Joe Scarborough: Hoisted by his own sanctimonious petard

The MSNBC star, who today used the "F-word" on his show, has repeatedly demanded massive FCC fines for similar infractions.

Published November 10, 2008 3:10PM (EST)

(updated below - Update II)

On his live MSNBC show this morning, former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough used the phrase "fuck you" when discussing Obama's appointment of Rahm Emanuel:



I personally couldn't care any less about that.  But Joe Scarborough, in the past, not only claimed to care about such things, but has been one of the most zealous crusaders against such awful filth on television.

Scarborough led the lynch mob over the 2004 Janet Jackson halftime show on CBS -- demanding that the FCC impose massive fines against CBS and MTV, among others -- and has railed against "rock stars" and entertainers who use, as he used to call it (before this morning), "the F word."  Indeed, Scarborough even expressed outrage over the fact that the Government would even consider refraining from imposing substantial fines on ABC when Bono, on a live awards show, used the "F word."

Here is Scarborough, from his February 2, 2004 show -- after the Super Bowl show -- lambasting the FCC for allowing indecency over the airwaves and demanding that Michael Powell slam CBS with massive fines or be fired (while noting that the problem extended beyond this episode and was composed, at least equally, of the use of bad words):

But, first, the FCC is asleep at the wheel. And it is your family who's being hurt. . . .

Last night, as my boys and their friends sat around the TV set watching the Super Bowl, I spent the first half fielding questions about the 20 commercials for erectile dysfunction and the second half answering questions about Janet Jackson's striptease act.

But if Michael Powell and the FCC had been doing their jobs policing the airwaves over the past few years, the Jackson sideshow would have never occurred, because CBS, MTV, Viacom, and Janet Jackson would have gotten the message that polluting our airwaves comes with a price.

And they also would have easily lost lots of money. And it would have offset whatever free publicity these pathetic losers got because of Jackson's crass P.R. stunt. Just like the Reagan miniseries before it, the Janet Super Bowl proves once again that CBS just does not get it. And unless Michael Powell starts getting it soon by making CBS pay big time for their stunt, President Bush should fire the feckless FCC chairman immediately. . . .

But I have got to say, that's the problem, not just being exposed to Janet Jackson, but being exposed to the F-bomb several times from rock stars at award shows, from actresses at award shows. Unbelievable.

We are going to keep talking about this.

Two days later, Scarborough collected hordes of outraged emails from his angry viewers over Janet Jackson and flew them to Washington DC to deliver them to Trent Lott and other right-wing officials, demanding government punishment against CBS, Viacom, MTV, and even the NFL:

This year's Super Bowl halftime showed to the entire world that MTV is a cultural virus that infects our children daily. . . .

What is Capitol Hill doing to protect your family from stunts like Janet Jackson's? Well, I went to Washington to find out for you.

Now, you've, of course, sent us thousands of e-mails about the Super Bowl halftime show. And yesterday, I flew down to Washington to deliver them to the people who are going to get something done about it. Senator Trent Lott is one of them. And, of course, he's the chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. . . .

He was absolutely blown away by your response on this issue. And it sent him a strong message that you are angry. And he says something is going to happen. Of course, we've got the FCC hearing next week. . .

And we also met up with Congressman Tom Osborne, who is pushing for bigger fines for networks that broadcast indecency.

On October 27, 2003, Scarborough expressed extreme anger that the FCC refused to impose fines on ABC when Bono used "the 'F' word" during a live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards:

The show was live, and unlike SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the "F" word was not bleeped out. Earlier this month, the FCC ruled that Bono's acceptance speech and his use of the word that began with an "F" was not a violation of indecency rules. . . ..

Robert, it was at 8:00. Kids were watching this. You've studied television and pop culture. What does it say about our FCC that we've come this far or you could say gone this far backward that somebody could say the "F" word on TV and get the federal government's approval?

Scarborough then even boasted to his guest that his upbringing was so fine that he was taught not to use such words:

Robert, I'm glad to hear that you don't use the words and you didn't use them growing up. All I'll say is, my mom put soap in my mouth more than once or twice.

Apparently, she didn't do it enough.  On October 10, 2006, Scarborough hosted a whole segment mocking and attacking Barbra Streisand for using the same word during a concert when speaking about President Bush:

Also, Barbra Streisand gets into a four-letter fight with one of her fans. Her Bush-bashing schtick led to an angry F bomb. . . .And coming up: Barbra Streisand drops the F bomb on a fan who fights back after her Bush-bashing routine. We`ve got the star-studded reaction to the obscene outburst. . . .

Scarborough was elected to Congress in 1994, with the Gingrich-led Republican class that made family values one of its principal crusades.  Using Scarborough's outraged crusades from the past, one would have to conclude that it insufficient that he merely apologize for what he said, and instead, MSNBC must be severely fined for what Scarborough said -- especially since it was heard during the morning when many of America's children could be watching.   After all -- as he so eloquently put it -- "what does it say about our FCC that we've come this far or you could say gone this far backward that somebody could say the "F" word on TV and get the federal government's approval?"


UPDATE:  It's true, as several commenters pointed out, that the FCC only imposes indecency fines for network television, not basic cable, though right-wing activists, including those on the FCC (such as FCC Chairman Kevin Martin), have long been agitating to vest the FCC with power to do both.  Of course, Scarborough's past sermonizing doesn't depend on that jurisdictional question.  It's all about the kids (as he put it on October 27, 2003:  "thanks to Bono and the FCC, there are now only six words that you can't say on TV. Why is the F-word OK for your kids to hear?").


UPDATE II:  From the Comment section, an outraged parent speaks out:

My kid heard that

It's funny you write about this today. I was getting ready for work this morning, watching Morning Joe (which I like despite Joe). My 10-year-old son got up, came into the living room, and is typical of a day when he doesn't have school, plopped down on the couch and started watching with me. I was just about to hand him the remote to change to less-newsy fare when Joe popped off with this. I was flabbergasted. And there's no question my kid heard that. Ugh.

One shudders to think how many other American children were exposed today to the raunchy filth of Joe Scarborough.  The outraged emails are already pouring in.  Keep them coming.  Let me hear especially from other parents.  I'm going to fly down to Washington with the emails and comments in hand (and a camera crew in tow) to demand government punishment against NBC, MSNBC, GE, Scarborough, Time-Warner, Inc. (due to Jay Carney's instigation) and others.   

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

MORE FROM Glenn Greenwald

Related Topics ------------------------------------------