(NOTE: Please read the update to this alert--Savage has been fired by MSNBC.)
When radio talkshow host Michael Savage was given his own show by the cable TV channel MSNBC, network executives said that the new show should not be judged by Savage's previous hate-filled remarks, but by what he said on the TV show itself. A recent outburst by Savage, however, suggests that the host's prejudice and hatefulness have not been constrained by his new venue.
The incident started when a caller to Michael Savage's July 5 MSNBC show, Savage Nation, apparently tried to get some kind of prank on the show. Savage responded with a homophobic tirade. Here's the transcript from the Nexis news media database:
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am.
SAVAGE: Oh, you're one of the sodomites. You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis.
OK, do we have another nice caller here who's busy because he didn't have a nice night in the bathhouse who's angry at me today? Get me another one, put another sodomite on. No more calls out of--let's go to the next scene. I don't care about these bums. They mean nothing to me. They're all sausages. Next scene; onto the next scene on the Savage Nation.
This does not seem to be the first time Savage has made such comments; the San Jose Mercury News reported (2/27/99) that "Savage has apologized to gay activists after saying he wished they would get AIDS." Such homophobia has long been an integral part of Savage's routine; when he wanted to insult the pro-gun control Million Mom March, for example, he dubbed it "the Million Dyke March" (5/15/00).
He has spoken of "the grand plan, to push homosexuality to cut down on the white race" (San Francisco Bay Guardian, 9/20/00). In his book Savage Nation, he complained that Sen. Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor have "feminized and homosexualized much of America, to the point where the nation has become passive, receptive and masochistic."
When critics pointed out these earlier remarks to MSNBC--a cable channel co-owned by General Electric and Microsoft-- they were dismissed by MSNBC president Erik Sorenson, along with similar attacks on women and people of color. "He hasn't said anything bigoted or hateful on MSNBC," Sorenson told the St. Petersburg Times (3/7/03). "His main thrust for us is going to be national security. I'm going to watch his show...and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt."
Asked about specific slurs made by Savage, like references to "homosexual perversion," Sorenson said: "Those statements as quoted by GLAAD and FAIR are not appropriate for MSNBC.... Those kinds of statements will not be permitted. And if they do happen, they won't happen more than once."
Now that Savage has denounced a caller as "one of the sodomites" who "should only get AIDS and die," will Sorenson admit that Savage says things that are bigoted on his network? Or does he still describe Savage as someone "brash, passionate and smart" who's providing "compelling opinion and analysis with an edge"?
ACTION: Please contact MSNBC to share your concerns about Michael Savage's bigotry.
Neal Shapiro, NBC News President
Bob Wright, NBC President
Erik Sorenson, MSNBC President