I can't figure out why CBS golf commentator David Feherty's comments on how our troops would gladly assassinate Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid is bothering me so much. This is the kind of comment one would expect to be heard almost daily on right wing radio. But somehow this just isn't going away.
I'm a golf fan. I'm a terrible player but enjoy the sport. I was also a fan of Feherty's caustic wit on the telecasts. Then he wrote for D magazine: "From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this though. Despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death."
First of all, he got the joke wrong. The joke goes: If you were in a room with Bin Laden and (your choice of someone you personally hate here), had a gun with only two bullets, what would you do? The answer? Shoot (insert personal enemy here) first, then shoot them again to make sure they are dead.
In Feherty's telling, he denigrates our troops by saying all of them would gladly assassinate elected representatives of our government. (Notice how he lets them off the hook by saying they'd also strangle Bin Laden.) He also takes a shot at a supposed left wing slant in the media, which he obviously abhors.
Let's discuss where David Feherty is coming from. The world of professional golf is notoriously right wing. Pro golfers for the most part, come from privileged backgrounds. Their world is country clubs and big business. According to golf publications, most professional golfers vote republican. In a Golf Digest 2004 poll, professional golfers who responded voted 100% to 0% for George W. Bush. In 1993, members of the United States Ryder Cup team threatened to snub President Clinton because he wanted to raise taxes on the wealthy.
The PGA Tour has been sponsored by the likes of AIG, MasterCard, Mercedes-Benz, Verizon, AT&T, Merrill Lynch, numerous banks, lending corporations and most companies who have received taxpayer bailout money. Just two weeks ago a tournament once known as the Wachovia Open was played under it's new name "The Quail Hollow Championship."
A normal tournament is played between Thursday and Sunday. On the Wednesday before the tournament begins, there is usually a pro-am round where the fat cat executives from the sponsoring companies tee off with the pros and personalities like Feherty. Undoubtedly a lot of networking goes on, feeding the right wing golfers with also minded right wing corporate mentality. Every year AT&T sponsors a pro-am at Pebble Beach. Among the more popular celebrities that show up for the "clambake" is Rush Limbaugh, who is obviously in his element at the PGA.
On the off days between tournaments, people like Feherty travel the country in corporate or private jets to play rounds of golf with industry titans and Republican politicians. They are rewarded handsomely for these outings, which explains why Feherty can afford to live in the upscale North Dallas area in the Peoples Republic of Texas and hang out with neighbors like George W. Bush.
Here's what bothers me. Feherty shows absolutely no remorse for what he said. His half-hearted apology wasn't really meant for Pelosi, Reid or the soldiers he slandered. It was meant for the bigwigs at CBS, EA Sports and Cobra so he could continue the lifestyle he has become accustomed to in his adopted country. "The passage was a metaphor meant to describe how American troops felt about our 43rd president" said Feherty. (I seriously doubt that. Apparently Feherty has been hanging out with the private contractors rather than the grunts in the field.) He continued that he clearly "insulted" Pelosi and Reid and was truly sorry for that.
Wrong. David Feherty insulted every person who puts on a uniform to fight for the United States. He cast them all as hate mongers willing to assassinate members of the government that Feherty and his pals don't care for. And for that he must be punished.
Remember the Dixie Chicks? At a concert in London, lead singer Natalie Maines mentioned she was ashamed that George Bush came from her home state of Texas. For that comment, the Dixie Chicks were banned from most of the public airwaves, radio stations sponsored rallies where CDs were crushed and burned. Their career was ruined. Feherty has advanced the idea of violence against public officials and what do we hear from the patriots at the PGA? Crickets.
Years ago, another CBS golf commentator Gary McCord mentioned on air that the greens at the Masters were so fast that they seemed to be "bikini-waxed." For this innocent remark, McCord was banned for life from ever appearing on another Masters telecast by the people who run the Masters, CBS and the PGA. If McCord is banished for an innocent joke, Feherty should be fired immediately.
He has defended himself by saying that he supports the troops, made a trip to the Mideast and visits them in hospitals. Well good for him but guess what? Thousands of other people do the same thing without any publicity. I highly doubt any of them engage in a conversation that would cause a soldier to threaten a member of congress. Al Franken has been doing USO shows for years with minimal publicity, but Franken is probably not the type of patriot Feherty or his friends at the PGA cotton to. Visiting the troops does not give you a free pass to smear them.
People make jokes like Feherty's all the time in private. It's called freedom of speech. However, those jokes are meant to be private. Everybody screws up. Verbal slip-ups like the ones McCord, Fuzzy Zoeller or Hootie Johnson uttered can be excused for lack of judgment, heat of the moment, inappropriate glibness or whatever. However when Feherty took it upon himself to become the spokesman for our troops, he did so in an article he wrote for a magazine. He surely re-read his article a few times to make sure it represented exactly what he wanted it to say. He had plenty of opportunities to remove the passage yet he chose not to. Feherty absolutely wanted the world to know that American troops are willing to kill elected officials.
There is no way I can watch Feherty on a CBS golf telecast ever again without thinking of how much he disrespects the political process of his adopted country and slanders the troops. Others have been fired for less. Failure to terminate Feherty's contract will just tar everyone involved in professional golf and at CBS. This was not a slip of the tongue. It was a threat.
I'm sorry for you David. You let your personal biases get in the way of your career. It's too bad. When you stuck to golf, you were very entertaining. I'm sure you'll be very happy in retirement in your beloved Texas playing rounds with your pals from AIG and George W. And you can make all the jokes you want.