"Dr. Laura" Schlessinger's Vile, Racist Rant: Apology Is Not Enough

By GLAAD |
August 16, 2010

The last time "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger made headlines, it was for an interview she did with CNN's Larry King in April of last year, in which she said that while she still believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, a committed gay or lesbian relationship is, in her words, "a beautiful thing and a healthy thing."

It seemed as though Schlessinger, who had spent years demonizing and degrading gay and lesbian people, may have turned over a new leaf.

Not so fast.

Last week on her radio show, Schlessinger launched into a rant about race and what she called racial "hypersensitivity" that lasted nearly six minutes, and included ELEVEN fully articulated, uncensored instances of the N-word.

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(The above MSNBC story contains a bleeped but shortened clip of the conversation. The full audio can be heard at Media Matters, but be cautioned that the offensive language is not bleeped out.)

Schlessinger was responding to an African American caller, who said her white husband's acquaintances would often ask racially insensitive questions. Schlessinger made the outrageous assertion that questions directed towards the caller about 'what black people think' are appropriate, because, in Schlessinger's words, "a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply 'cause he was half-black. Didn't matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that."

The caller then asked Schlessinger about the N-word, which the caller said had also been used. Schlessinger defended the use of such demeaning language, saying, "Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****r, n****r, n****r."

Schlessinger never directed the epithet at the caller, but proceeded to use it eight more times throughout the conversation. She accused the caller of having a "chip on (her) shoulder," and told her she was "hypersensitive about color."

In the early part of this decade, it took three years and an extended campaign by GLAAD and LGBT activists, which included meetings with producers and executives, for Schlessinger to half-heartedly apologize for calling gays and lesbians "destructive, disordered, unhealthy," and a "biological error." And while it does seem as though she has stopped publicly denigrating gay and lesbian people, her pattern of using offensive and defamatory language to dehumanize people is obviously still very much a problem, as evidenced by this week’s racist rant.

It took only a few days for Schlessinger to apologize this time. Perhaps it will be hours the next time, or even minutes the time after that. But it doesn't matter how quickly she apologizes, if she doesn't learn that using her media platform to promote ugly and vulgar language and rhetoric contributes to putting people in harm's way.

Apologies and promises are pre-written, but a live radio show is little more than pure instinct. As HLN host Jane-Velez Mitchell put it: "In the past, when there were protests after she said these inflammatory things, she also apologized. In fact, she put a full- page ad in a magazine. So, she apparently thinks that she can say anything she wants and then there's going to be an uproar and then she can just say, 'I'm sorry,' and it's going away. But I don't think it's going to happen this time around."

Last week were all reminded of "Dr. Laura's" propensity to use vile words and demean entire communities. All media outlets that are considering booking Schlessinger for an interview should look at this not as an isolated incident, but as part of a career-long pattern of denigration and disrespect for others.  And advertisers should immediately pull their support for the "Dr. Laura" program to send a message that her brand of vitriol  will not be tolerated.

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