have one to add.


In the fall of 2005, I left a senior administrative position in which one of my responsibilities was government and political relations. There were some years when politics was really in my blood, especially when there was an issue to be fought or a worthy project to be funded. There also were years when the trek back and forth to our state capital was excruciating. At least, because my “client” was public higher education, I always believed deeply in the inherent value of what I was selling. 


But then I lost it.  


Mostly, I became completely unable to tolerate a parallel universe in which a politician’s words and actions often simultaneously contained 1) an ostensibly noble, yet utterly phony, public rationale and 2) a more authentic, yet venal or self-serving, private rationale. I know. That’s politics. And it is a game. But enough was enough.


It was almost indescribably cathartic in those days to watch Tim Russert who – with infinite civility – would fillet those spinmeisters and phonies right down the middle. He always knew exactly what questions a guest wanted to avoid, issues on which they were vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy or excessive spinning. And he would ask them.


“Senator, why with all your public support and enthusiasm for the health care bill, were you absent on the day the vote took place? Why in two days did you make two speeches that offer completely contradictory views on the Iraq war? Why did you vote so enthusiastically and visibly for the Smith/Jones bill, yet then vote against every appropriation that would have made it a reality?”


And on and on.


No one cut to the chase with more decency.


We live in an age of salivating provocateurs, people like Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage and Lou Dobbs,  who confuse rants and smarts. Completely unaware of how ridiculous they look, they get so lost in their infantile tantrums that — for all their histrionics – they miss the chance to really cut through to the truth.  They ask incendiary questions and get incendiary answers. They create a lot of heat, generate almost no light, and — while everyone is getting hot and bothered — no one notices that the hard questions, the nuanced questions, have not even been asked. 


Russert, on the other hand, never lost his civility. Yet he still could nail a sleazeball better than any of the loonies in the media shoutocracy. He knew that skewering was best accomplished by preparation, substance and civility, by asking precisely the right questions. The slippery and the ill-informed were unmasked before a national audience without any assault on their essential dignity as human beings. 



After Tim Russert, no journalist will ever be able to persuasively argue that getting to the truth requires that another human being be demeaned or berated. When Tim Russert’s questions led to your humiliation or the end of your political career, you had no one to blame but yourself.