Kudos to Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly for their thoughtful commentary on the Roland Martin situation. As conservative analysts both of these fellows found themselves in a conceptual pickle, as follows:
On the one hand: Neither Beck nor O’Reilly likes CNN analyst Martin, in part because of Martin’s politics and opinions. So when Martin was suspended this week by CNN for sending out homophobic tweets, both commentators couldn’t keep themselves from piling on. As O’Reilly said in his segment on the matter: “Martin himself often brands people as bigots on the air. Said that to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and me, your humble correspondent, among others.”
On the other hand: Neither Beck nor O’Reilly wants to align himself too closely with anti-homophobia. Such a stance might not go over well with the base, plus open these guys up to charges of political correctness.
Thus, the prescription: Mock Martin personally on the air — go all ad hominem. But make explicit your lack of regard for the condemnation of homophobia.
In his treatment, Beck calls Martin an “idiot.” Just in general, that is. On the matter of the man’s homophobic tweets, Beck says this:
I have to stand . . . with him and say you don’t fire people for what they say in their personal life or what they happen to believe.
Lest anyone come away with the impression that Beck endorses tough personnel action against offensive remarks, one of his lieutenants says:
By the standard the left has created, this would be a firable offense. The question is whether that standard is legitimate.
On that point, the Beck people agreed: No, it’s not a legitimate standard.
O’Reilly’s take? Same formulation. In the sneering disregard that he pulls off better than anyone on television, O’Reilly declares that he “couldn’t care less about Roland Martin, I don’t follow him, I don’t care what he says, I think he’s a moron.” At one point, after images of Martin keep flashing on the screen, O’Reilly appears to instruct his producer: “Get this guy off — I don’t want to see him anymore, the CNN guy.”
Then, when the question of anti-gayness comes up, the commentator pivots. “There isn’t anything gay in his tweets. You gotta be fair,” O’Reilly says to Wayne Besen, executive director of gay advocacy group Truth Wins Out. Speaking to what he terms a “broader” issue, O’Reilly then essentially seeks license to “mock” gay people. He asks Besen:
Can you make fun of a gay person in this country? Can you just make a joke about a gay person? ... Can you mock a gay person and your organization, other organizations — would you be OK with that if it’s just done in a casual, allegedly humorous way?
Again, great work right there. It’s not easy to revel in the misfortune of an adversary when you disagree with the roots of the misfortune. O’Reilly and Beck pull it off without seams.