This past week Jon Stewart took on the growing controversy of Phil Robertson, who, in a recent interview with GQ magazine, said a few things about the homosexual lifestyle and being black that, to put it mildly, outraged more than a few people. Since his words were published, people have come down on both sides of the issue, some condemning them for bigoted remarks, others supporting Robertson’s right to free speech. A&E, the network upon which “Duck Dynasty” airs, suspended Robertson from further filming (although Season 5 has already been filmed). Some companies decided to show their displeasure by discontinuing product placement of “Duck Dynasty” merchandise in their stores. But when the liberal-leaning Jon Stewart took a look at the controversy, he took a position that might have come as a surprise to some: He came down on Robertson’s side — but he found Fox News’ support of Robertson free speech rights just a bit hypocritical.
On “The Daily Show,” as recounted by Huffington Post Dec. 20, Stewart took the Voltaire stance that although he might not agree with another person’s words, he would defend to the death their right to say them. As Stewart sheepishly pointed out, “But I also have an inclination to support a world where saying ignorant s*** on television doesn’t get you kicked off that medium.”
(An aside: Huffington Post pointed out that Jon Stewart’s predecessor, Craig Kilborn, was booted from the helm of “The Daily Show” for making inappropriate remarks about female staffers on the show.)
At the same time, Stewart admitted that just because he believed Robertson had a right to say what he said, he did not agree with the content.
What Robertson said, according to Yahoo TV, was that homosexuality was a sin. In the GQ magazine interview, he noted that homosexuality was not “logical,” that it “morphed” into bestiality and along with swindlers, adulterers, prostitutes, and slanderers (among others), gays would never know the kingdom of God. He also said that he had never experienced blacks that were mistreated, even in the pre-Civil Rights Act South.
However, Robertson did state that his beliefs were his own, that his observations were personal ones. After the public backlash over the seeming anti-gay and racist comments, Robertson issued a statement saying he would never intentionally hurt another human being, regardless of differences.
With Robertson’s right to free speech intact, Stewart took exception to Fox News and their wholehearted support of Robertson and how the “word police” and the legions of “political correctness” were trampling on the “Duck Dynasty” star’s First Amendment rights by trying to censor him. In fact, in his own amusing way, Stewart pointed out just how hypocritical Fox News was when it came to touting the First Amendment.
“I guess I stand with the free speech absolutists at Fox News, who don’t believe you should have to adhere to the culture norms of speech.” He paused for effect, then added, “Mostly.”
A montage of Fox News anchors and contributors followed, all bloviating and pontificating on the outrageous custom of saying “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” This was followed by a subsequent montage prefaced by the assertion that in no way would Fox News try to pressure anyone into keeping “Christmas” in the holiday language (but, of course, that is exactly what the news channel’s personalities did, going so far as to list companies to boycott and politicians’ and organizations’ phone numbers for people to call to protest using “Happy holidays” or dropping “Christmas” from their holiday observances.
The point: Fox News Channel and its on-air herd of selective First Amendment supporters and rabble-rousers care more about stirring the pot and ginning up controversy than about Phil Robertson’s right — or anyone else’s, for that matter — to say what he likes. As long as a person’s words adhere to their narrow ideological viewpoints, they have no problem supporting that person’s right to free speech. But display some verbiage contrary to their ideology and your freedom of speech should be curtailed, even if it is done be coercion or force.
Hypocrisy. But even hypocrites have the right to say whatever it is that wish to say, no matter how ill-informed or non-factual…
To drive home the point, the segment ended with a clip from “Duck Dynasty,” where Phil and the Robertson family wished everyone “Happy holidays.”
And to seal the point, Stewart, who is Jewish, finished “The Daily Show” segment with, “Merry Christmas, everybody.”
Oh, the scandal of it all…