The firing of local talk show host John DePetro over his remarks about Grace Ross, the Green Party candidate for Massachusetts' Governor, raises a number of issues about the limits of free speech. WRKO radio talk show host John DePetro was fired yesterday for his remarks calling Green Party candidate Grace Ross a "Fat Lesbian")
I was surprised that WRKO fired DePetro because he has always been an equal opportunity offender. In his position, there is hardly a day that goes by when he doesn't say something offensive. I always thought that the public would understand that and that whatever advertisers he had would also understand it. .
It would be interesting to do a study of his transcripts and cull out the hundreds of first category offensive remarks he has made-- and then try to analyze why he got his balls cut off for this one. I think you would have a hard time making a case that this was a particularly egregious example.
I, for one, do not think that he should have been fired for the remark. If he was in government, or represented some conservative corporation or charitable organization, then I could understand why the lawyers would have recommended firing him. ("What if all the "Fat Lesbians" bring a class action suit against us?") But they are in the wrong business, if they cannot risk a few irate letters. DePetro is certainly no more offensive than other radio talk show hosts broadcast locally.
Did anyone seriously consider firing Rush Limbaugh for his disparaging remarks about Michael J. Fox? Of course not. While Rush is a national figure, I'll bet that local Boston talk show host Howie Carr has used the term "fat lesbian" on his own show. Don't get me wrong. I like Howie, even if I disagree with him. He also insults liberals, ivy-league types, Ted Kennedy and other less-than-hard-working government types (whom he terms "hacks").
So if he is no worse than other talk show hosts, why would WRKO rush to fire him? It's not because anyone in Grace Ross' campaign was demanding the firing or had even complained. I was at the debate in Dartmouth the day after DePetro made the remark. Grace Ross, being interviewed by the local FOX tv affiliate, didn't even seem particularly bothered by the remark yesterday. She laughed it off when pressed by the reporter, saying that candidates for the position of Governor need to develop a thick skin, and renewing her efforts to get the issues featured on the news instead of the sensationalist tripe they always feed on.
Hats off to her for being willing to laugh it off. I am supporting her candidacy-- now more than ever.