As of late , there have been several instances in which prominent journalists have gotten severely reprimanded for allegedly misspeaking and subsequently offending a specific interest group. Last week’s blog entry was in regards to the highly debated decision to suspend CNN Journalist Roland Martin for so-called homophobic Tweets. This past weekend , ESPN editor Anthony Federico was promptly fired from ESPN for using “ chink in the armor” in the headline of an article about the current phenomenon of Knick’s star Jeremy Lin. There was an immediate and widespread outcry after the headline from sports fanatics and media outlets alike, and Federico was quickly canned for the supposed offensive slur.
In a seemingly desperate attempt to save face, and to perhaps have some sort of damage control , Federico took to his Twitter page and issued an apology and an explanation. Here is an excerpt:
“They would see that on the day of the incident I got a call from a friend – who happens to be homeless – and rushed to his aid. He was collapsed on the side of the road due to exposure and hunger. They would see how I picked him up and got him a hotel room and fed him. They would see I used my vacation time last year to volunteer in the orphanages of Haiti. They would see how I ‘adopted’ an elderly Alzheimer’s patient and visited him every week for a year. They would see that every winter I organize a coat drive for those less fortunate in New Haven. They would see how I raised $10,000 for a friend in need when his kids were born four months premature. “ – Anthony Federico, Twitter
I find a few things interesting about this incident and how it has played out. I find it interesting in comparison to the Roland Martin incident, there was little ambiguity or argument over the fact that Federico was being intentionally offensive, except from Federico himself of course. I do believe that this infraction might be a bit more blatant that the Roland Martin incident as well. I also believe that it was an interesting move on the part of Federico to use Twitter as an outlet to explain, at length, how he did not mean to offend anyone, and that it was an “honest mistake”. Giving a laundry list of good deeds ranging from organizing a coat drive for “those less fortunate” to “ volunteering in orphanages of Haiti” seems a bit disingenuous to me and is the equivalent of a blatant bigot saying “ I’m not racist , one my best friends is ( blank).” It just doesn’t cut it and is a very specious defense.
When I first became aware of the incident, my initial reaction was “ wow, it’s about time”, as I always felt uneasy hearing the phrase used professionally , or otherwise, without a second thought. I always wondered how people were getting away with it in the first place. In a society where words are ultimately power, I believe this incident exposes how deeply offensive a lot of colloquial phrases and idioms have offensive connotations – whether directly or indirectly. At the very least it took jump on the bandwagon athlete of the week sensation to actually make the public think about it.