Eat The Press

regan.jpg

from WSJ.com

More information on the Judith Regan firing late Friday: Apparently the woman with the "biggest dick in the room," the woman who, we were recently told, once passed around photos of herself giving birth as inspiration for cover art, was fired for throwing a hissy fit on the phone with a HarperCollins laywer during which she made "comments that were deemed anti-Semitic," according to the NYT. The NYT declines to specifically relay those comments, but here's another important detail they don't mention: Whether Judith Regan is Jewish. ETP couldn't find written confirmation of that, but based on a number of factors including but not limited to the fact that "Judith" means "Jewess" in Hebrew, let's assume for argument's sake that she is.

Does it matter? It sure does. Why? Because anti-Semitic comments from Jew to Jew are different from anti-Semitic comments coming from, say, Mel Gibson. It's different the same way that Michael Richards' racist tirade would probably not have been as remarkable coming from a black comedian. It's not quite the reclamation of racist language by oppressed groups as terms of endearment (as explored on 30 Rock this week), but let's face it, reporting that Judith Regan was fired for anti-Semitic comments — even "heated and confrontational" ones — is not communicating the full picture.

I'd wager that Regan has made such comments in the past — it's in keeping with her professional reputation as a crazy, hair-trigger-tempered firebrand. David Carr probably got nearest to the truth in his terrific post-mortem: Regan's protected status as an off-the-charts moneymaker only took her to a certain point, and she passed it as soon as top boss Rupert Murdoch was involved beyond his pocketbook. Per Carr:

One of the cardinal rules in business is to protect the king, but after the Simpson affair, [Murdoch] found himself dragged into the muck of his tabloid past... stars, even the biggest-earning ones, become expendable when they begin to embarrass someone besides themselves. Just ask Tom Cruise.

A foul-mouthed epithet-hurling anti-Semitic tirade is certainly reason to fire someone, but if it was the only reason Judith Regan was getting the boot, it would have happened long, long ago. (Never mind that HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman apparently has no love for Regan.) This wasn't about anti-Semitism and it wasn't about a silly book about Mickey Mantle, based in any case on the slugger's own salacious admissions. It wasn't even about the O.J. book and special, for which Murdoch had given the initial go-ahead. It was about Judith Regan pushing it too far, finally. To imply otherwise really does not tell the whole story.

Who knows, meanwhile, what it says in Regan's famously high-priced contract about termination — she's hired Bert Fields who was vowed "war" for the highly public route this took (no amicable behind-closed-doors negotiating "exploring new opportunities" route here). If the decision was as hastily made as has been suggested, they may have left out something that could come back to bite them in court. And if that happens, probably no one would take greater pleasure in that than Judith Regan.


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