One is that I never used the word faggot in the tape recording being offered as evidence against me. What word is said right after the other choice word I use is unclear. But I can assure you, with complete confidence, that a direct homophobic slur (or indirect one for that matter) is not spoken. In the wake of referring to a tabloid “journalist” as a toxic queen, I would never allow myself to make that mistake again, nor would I expose my wife and family to the attendant ridicule. My friends who happen to be gay are baffled by this. They see me as one who has recently fought for marriage equality and has been a supporter of gay rights for many years. Now, the charge of being a “homophobic bigot,” to quote one crusader in the gay community, is affixed.
Another issue I want to address is the decision by MSNBC to suspend my show. Whether the show comes back at all is at issue right now. My producers and I had a very enlightening and well-researched program prepared to air on November 22nd itself, dealing with John Kennedy’s assassination. That show is off the air now. I am deeply apologetic to Ron Fried, who worked extremely hard with me on that show. It’s heartbreaking to me that the show, meant to coincide with the actual anniversary, will not be aired that night. The show is no doubt a work in progress and one that I believe featured some interesting guests and disseminated a good deal of interesting information. But if the show dies, its fate ends up being no different than the vast majority of start-up TV programming, and so be it. We do take a small amount of pride in knowing that we beat CNN in the ratings each of our nights. (I forget who they had on at that time.)
I have been a fan of MSNBC for some time. Its left-leaning tone never bothered me. I still believe that they are more enamored of and devoted to the truth in any single hour than Fox is all year long. I think Rachel Maddow is perhaps the single most important television journalist on the air today. And if my show does disappear, I will be grateful in so far as her good work, along with that of O’Donnell and Hayes and Sharpton and Matthews and Jansing, will not be sullied by my problem.
Also, it is interesting to note how, once again, the lie travels around the world quicker than even Twain imagined. Oddly, my foundation has donated over $11 million of a projected $15 million from revenue from my recent Capital One ads. Many people don’t know that and when informed actually find it hard to believe. But the assertion that I am a bigoted homophobe travels at light speed and, at least in the case of those who like their internet news without fact or reflection, is accepted, even cheered, without a moment of doubt.
Additionally, the press never turns the camera around on themselves. Least of all the tabloid press. My wife is a young mother with a newborn child. Yet reporters harass and hector her and our baby outside our home in ways that approximate a hockey brawl. It is shameful. And it should be illegal.
I am concerned for my family. In Bloomberg’s New York, forty or fifty paparazzi are allowed to block streets, inconvenience homeowners, workers and shoppers, and make life miserable for my neighbors. Photographers have tripped and fallen on babies in strollers on my block. They have nearly struck my wife in the face with microphones. They provoke me, daily, by getting dangerously close to me with their cameras as weapons, hoping I will react. When I do, the weapon doubles as a device to record my reaction. And then, apparently, I lose every time. If quitting the television business, the movie business, the theatre, any component of entertainment, is necessary in order to bring safety and peace to my family, then that is an easy decision. This country’s obsession with the private lives of famous people is tragic. It’s tragic in the sense that it is so clearly a projection of people’s frustration about their government, their economy, their own spiritual bankruptcy. You have no voice in Washington. In Washington, or in any statehouse, no one actually cares what you think. So you post online, you vote with a Roman-esque thumbs up or down on the celebrity debacle of the day. That is your right. It’s also fatal misdirection of your voice and need to judge. Occupy Wall Street, on their worst day, had more integrity than the comments page of a website ever will.
Two requests. Don’t allow my problem to be MSNBC’s problem. They are good people who work hard at a job, just like many of you. And two, please respect the privacy of my wife and family. If you have an opinion of me, then express it. Think what you like. But I ask that my wife, who I care about more than words can say, and both my children, be left out of this.