I was going to make this an Ethics Quiz, but in part because I find Howard Stern so repugnant that I am incapable of not assigning blame to him, and mostly I am certain that the fact someone consents to do something self-destructive and stupid does not excuse the party who intentionally tempts her with an invitation, I am making this call myself.
Radio’s premiere shock jock, knowing full well that spurned Mel Gibson mistress Oksana Grigorieva would forfeit the remaining $375,000 of her settlement with the actor if she talked publicly about their relationship, invited her on his show. Then, using gentle questioning and seductive tones, Stern got the woman to say just enough violate the settlement terms, which were subsequently declared void by a judge. From TMZ:
In the Stern Interview:
— Howard sympathizes about her problems with Mel, telling her she has to go forward in life. She refers to her “painful and dark” experience and says now she wants to help others.
— Howard asks if Mel wined and dined her. She says it’s too painful to even talk about.
— Howard talks about how amazing the famous audio tapes are, and Oksana responds, “Life happens … I’m still catching up on the humor part.”
— Howard, who referenced portions of Mel’s rants during the interview, told her a woman shouldn’t be treated that way, especially the mother of your child. She said, “Thank you.”
You can listen to the interview here.
This was despicable. I do not believe for a second that Stern, who lives on celebrity culture, especially of the bottom-feeding variety, didn’t know that he was placing Grigorieva in dire financial peril by having her on his show. I am certain that he took it as a personal challenge to get her to comment on the nasty situation with Mel, which included his physical abuse. It is the only reason he would have her as a guest.
Stern is clever, she is not. Was it stupid of her to agree to the interview? Of course it was. She has no celebrity value except in her relationship with Mel Gibson. She should have known it was trap. But she is broke, pathetic, desperate for celebrity, and a sitting duck for the temptations of a high-profile interview. Stern knew it, and he took advantage of her gullibility, her desperation, her trust.
If Stern knew that she would risk $375,000 if she spoke about Gibson, and he did, and still asked her questions designed to make her forfeit the money if she answered, then he robbed her as surely as any swindler. In some ways he is worse than a swindler, who at least destroys people for tangible personal gain. Stern did this just to keep up his well-earned reputation as radio’s bad boy. He caused her to lose the money because he could, for the fun of it. That Howard! He’s hilarious! Did you hear how he tricked that bimbo into losing her money? Serves her right!
Stern is the Leopold and Loeb of radio.
Nobody has much sympathy for Oksana, who famously turned down a $15,000,000 offer from Mel to seek more in court, and came up over 14 million short. This also made her a perfect victim for a shameless cur like Stern. She’s not a likable victim, but she is one: being greedy doesn’t justify someone using that greed to rob you; being stupid doesn’t justify someone manipulating you into agreeing to be harmed. I can’t lower my already subterranean opinion of Howard Stern, a full-time abuser of the First Amendment who has coarsened our culture as much an anyone. Nonetheless, he was especially cruel and irresponsible in this case.