The Media Shrugs, Again

Friday, February 14, 2014


Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine was recently working a crowd of seniors in his Oklahoma district and complaining about President Obama, when a constituent raised her hand and called the president an "enemy combatant" who should be "executed." Congressman Bridenstine responded not by objecting to her statement, but rather by stoking the flames with his own angry anti-Obama rant. A video of the event was posted online, but triggered little attention. Bob ponders the ubiquity of vile, ignorant, and just plain crackpot speech among elected officials, and the extent to which the public, and the media, fail to care. 

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [19]


Well, big Bob Garfield, when you go on a rant about liberal moronicisms, such as Rep. Hank Johnson's concern about the island of Guam capsizing if too many American military members are on it, then maybe your one-sided tirade against conservatives will be worth entertaining.

Feb. 21 2014 04:20 AM
jan freed from los angeles

I don't care what party you belong too, hate speech automatically invalidates anything else you have to say.

"Man standin' next to me, his head was exploding; I was prayin' the pieces wouldn't fall over me". Dylan

And, any candidate, of any party, who permits or encourages such speech is not to be trusted, no matter how many times he uses the word, "democracy" or "freedom".

At what point does it become sedition? Let's try a few of these maniacs so the judges can delineate the red line.

Feb. 19 2014 07:00 PM
Mark Richard

To Marty, the Mencken quote had to do with 'the intelligence' of the Amerian public, not 'the taste' of the American public. Unintentionally ironic? BTW, Mencken also hated Pres. Roosevelt and kept his opinion that Americans were 'boobs' for supporting him. Mencken didn't care much for democracy.

Feb. 19 2014 12:39 PM

I wish I could say I was surprised by the reaction this piece got as much as I was by the piece itself. Unfortunately, I cannot. I think what everyone misses about the point of this piece is that it is about the manner in which the media has become desensitized to rhetoric that does not just question the actions of the government, but actively supports their assault (in the case of Congressman Bridenstine), overthrow (in the case of Rand Paul) or case for conspiracy (Ron Paul).

The only equivalency being drawn is between the media's complete apathy to these statements, not to the inherent morality of the statements themselves.

So many have fallen in to the false equivalency fallacy. Providing a Democratic and Republican example of hate speech does not make it a balanced piece. It just provides two examples. The point of the piece is not the speech, but the lack of reaction to it.

Feb. 17 2014 12:58 PM
Patrick from America

Well, it looks like a right-wing outlet told people to jump all over you, Bob, judging by the last run of fake outrage against you denouncing the idea that instigating an armed insurrection is a legitimate response to moderate legislation legally passed. Are there some radicals who called for Bush to be killed, attacked, etc.? Sure. Are any of them ELECTED DEMOCRATS? HELL NO. THAT is the difference here. The 12 actual left-wing radicals left in this country have ZERO influence over the Democratic party and not ONE of them holds office. Meanwhile there are 80+ self-proclaimed elected Tea Party Congresspeople in the GOP. There is ZERO comparison - not one elected Democrat has ever said or tolerated anything about Bush remotely approaching the garbage this worldbeater Bridenstine aided and abetted. The problem with our politics is that half of the GOP has zero idea how the world actually works (NOT unbridled capitalism, but carefully regulated capitalism), and just hates their fellow Americans far more even than they care about their kids' future. Until that craziness departs, we as a nation are behind the eight ball.

Feb. 16 2014 11:47 PM

Just read the other comments posted here and don't feel I can add more other than to state how shockingly one-sided the story was. It was not a story executed in manner promoting "high discourse;" it was a lazy piece in that it failed to consider that the issue across ideological lines. When debate breaks down and degenerates into thoughtless, worthless, comment it does not contribute to public discourse - but the same can be said of poor reporting. You must do better.

Feb. 16 2014 11:26 PM

Came straight in from the car and created an account just so that I could leave this comment. Somehow I doubt the person who voiced this piece will ever read or heed this, let alone the person who actually wrote it, but...

This diatribe about the unpunished rhetoric of political figures was the most smug, arrogant, and holier-than-thou piece of "news" or "analysis" I have ever heard on public radio. The language of the piece was no less objectionable than that of the recorded clips, and the blatant partisanship shown in the choice of targets would be more appropriate on a bottom-feeding pundit's blog than a respectable news station. Bob Garfield lamented the lack of consequences for stupid and bigoted statements made by public figures. Well, I can't do much to punish HIS stupidity and bigotry, but I will certainly never listen to another word from his mouth again. Shameful - you have disgraced the mission of an organization that typically strives to be highbrow and impartial.

Feb. 16 2014 09:37 PM

At best this editorial is ignorant, at worst stupid. What about the book describing how to kill President Bush? What about the savaging of blacks who espouse conservative values, such as Dr Carson? Remember the idiotic "ventriloquist dummy" comment? What about the attacks on Sarah Palin's special needs child. It is fine for extreme progressives to savage conservatives, but if conservatives say anything the least bit pejorative about liberals, the far left press comes screaming. This is why one can only listen to NPR for a few weeks before a detox session. RIDICULOUS!

Feb. 16 2014 08:28 PM
Billy Fagan from Huntsville, Al

Mr. Bob,
Did I miss the part where you included a democrat saying a republican should have someone defecate in their mouth or another democrat making fun of a white republican for having a black grandson? And did I miss the part where you included democrats of high positions repeating lies about laws that adversely affect millions of citizens?
Please state both sides of vile and inappropriate comments.
Thank you.

Feb. 16 2014 07:56 PM

WOW Bob, really? Just listened to your diatribe on all the bad things these conservatives say and that they aren't castigated for it. While I couldn't agree more, you made it out to be some new thing that had never happened before. Really? Just to name a rather extreme example, it seems like the Red Scares were much worse and most in the media shrugged during those too, especially at the beginnings. And those were MUCH worse because it was truly powerful people literally destroying peoples' lives. While what this very stupid Congressmen didn't do when one of his bat-sh#t crazy constituents said something traitorous is terrible, who is that guy and what power does he have? He ain't no Joe McCarthy! And then you used the Pauls -- who have never and will never get more than 10-20% of GOP votes in their own primaries -- and Rush Limbaugh as your evidence for this new trend. (P.s. Really? Repeated Rush's b.s. that he speaks to the "silent majority" although, as we know, Jon Stewart can claim that much more seriously than Rush does!). Come on Bob, you're my boy but chill out with the Chicken Little stuff dude, it ain't becoming of intelligent folks! (And if you were wondering, yes, I am talking this way because I love how guffawed you get over modern lingo on Lexicon Valley, which I love by the way!).

Peace out,

Feb. 16 2014 03:36 PM
Christopher from NYC

There really needs to be a "truth" code of ethic in politics and in media, just as is supposed to be in advertising. Fox News shouldn't be allowed to call itself "news", but maybe "Fox Opinion". Politicians, elected officials, public servants (potential or incumbent) should face criminal charges when lying to the public. This is out of control, and creating a sub-species of ignorants, seemingly dangerously close to about half the U.S. population.

Feb. 16 2014 01:08 PM
Idlewild from Brooklyn, NY

I don't know if Ron Paul used the border fence as an allegory or a real situation.However, it's interesting to note that when a high-profile FB executive announced he was moving to Singapore, so as to escape high US tax rates, Sen. Schumer and a few other politicos wanted (and still want) a law passed fining American citizens for wanting to renounce their citizenship for the sake escaping high tax rates.

As much as I disagree with Ron Paul's cures for what ails this country (I am a die-hard Pres. supporter), I think he has it right on this one. His commentary doesn't belong in your story.

Feb. 16 2014 12:16 PM
Frederick Saxe from Chicago

Representative Bridenstine's voice sounds a little off to me. Just makes me wonder what skeletons he is in denial of.

Feb. 16 2014 12:08 PM
Lev Tsitrin from Brooklyn NY

One item attracted my attention in the long list of Mr. Garfield's fulminations against conservatives -- that Newt Gingrich called for the arrest of the federal judges.

I don't know Mr. Gingrich's rationale, but Mr. Garfield is clearly unaware of how federal judiciary works -- judges gave themselves the right to be "corrupt and malicious," and to become parties tot he case they are adjudicating by substituting parties' argument with judges' imaginings of what that argument ought to have been. Judicial impartiality is a myth, and federal judges are self-acknowledged fraudsters (for substantive elaboration, check site of Coalition Against Judicial Fraud,

Mainstream media, of course, is mum on the subject, given that it turned from muckrakers to poodles of powers-that-be. So kudos to Mr. Gingrich, a muckraker, and shame on Mr. Garfield, claiming to be a journalist with a critical mind, yet acting as a mere poodle.

Feb. 16 2014 10:49 AM
Jenny from Asheville, NC

Thank you for a great broadcast.
I am glad you cover the stories that other media outlets ignore.

Feb. 15 2014 03:10 PM

In general what you two whiners are bringing up is mostly the media outlets doing stuff to get attention. I don't condone anyone saying primarily dumb, irresponsible nonsense just to "stir the pot." However, that OK congressman is more upset over getting caught catering to his racist, elderly constituency. Grayson, you have a poor memory when it comes to the Pauls' racist pasts.

Feb. 15 2014 02:27 PM

I think I get it. Bob Garfield would like the mainstream media to be more aggressive in policing right-wing speech. Every single example he cited, was from the right. Every. Single. One.

So I Googled "Democrat Party hate speech" and came across this wonderful little compilation from a website that I know nothing about. Links are mostly all valid, citing original sources:

I especially liked the references to the unhinged hate speech on the public radio program of Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. And Nina Totenberg on Washington public television talking about Republicans wanting to take a knife to Hillary Clinton's throat. Sometime-OTM guest (and left-wing writer) Matt Yglesias cheering the death of Andrew Breitbart. And the several(!) links to various journalism professors (worth a story all by itself) instructing students that white males are a "cancer" on the world. Oh, and the innumerable carefully personalized threats against the families and children of Michigan governor Rick Snyder and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Or the left-wing radio host Mike Malloy calling for "Teabaggers" to be beheaded. Or the unbelievable (no, wait, it's believable) hate speech of standup- er, MSNBC host Al Sharpton. Or Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) suggesting that the 2010 class of House Republicans came to Washington to "kill women." Does anybody remember any media coverage of any of those stories?

What Rich irony to hear Bob Garfield cite the example of Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a "slut." Because that controversy was not only NOT ignored, it created the predictable national media firestorm, for what seemed like weeks. Naturally, there was a meta-media response from the right, which was mostly ignored by the national media. That is, that MSNBC host Ed Schultz had PREVIOUSLY called Laura Ingraham a "slut" and Barbara Walters laughed about it. (Laura did, too, I'm sure. Sandra Fluke, for her part, decided to explore a run for Congress based on the publicity.)

Feb. 15 2014 10:38 AM
Grayson Sanborn from Detroit

Dear "On the Media" staff,

While listening to the show today (2/15/14) I heard this short piece. While I can generally trust NPR programming to be unbiased and not skew basic facts into gross misrepresentations, I heard, and was duly offended by the lack of response by Congressman Bridenstine to the assertion that President Obama should be executed. I agreed with the chastisement Mr. Garfield leveled at him for not correcting her. What happened next shocked me. The comparison of Dr Ron Paul's statement that a Federally funded fence along the American-Mexican border could potentially be misused against the American people by an overzealous government was compared to the aforementioned hate speech. Ironically, the very next piece on the show was about how the TSA and NSA had abused their powers. I find this comparison irresponsible and lacking in basic logic. Where in Dr Paul's statement is the audacity and the wanton disregard for law or basic human dignity that was shown by Bridenstine? Comparing these statements as equally offensive, furthers the disgraceful climate that asking about or disagreeing with current Federal policy is the same as being complicit with a murderous statement. Shame on you for your direct pandering to a message that we as American citizens should be offended by questioning the current policy. As I mentioned earlier, you need look no further than the very next piece on your show to see how Dr. Ron Paul could very easily be correct.

Grayson Sanborn,

Feb. 15 2014 07:51 AM
marty siegrist from Michigan

Excellent commentary. Maybe it boils down to H.L. Mencken's frequently-quoted observation to the effect that no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Feb. 15 2014 07:45 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.