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Randi Rhodes Critics are Missing the Point

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All the semantic quibbling about free speech and Air America's purported right to control what its announcers say off the air, overlooks the fact we don't really know if the network and Randi Rhodes had ever agreed her comedy material must be vetted prior to public presentation (not likely), or if there is some sort of a broadly worded morals clause in her contract (more likely, but not necessarily applicable). Therefore, it's apparently unjust for Air America to have suspended Rhodes for any portion of her controversial stand-up act.

All Rhodes did is use harsher language in a nightclub than may be broadcast on the airwaves, to make essentially the same argument she had been making almost daily on her radio show. It's hard to see how ridiculing public figures was part of her job description on one day, and a punishable offense on another. Nonetheless, Air America seems to have taken precisely that position, and as a consequence, Rhodes has chosen to end her association with the network. Her plans and replacement are unknown.

Rhodes made several provocative comments during a March 22 personal appearance in San Francisco sponsored by the Clear Channel radio station that, at the time, carried her show locally. Her references to Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro as "fucking whores," raised the hackles of prissy etiquette guardians who cheered Rhodes's subsequent suspension from Air America, and in some cases, called for her to be fired.

Here at HuffPo, Bill Press declared Rhodes "went over the line," while Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote she is guilty of "obliterating the line of public decency" and deserves to be "canned" for it. Likewise, Salon's Carol Lloyd labeled Rhodes "misogynistic" for insulting two prominent women as she did, a sentiment echoed by one of the insulted, Ferraro, who whined on Fox News that Rhodes's criticism of her is "sexist."

The outraged carpers don't seem to realize "whore" has several definitions. Clearly, Rhodes used the word not to suggest Ferraro and Clinton are a couple of hookers, but to accuse them of having compromised their principles for personal gain. One can agree or disagree with that assessment, but there is nothing misogynistic about Rhodes expressing her belief, just as there is nothing misandristic about Allison Kilkenny calling John McCain "a big fucking whore" in the exact same gender-neutral way. Perhaps Press, Hutchinson, Lloyd and Ferraro need to consult a dictionary, or in the case of Ferraro -- who thinks her "security" has been threatened - a psychotherapist. In addition to her irrational fear, Ferraro mistakenly believes Rhodes made the offensive remarks "on radio."

Once one grasps the actual meaning and context of her satiric diatribe, the case against Rhodes falls apart, as it can't possibly be beyond the pale for her to make the same observation many other pundits have made. So it's incumbent upon all those who have been clamoring for her comeuppance, to identify exactly what Rhodes' supposed abomination is. Is it swearing in a nightclub? Good heavens, we certainly can't allow that!

Despite the hysterics of self-appointed morality sheriffs, anyone familiar with live comedy knows Rhodes said nothing that would raise an eyebrow on the club circuit. What's truly shocking is the number of "progressives" who assume Rhodes is subject to restrictions that apply to no other comedian, just because she is also a radio host. Who made these hypothetical rules -- and why?