When I first saw a headline about what Martin Bashir said, I figured it must be exaggerated.
No responsible cable news host would call for defecating on a public figure. That’s just beyond the pale, right?
But that’s exactly what Bashir did on his MSNBC show, while spewing venom at Sarah Palin.
He made an abject apology yesterday, and we’ll get to that in a moment.
I’ve long been amazed by Bashir’s brand of name-calling. He despises Republicans, we get it. But the highly personal nature of his assaults, while delivered in an erudite British accent, stands out even by the loose standards of cable news.
This guy was a co-anchor of “Nightline” when he was at ABC, but was apparently seething with liberal resentment that we now see displayed daily on his weekday show. MSNBC once suspended Ed Schultz for calling Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut”; why on earth does it tolerate Bashir's brand of bile?
Bashir once said that the NRA “deserves to be equated with Hitler,” so he’s practiced at incendiary comparisons.
What happened last week is that Bashir used his hatred of Palin—calling her the country’s “resident dunce” and a “world-class idiot”—to descend deeper into the gutter than I ever thought he’d go.
Now the issue on which he went after the former Alaska governor and Fox News contributor is fair game. Palin had spoken in Iowa of borrowing from China to pay for the national debt, saying: “This isn’t racist. But it’s going to be like slavery when that note is due.”
Lots of people didn’t approve of Palin likening government borrowing to the awful legacy of buying and selling African-Americans.
But Bashir chose to tell his audience of the diary of a plantation overseer in Jamaica named Thomas Thistlewood.
“In 1756, he records that a slave named Darby ‘catched eating kanes had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, sh** in his mouth.’
“This became known as ‘Darby’s Dose,’ a punishment invented by Thistlewood that spoke only of inhumanity. And he mentions a similar incident in 1756, his time in relation to a man he refers to as Punch. ‘Flogged punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper, made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.’”
And that brings Bashir to his disgusting denouement: “When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.”
That’s right. Wrapped in the language of literary allegory, Bashir is saying he’d like to see someone assault and abuse Sarah Palin in this horrifying fashion.
And no one at MSNBC bats an eye? This is deemed acceptable discourse?
What would MSNBC say if a conservative had talked about defecating on, say, Hillary Clinton?
In his televised apology, directed to both Palin and to viewers, Bashir said his remarks were “unworthy” and “deeply offensive,” and that he is “deeply sorry.” He said he wished he had been “more thoughtful” and “more compassionate.” He said “the politics of vitriol and destruction is a miserable place to be and a miserable person to become,” and promised to learn a lesson.
An abject apology is all well and good. But as Mediaite’s Joe Concha writes, invoking MSNBC President Phil Griffin: “Could you imagine if Neil Cavuto or Jake Tapper, who occupy the same timeslot on Fox and CNN, respectively, suggested anyone s*it in anyone’s mouth on national television, as Bashir did last week?
“And it’s not as he’s killing it in the ratings. Day after day, Bashir easily owns the lowest-rated show in his timeslot among the big three. If Griffin were smart, he’d use this episode as an excuse to get rid of Bashir.”
MSNBC rightfully suspended Alec Baldwin for two weeks for hurling an anti-gay slur at a photographer. But the corporate attitude is different because Palin is the target?
This is nothing short of shameful, as even Martin Bashir now seems to recognize.
All Ford All The Time
You might think a mayor might lay low for awhile after admitting to smoking crack, getting too drunk, threatening to murder someone, and using a sexually explicit term on live television while denying that a female friend was a hooker.
Not Rob Ford.
Instead, Toronto’s hard-living chief executive gives interviews to Fox and CNN as he prepares to launch his own Canadian TV show. Oh, and he knocked over a female City Council member yesterday as he rushed to help his brother in an “altercation.” Oh, and he’s thinking of running for prime minister.
"I’m seeking professional help, I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not a drug addict," Ford told Fox’s John Roberts. "Have I had my outbursts in the past? Absolutely I have John. But you know what I’m only human. I’ve made mistakes I’ve apologized. That’s all I can do."
Ford also turned on CNN’s Bill Weir, saying: “I’m not an addict. You can spin it. You can tell me whatever you want. These people know that I’m not—have you ever got drunk before, Bill?” After Weir allowed that he had, Ford said: “I don’t look at myself as the mayor. I look at myself as just a normal, regular person.”
“Normal” and “regular” are not the first words that come to mind. There’s a reason that “SNL” is lampooning Ford, who crashed a Toronto Argonauts Canadian football game despite a request by the league’s commissioner that he stay away.
Why do we give Ford all this coverage? Most politicians are boring, and this one is a slow-motion train wreck. Every day he seems to top himself. And Canada, usually ignored by the American media, hasn’t gotten this much coverage since the War of 1812.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz.