Fox News’ John Gibson caused quite a stir last week when he made light of Heath Ledger’s death. In case you don’t recall, the journalist used Ledger’s role in Brokeback Mountain to poke fun at the Australian actor.
Referencing Ledger’s iconic line, “I knew how to quit you,” Gibson chuckled of “weirdo” Ledger’s passing, “Well, he knew how to quit you.” GLAAD and the gays were outraged. And rightfully so. Not only were Gibson’s comments tacky beyond all belief, but they smacked of homophobia.
Now Los Angeles Times‘ reporter Mary McNamara wants Gibson to get a pink slip, saying that Gibson’s comments are analogous to Don Imus’ infamous “nappy headed ho” remarks last year. Gibson’s offensive utterance ain’t the least of McNamara’s issues, however. We’ve included quite a bit of her text, because it’s on point:
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Gibson’s remarks was their premeditation. The opening had been scripted. Then he enjoyed his ghastly jaunt so much he could not let it drop. The Imus excuse — that he made a regrettable off-the-cuff comment — does not even apply, actually. Gibson’s defense — I have been making fun of gays for years, why should I stop just because someone died? — is truly chilling, while his “I’m sorry if some of you found my remarks offensive” is a classic non-apology.
Yes, there are many things occupying our minds these days — the economy, the presidential race, the writers strike, the weather — but this is one of those moments, folks, when we, the television and radio audience, need to take a moment and consider where we stand.
Because it’s easy to say to yourself, “Well, what else do you expect from these ridiculous ‘schlock jocks’? They seem to go out of their way to prove they’re idiots.”
When my editor asked if I wanted to write something about Gibson, my first reaction was, “Why give the guy more attention than he deserves?” But that’s a cop-out, and one that has been used over the years to excuse or ignore invective leveled at many, including the Irish and African Americans, as well as Jews and women.
That Gibson would choose the event of a young man’s death — a young heterosexual man, it must be said — to exercise his “right” to homophobia is not just a matter of taste, it’s an issue of policy. What is Fox News’ policy about the language of hate? And more important, what is our policy?
We’re not holding our breath for Fox to make a statement. They are not the most balanced of news outlets. Nor are we entirely sure Gibson should be fired. Yes, his comments were full of hate and utterly despicable, but wouldn’t firing him trounce America’s free speech laws? He didn’t incite violence, nor did he come right out and say “Fags are AIDS carrying monsters”. It seems to us that while Gibson certainly deserves all the criticism and anti-fan mail in the world, firing him may not be the best course of action. We’d love to see Fox distance themselves from Gibson’s perspective, but, again, we’re not holding our breath.