In the wake of the tsunami of criticism directed at CNN talk show host Piers Morgan for his anti-gun rantings, particularly during his interview with Gun Owners of America president Larry Pratt, Slate posted a Quora response to the question, “Should CNN Fire Piers Morgan?” from internet entrepreneur Mark Rogowski, who begins his answer (summary: “no”) with the rejoinder, “For what? For having an opinion?”
No, Morgan should be fired for allowing his opinion to lure him into thoroughly rude, unprofessional, abusive and inappropriate interview practices, which a major news network like CNN shouldn’t permit, endorse, tolerate or risk recurring. That’s why.
CNN can’t trust Morgan not to disgrace CNN, because when presented with a position he doesn’t like but also doesn’t have the wit or facts at his disposal to challenge, his interview technique is likely to devolve into insults and name-calling, as his session with Pratt did.
“…If he should be fired, it’s because CNN could make more money in his time slot doing something else, not because he called some guy stupid,” Rogowski argues, making it clear that he also thinks Pratt is stupid, so Morgan’s incivility and abuse practices are okey-dokey. Whether or not Pratt is stupid isn’t the issue. I think Michele Bachman is stupid. I think Joe Biden is stupid. But if I’m the host of a news interview program, I have to be civil and fair to them, and if I set out to show they are stupid, I better be able to do it professionally and not in the manner of a playground bully, which is what Morgan did to Pratt. Does Rogowski not believe that a material deficit in professional standards is sufficient cause to fire a high-profile employee in any industry? Apparently so.
Yet CNN can’t fire Morgan now, even though it should. The reason is the same reason that Slate published Rogowski’s commentary: the existence of a hypocritical petition in which ignorant conservatives and gun enthusiasts are calling for Morgan to be not just fired but deported, not because he is an embarrassingly incompetent interviewer (after all, we would also have to deport Al Sharpton, David Letterman, Savannah Guthrie, Chris Matthews, Steve Doocy, Matt Lower….hey, wait a minute…!!), but because he dared to attack the Second Amendment. If CNN fired Morgan now, it would appear that he was being dismissed for expressing an unpopular opinion, and that CNN was compromising its integrity as a news organization. If the mouth-foaming gun nuts had only avoided signing a silly petition that rejects the First Amendment in order to protect the Second, CNN would be professionally and ethically obligated to treat Morgan like the hack he is, and sack him (not that they would).
Like the incompetent employee who can’t be fired because he was immunized by becoming a whistleblower, Morgan is the beneficiary of one of those workplace ethical anomalies in which an employer would be perceived as unethical by doing the right thing, and thus dares not do it. The incompetent worker’s firing would be seen as retaliation for his whistleblowing, just as Morgan’s firing would be taken as proof that CNN will sacrifice integrity for popularity, and will punish honesty if it generates too much criticism. Once the petition made Morgan a symbol of journalistic independence, his incompetence became secondary.
Morgan’s critics, by focusing on the content of his remarks rather than his amateurish method of delivering it, ensured that CNN and its audience will be stuck with him for a long, long time.