In more than three decades as an author, radio host, and moral proselytizer, Laura Schlessinger has been called out more than once. In 1998, the woman who lambasted the irrationality of her fellow vagina-Americans in the bestselling book Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives was confronted with her own moral lapses when nude photos of her—taken by the radio host Bill Ballance, with whom she had an extramarital affair—surfaced and were gleefully passed around the web. In 2000, as Schlessinger prepared to launch a televised talk show, gay activists who took exception to her view that homosexuality is "a biological error" that should preclude gay couples from adopting children launched the watchdog site StopDrLaura.com. (The talk show tanked fairly quickly, after more than 170 of its advertisers pulled out in response to StopDrLaura's efforts.) In 2009, numerous news and opinions outlets pointed out that her new book, In Praise of Stay-At-Home Moms, was an example of blatant hypocrisy, given that she herself had never been a stay-at-home mother.
I swear that I am a serious douchebag!
And, most recently, the blogosphere goggled at reports of Schlessinger responding to an on-air caller with a stream of both racist epithets and bigoted, tone-deaf arrogance. A short transcript, courtesy of Media Matters:
CALLER: I'm having an issue with my husband where I'm starting to grow very resentful of him. I'm black, and he's white. We've been around some of his friends and family members who start making racist comments as if I'm not there or if I'm not black. And my husband ignores those comments, and it hurts my feelings. And he acts like --
SCHLESSINGER: Well, can you give me an example of a racist comment? 'Cause sometimes people are hypersensitive. So tell me what's -- give me two good examples of racist comments.
CALLER: OK. Last night -- good example -- we had a neighbor come over, and this neighbor -- when every time he comes over, it's always a black comment. It's, "Oh, well, how do you black people like doing this?" And, "Do black people really like doing that?" And for a long time, I would ignore it. But last night, I got to the point where it --
SCHLESSINGER: I don't think that's racist.
CALLER: Well, the stereotype --
SCHLESSINGER: I don't think that's racist. No, I think that --
SCHLESSINGER: No, no, no. I think that's -- well, listen, without giving much thought, 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. That's not a surprise. Not everything that somebody says -- we had friends over the other day, we got about 35 people here -- the guys who were gonna start playing basketball. I was going to go out and play basketball. My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man. And I said, "White men can't jump; I want you on my team." That was racist? That was funny.
CALLER: How about the N-word? So, the N-word's been thrown around --
SCHLESSINGER: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nigger, nigger, nigger.
CALLER: That isn't --
SCHLESSINGER: I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it's affectionate. It's very confusing. Don't hang up, I want to talk to you some more. Don't go away.
Then she said the N-word a bunch more times and told the caller, "Don't double-N...NAACP me." Classy! Naturally, this caused some problems. Tuesday night, Schlessinger—who, though she calls herself a "licensed psychotherapist," is in fact a PhD in physiology who has a certificate in marriage, family, and child counseling—announced on Larry King Live that she's just plumb tired of being persecuted by all those tsk-tsking pantywaists who just can't see past her racist language to understand that she! Dr. Laura! is the real victim here, and went on to say that since her contract is up, she will be leaving douchecasting to in order to "regain" [her] First Amendment rights." That's right, she wants to be free to be as much of an asshole as she wants without having to be held accountable by networks, audience members, and activists. Damn the man!
While pulling an Actor's Workshop assortment of sad faces, she complained to King that "I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors." When Ol' Shoulder Blades helpfully pointed out that Schlessinger's detractors were just as entitled as she to air their opinions, she ignored him and continued, "I don't have the right to say what I need to say. My First Amendment rights have been usurped by angry, hateful groups who don't want to debate, they want to eliminate."
Schlessinger, like so many of her conservative compatriots, has a tenuous grasp on what the First Amendment actually promises (hint: it doesn't promise that radio hosts can say whatever offensive bullshit they want and people need to be cool with it), and, like Don Imus before her, also doesn't seem to realize that just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. But that's almost beside the point. The issue isn't only that Schlessinger used the n-word repeatedly on a radio show. It's also that her overall approach to the caller—what she apparently "needed to say"—was bigoted to begin with. She assumed from the jump that the caller couldn't be experiencing actual racism, but was filtering perfectly harmless small talk through a spiky filter of what she later termed, on King's show, "hypersensitivity," and then derailed the conversation with a now-classic dodge, that of complaining that it just isn't fair that black people can use offensive epithets that white people can't. And the even bigger issue is that Schlessinger has a history of making with this kind of naked bigotry, and subsequently complaining when she gets busted for it that her truth is simply being muzzled by the powerful PC police. (The Huffington Post has her greatest hits handy here.)
I like to think that Bitch has been proactive in calling out Schlessinger's douchebaggery. After all, back in 1997 we ran an article called "Why I Hate Dr. Laura," in which writer Jill Dyche set out a compelling (and, in retrospect, admirably restrained) argument that touched on Schlessinger's disdain for women ("She implicitly chastises her largely female audience to shut up, stay home, procreate, and listen to the radio. Anyone who doesn't is fair game for her traditionalist hunt") and blatant hypocrisy ("She raves against women leveraging the very power that she herself has used to get ahead"). But though Dr. Laura's official Douchebag Decree is long overdue, we're just thrilled that it could coincide with her leaving the airwaves forever. And when she writes the newest update to Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives, she might consider adding a chapter on "Being a sexist, racist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot."