Hayes apologizes for “heroes” comments

posted at 2:41 pm on May 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

After an avalanche of criticism from his Sunday commentary, MSNBC weekend host and editor of The Nation Chris Hayes apologized for his comments on servicemembers who gave their lives in defense of the country:

On Sunday, in discussing the uses of the word “hero” to describe those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, I don’t think I lived up to the standards of rigor, respect and empathy for those affected by the issues we discuss that I’ve set for myself. I am deeply sorry for that.

As many have rightly pointed out, it’s very easy for me, a TV host, to opine about the people who fight our wars, having never dodged a bullet or guarded a post or walked a mile in their boots. Of course, that is true of the overwhelming majority of our nation’s citizens as a whole. One of the points made during Sunday’s show was just how removed most Americans are from the wars we fight, how small a percentage of our population is asked to shoulder the entire burden and how easy it becomes to never read the names of those who are wounded and fight and die, to not ask questions about the direction of our strategy in Afghanistan, and to assuage our own collective guilt about this disconnect with a pro-forma ritual that we observe briefly before returning to our barbecues.

But in seeking to discuss the civilian-military divide and the social distance between those who fight and those who don’t, I ended up reinforcing it, conforming to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war. And for that I am truly sorry.

That didn’t satisfy all of Hayes’ critics.  A group called Silver Star Families wants Hayes fired:

An angry Steve Newton, Founder of the Silver Star Families of America, called on Chris Hayes to resign or be terminated for his recent comments on MSNBC on the fallen of the United States Military.

“Mr. Hayes comments that he is somehow “uncomfortable” with the word “hero” to describe our fallen Soldiers are reprehensible.  As with a lot of the pundits in Washington he seems unable to separate politics from the sacrifices of our military.”

He continued, “He seems to have no sense of the hurt his words will bring to the families and friends of those who have paid the ultimate price for his freedom.  I would strongly suggest another line of work for Mr. Hayes that might increase his empathy and his love of country—say in the military.”

While I understand how Chris Hayes made Newton and the families of those killed in service to our nation feel, for what reason would Hayes be fired?  He’s paid to have an opinion.  Granted, this opinion is out there on the fringe, but take another look at the video from Sunday.  Hayes didn’t foam at the mouth, slander or libel anyone, or call for the overthrow of the United States.  The opinion might offend a great number of people, but Hayes appeared to be at least sincere and somewhat thoughtful in his presentation of it.  Ed Schultz can be more offensive when he clears his throat than Hayes was in this segment.  His apology comes across as sincere and fully accepting of responsibility for his own words, not a “sorry if you were offended by my brilliance” non-apology apology that is so fashionable in media and politics on both sides of the aisle.

Hayes is certainly open to criticism, as are we all, for what he writes and says.  Honest opinions offered by opinion journalists shouldn’t result in demands for dismissals merely because almost everyone disagrees with what was said or written, with or without an apology.  We can offer our opposing views without chasing someone from the open market of ideas, and the better ideas will prevail.  An apology should be sufficient, and in the case of MSNBC, rather noteworthy.

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