Monday, May 11, 2009

Double Standard

It's sad the double standards that go on in the media.

Comedian Wanda Sykes pulled no punches as she skewered conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondents' Dinner -- but her morbid cracks set some guests' cringe-meters off the charts.

Sykes accused Limbaugh of treason, compared him to Usama bin Laden and wished for his physical collapse as she roasted the favorite target of liberals Saturday night at the Washington Hilton.

"Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails, so you're saying, 'I hope America fails,' you're like, 'I don't care about people losing their homes, their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq.' He just wants the country to fail. To me, that's treason," Sykes said.

"He's not saying anything differently than what Usama bin Laden is saying," she continued, before addressing the guest of honor, President Obama. "You know, you might want to look into this, sir, because I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker. But he was just so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight."

The crowd groaned, Obama smiled and Sykes may have noticed a little discomfort in the room.

"Too much?" she asked.

But then she piled it on:

"Rush Limbaugh, 'I hope the country fails' -- I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? ... He needs a good waterboarding, that's what he needs."

Obama joined the crowd in laughing at the crack about Limbaugh's "kidneys."

But White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested Monday that Sykes' bit was considered in poor taste.

"I don't know how guests get booked," Gibbs told reporters. "I haven't talked to the president (about it), but my guess is there are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection, rather than comedy -- no doubt 9/11 is part of that."

After the appearance, conservatives bellowed that Sykes was way over the line. "Mean-spirited," "hateful" and "disgusting" were just a few of the words used by conservative bloggers and commentators to describe the performance.

"This woman comes up and says, 'I hope Rush Limbaugh dies,' and everybody giggles," said Tim Graham, director of media analysis with the Media Research Center.

National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg called it "particularly awful."

Sykes' publicist was not immediately available for comment.

Some critics said there was a double standard employed for conservative and liberal jokesters, pointing out that golf announcer David Feherty apologized over the weekend for his column in which he joked about U.S. troops wanting to kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Feherty's line drew heavy attention from the liberal group Media Matters and earned him a "worst person in the world" dubbing by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

Graham said the relatively low-key coverage of Sykes' joke in mainstream media underscores the "slanted take on what's hateful and what's not."

"When a conservative says it, it's an utter outrage. And when a liberal says it, it's a knee-slapper," he said.

An editor with Britain's Daily Telegraph who was at the dinner wrote that liberals will give Sykes a pass, since her target was a right-wing talk show host. And he marveled at Obama's response.

"That's way, way beyond reasoned debate or comedy and Obama's reaction to it was astonishing," wrote Toby Harnden. "Imagine if a comedian 'joked' that Obama was a terrorist who was guilty of treason and should be tortured and allowed to die. There would justifiably be an outcry."

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- CBS Sports golf analyst David Feherty apologized Sunday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a morbid joke that went bad in a Dallas magazine.

Feherty, one of the most popular golf analysts for his sharp wit and self-deprecating humor, was among five Dallas residents who wrote for "D Magazine" on former President George W. Bush moving to Dallas.

"From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this though," Feherty wrote toward the end of his column.

"Despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death."

Feherty, a former Ryder Cup player who grew up in Northern Ireland, has gone to Iraq over Thanksgiving the past two years to visit with U.S. troops, and he created a foundation to help wounded soldiers.

"This passage was a metaphor meant to describe how American troops felt about our 43rd president," Feherty said in a statement. "In retrospect, it was inappropriate and unacceptable, and has clearly insulted Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, and for that, I apologize. As for our troops, they know I will continue to do as much as I can for them both at home and abroad."

Feherty has lived in Dallas the past dozen years. Along with working for CBS Sports, he writes a monthly column for Golf magazine and has written four books, the last one titled, "An Idiot for All Season."

CBS Sports distanced itself from Feherty's writing, saying it was "an unacceptable attempt at humor and is not in any way condoned, endorsed or approved" by the network. The PGA Tour also criticized him for an attempt at humor that "went over the line."

CBS is not broadcasting The Players Championship this week. The network resumes its PGA Tour coverage next week in San Antonio with the Valero Texas Open.

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