At right is a tweet sent out from a MSNBC staffer poking the “rightwing” over a Cheerios ad because the last time Cheerios ran such an ad the company’s YouTube channel was swamped by disgusting racist comments. According the Huffington Post, “Commenters on the cereal’s Facebook page… said they found the commercial ‘disgusting’ and that it made them ‘want to vomit.’”
For Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), the above tweet was the last straw. He wrote a letter to Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC saying,
Sadly, such petty and demeaning attacks have become a pattern at your network. With increasing frequency many of your hosts have personally denigrated and demeaned Americans- especially conservative and Republican Americans- without even attempting to further meaningful dialogue.
After declaring that MSNBC is “poisoned because of this pattern of behavior” Priebus declared, “Until you personally and publicly apologize for this behavior, I have banned all RNC staff from appearing on, associating with, or booking any RNC surrogates on MSNBC.”
Obviously Priebus has not been tuned into the way Rhode Island conservatives and Republicans feel about the boycotting of news stations. Justin Katz weighed in recently on a similar boycott against radio station WPRO because of outrageous and demeaning comments made by John DePetro in which he called women union workers “hags,” “cockroaches” and “whores.” Arguing that elected officials are not acting in their private capacities when appearing on news shows, Katz said:
This is public officials abusing their privilege and responsibility to keep the public informed in an attempt to starve a private business of the content that constitutes its product. They have a right to interpret their responsibilities so as to allow that. But it isn’t right, and Rhode Islanders should consider it evidence that they aren’t fit for public office.
Katz went on:
It sends a signal down the line to talk show hosts — or me or you — that if you are thinking of saying anything close to the nebulous line of what’s not sayable, you might be better off softening your criticism or even going with a different topic altogether.
Peggy Price, the woman who started a petition in defense of DePetro, must be outraged at the RNC’s new policy. Writing about attempts to silence unpopular speech through boycotts by political leaders, Price wrote:
Do not allow politicians… to suppress free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment!
Should Americans consider this RNC boycott of MSNBC as evidence that RNC candidates “aren’t fit for public office”? Is Reince Priebus attempting to “suppress free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment!”? These are serious charges, and in the interest of consistency Katz and Price will either have to apply their critiques to the RNC, admit they were wrong about the DePetro boycott, or attempt to lawyer their way out of the contradiction.
MSNBC has deleted the tweet and fired the staffer responsible. That wasn’t enough for Priebus until Phil Griffin personally apologized, which he did. Priebus vows to “aggressively monitor the network to see whether their pattern of unacceptable behavior actually changes.”
Here in Rhode Island Republican gubernatorial candidates Alan Fung and Ken Block have already gone back on their promise not to appear on WPRO or DePetro since the radio jock returned to the airwaves in January. Fung provided no explanation for his turnaround and Block delivered an word salad that explained nothing.
Meanwhile, John DePetro is still on the air.