Observations On The Civility Meltdown On Fox News

Swear_wordsMonday  was “Talk like Jon Stewart Day” on Fox, as two Fox News contributors were quickly suspended after they used vulgarity while discussing President Barack Obama‘s Sunday night address on terrorism. Ralph Peters, a Fox Business analyst called the President a “total pussy,” and Fox News’ Outnumbered panelist Stacey Dash, who said Obama doesn’t “give a shit” about terrorism.


I. Yes, the incursion on traditional news reporting by alleged comedy and satire shows like Bill Maher’s HBO conservative-bashing orgy and the various clown nose off and on with lightning speed political commentary shows on Comedy Central was bound to lead to this. It is kind of unfair: Maher can call Michele Bachmann a cunt without consequence, and Jon Stewart can throw “fuck” around like confetti, but their favorite target, Fox News, is limited in its rhetoric as the wits are not. Well, that’s Fox’s burden, and its obligation. It can’t sink to the level of Maher and Comedy Central. This is a clear line. Comics are not obligated to have respect for anyone (even if they do suck up to Democrats more often than not.) Journalists and their guests are required to adhere to professional levels of civility, even when delivering harsh criticism.

2. If I want to hear politicians and officials called vulgar names, I’ll listen to talk radio, and I don’t want to listen to talk radio. Peters and Dash showed no respect for the Fox audience.

3. As with Martin Bashir’s potty mouth attack that caused him to leave MSNBC, this is symptomatic of a biased and ugly corporate culture at the network that undermines and erodes basic decency and professionalism. How could the two contributors ever think such rhetoric was appropriate? They think that because that’s how everyone at Fox talks about the President off-camera.

4. To its credit, Fox reacted quickly and suspended its two vulgarians for two weeks immediately, in stark contrast to MSNBC, which waited days to see if Bashir could get away with suggesting that someone defecate in Sarah Palin’s mouth.

5. Nevertheless, this still wasn’t sufficient. Both Peters and Dash should be fired. The only way to stop this trend is absolutism: professionals don’t talk like that on the air, and if you do, you’re not a professional.

9 thoughts on “Observations On The Civility Meltdown On Fox News

  1. Nothing upsets me more than people I agree with behaving like the people I disagree with. I’d like to think ‘we’ are better than that. I have admitted to being an incurable romantic before!

  2. Frankly I don’t think what either said was that bad, particularly not in a world of Dan Savage’s endless fucking this and fucking that. That said, I can appreciate Fox wanting to nip this in the bud, and both of these things could have been said without the profanity and still achieved their message: the President is weak and does not care about those he is sworn to protect, which is a legitimate opinion.

    I sometimes wonder, however, if the remedy for incivility isn’t taking the high road, but responding in kind. A lot of incivility is just another form of bullying, and if enough bullies get black eyes or broken arms, maybe they’ll think twice about bullying in the first place.

    • Tit for Tat, and nothing but.

      Frankly I don’t think what either said was that bad, particularly not in a world of Dan Savage’s endless fucking this and fucking that. = #22. Savage isn’t a media professional, he’s a professional jerk. There’s a big difference.

      • I think there is a big difference between what Ms. Dash and Lt. Col. Peters said and what Martin Bashir said.

        Bashir’s comments were, when it came right down to it, far worse – in essence, he was hoping that someone would poop and pee in her mouth. Calling for Thomas Thistlewood’s style of “discipline” is utterly demeaning to her as a human being. Neither Stacey Dash or Ralph Peters called for that.

        Ms. Dash made her comments, not with the intention of demeaning Obama as a person, but because she came to the conclusion (one I share) that Obama really doesn’t care about dealing with ISIS, and her comments seem to be more spur-of-the-moment. Based on his reaction to San Bernardino, it seems to be accurate. Granted, using one of the seven dirty words probably does warrant a suspension, but Ms. Dash probably was a little over-punished, given the totality of the circumstances.

        Col. Peters is on somewhat less defensible ground, but again, we have a bit of a spur-of-the-moment thing. And yeah, people have the right to question if Obama is a total wimp. But by making it more about Obama as a person, he probably did warrant a two-week suspension.

        Fox News acted with commendable speed on this, as well.

  3. Even if you agree with what was said it was sophomoric nonsense and totally unprofessional; Fox news was absolutely correct for suspending the people. Fox News does not need their broadcasts to decent into such unprofessional rhetoric.

  4. For Dash’s part, it just slipped out in the course of her statement and she immediately apologized. Colonel Peters had obviously let his anger get away with him. When Varney called him on it, he apologized as well. It should be noted, however, that neither of them have any record of throwing around bad language on the air. That puts them head and shoulders above quite a few other commentators on other networks who couldn’t care less. Fox News deserves credit for upholding high standards of conduct. I think the two week suspension for both was a just chastisement.

      • Rarely, Jack. But it happens. Gutter talk is also a lot more common these days. Note, however, that each one spoke but a single crudity and almost immediately apologized for it. I would say that for these two people to slip on the air is indicative of the passion of the subjects they were commenting on, subjects that have reached a boiling point across the country. It does not excuse them, but it does not condemn them as inherently foul mouthed lowlifes. No- I still think that their suspension was the just thing to do.

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