I’ve been in radio for a few years now, and the first rule in broadcasting is this — always assume the microphones are hot and that you’re going live. (The second rule is never assume that the incoherent caller is drunk, but that’s a story for another day.) Mark Halperin apparently forgot that first rule this morning on MSNBC, and decided to give a rather blunt assessment of Barack Obama’s performance in yesterday’s press conference. Halperin’s use of language went out live, thanks to a producer who couldn’t operate the seven-second delay:
Mark Halperin, editor-at-large for Time, called President Obama “a dick” on Thursday on a popular MSNBC morning show and then quickly apologized.
“I thought he was a dick yesterday,” Halperin, who also is a senior political analyst for MSNBC, said on Morning Joe, referring to the President’s conduct during his press conference.
Halperin later apologized for his language, but the fuss seems a little overblown. “Dick” isn’t a word that needs to be censored; for one thing, it’s a proper name used by a number of politicians, including Dick Durbin, who’s second in Democratic leadership in the Senate. It’s also a playground word for “jerk” or “penis,” but hardly an obscenity. Either way, the producer shouldn’t be blamed for missing the delay button.
Halperin should be apologizing for a lack of imagination. He’s right in that the President acted like a pouting, sullen adolescent during the press conference, whining about having to answer for the constitutionality of sending men and women into combat without asking Congress for authorization. Obama bizarrely blamed the fiscal crisis on a small coterie of corporate-jet owners, a heretofore unknown juggernaut of economic destruction. Instead of acting presidential, Obama gave us a hissy fit for over sixty minutes. And the best Halperin can do is “dick”?
Maybe Halperin is just channeling his inner Spicoli:
Update: MSNBC decides to get a little dickish with Halperin:
“Mark Halperin’s comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable. We apologize to the President, The White House and all of our viewers,” in a statement by MSNBC spokesperson Jeremy Gaines. “We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst.” …
“I completely agree with everything in MSNBC’s statement about my remark. I believe that the step they are taking in response is totally appropriate,” Halperin said in a statement. “Again, I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the President, to my MSNBC colleagues, and to the viewers. My remark was unacceptable, and I deeply regret it.”
An indefinite suspension for saying “dick” on the air? Oh, please. Halperin won’t have to go dig ditches — he works for Time, not MSNBC — but this is still far, far overblown. It was a dumb remark, but if MSNBC suspended everyone who made dumb remarks on their channel, they wouldn’t have any hosts left. At most, this warranted a couple of days off the air, especially with Halperin’s real-time apology.
Did MSNBC get mad because of the word, or because it was aimed at Obama?