Monday, December 17, 2007


I'm sure a lot of New York Times readers had no idea until today who Michael Savage is -- and what they learned from Jacques Steinberg's article in today's Times, unfortunately, is that he's a somewhat nasty but (by today's standards) not excessively intemperate radio shock jock. They also learned that, in the current controversy in which he's embroiled, his critics might be quoting him out of context:

Boycotted Radio Host Remains Unbowed

(Note that already, in the headline, he's the victim.)

The humbling of Don Imus last spring over his remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team has done nothing to quiet Michael Savage, a radio host with a far bigger following and far more checkered track record.

... a few weeks ago, Mr. Savage uncorked a cascade of invective about Islam. Among his on-air comments: the Koran is "a book of hate"; some Muslims, at least, "need deportation"; and adherents of Islam would do well to "take your religion and shove it up your behind" because "I'm sick of you."

In response the Council on American-Islamic Relations ... made Mr. Savage's comments widely available on the Internet and called on advertisers to boycott his program....

On Dec. 3 Mr. Savage fired back at his critics in a way Mr. Imus never did: He filed a lawsuit in United States District Court against the council, not only for taking his comments out of context -- he says they were made within a broader discussion of the president of Iran -- but for then making audio of them available on its Web site,

..."Remember, I'm a New Yorker," [Savage] said. "I grew up on sarcasm and satire. People are too literal, No. 1, and they don't have a true sense of humor, No. 2." ...

Where do I start?

I'll start with what the Times doesn't give you -- an extended quote. Here it is, from CAIR's Web site:

"I'm not gonna put my wife in a hijab. And I'm not gonna put my daughter in a burqa. And I'm not gettin on my all-fours and braying to Mecca. And you could drop dead if you don't like it. You can shove it up your pipe. I don't wanna hear anymore about Islam. I don't wanna hear one more word about Islam. Take your religion and shove it up your behind. I'm sick of you."

"What kind of religion is this? What kind of world are you living in when you let them in here with that throwback document in their hand, which is a book of hate. Don't tell me I need reeducation. They need deportation. I don't need reeducation. Deportation, not reeducation. You can take C-A-I-R and throw 'em out of my country. I'd raise the American flag and I'd get out my trumpet if you did it. Without due process. You can take your due process and shove it."

"What sane nation that worships the U.S. constitution, which is the greatest document of freedom ever written, would bring in people who worship a book that tells them the exact opposite. Make no mistake about it, the Quran is not a document of freedom. The Quran is a document of slavery and chattel. It teaches you that you are a slave."

I think my favorite part of the Times summation is the assertion that Savage said "some Muslims, at least, 'need deportation.'" Do you see any qualifications in that rant? Any suggestion made that some Muslims don't deserve deportation? Any exceptions made for "good" Muslims?

And what on earth does this have to do with Ahmedinejad's visit? If that's the context in which he said this, how does that make the remarks more temperate?

And as for the "sarcasm and satire" part, go listen to the clip -- it's at that CAIR link. The man is screaming. He's utterly hysterical. There's no levity whatsoever.

And listen all the way through (did Steinberg even bother?), because the clip has more than what's in the printed transcript. This, for instance:

... every day Bush brings in thousands of [sic] more, of these throwbacks, throwbacks, wearing medieval costumes, walking around spitting on the ground every time they see a Christian or a Jew or a so-called infidel. These throwbacks think they're better than you, underneath it all. And ninety percent of them are on welfare. Ninety percent of them come in here, and all they do is breed more bombers -- more bombers and more bombers! And you're telling me this is a sane country?

...Speak out at the supermarket! Tell 'em what you think of Islam. Tell 'em what you think of Muslims. Tell 'em what you think of these things. Stop hiding what you feel. Say it to everyone you meet. Let 'em prove it's a religion of peace! Say it on the supermarket line, and don't care what stares you get from those dumb idiots who are checking out behind you with their Cracker Jacks. Say it to everybody you meet wherever you go. If America started to say it like it is we could take the country back from the
maniacs who are bringing them in by the tens of thousands.

Yeah, that sounds like "sarcasm and satire," doesn't it?

Shrewdly, Savage invited Steinberg to sit in as he was doing a radio show. It worked -- Steinberg seems to have come away thinking that Savage is really just a colorful character, the kind of guy you might have known back in the old neighborhood:

...Mr. Savage can be surprisingly unintimidating in person, standing 5-foot-7 and looking, on this day, like he had sprung from an L. L. Bean catalog in a bright orange corduroy shirt, black fleece vest and tan chinos, with a miniature poodle at his feet. He can also project charm, insisting that a visitor just off a cross-country flight pause to have a turkey sandwich with potato salad.

"Drew, did you get pastry?" he later asked his assistant, Drew Bader, sounding more like a grandmother than a firebrand.

"Yes," Mr. Bader assured him wearily, "I got a hamantaschen and a piece of kugel." ...

For Steinberg, that seems to have been a substitute for actual research. And it's not as if the research is particularly difficult: In addition to the CAIR page, Media Matters has dozens of appalling transcripts and audio clips. A sampling:

Savage: "[L]oving, kind lesbian" is "the type that stuffed ovens in Hitler's concentration camps"

Savage: Rep. Ellison, atheists share "hatred of Christianity and hatred of Jews"

Savage compared Rep. Wexler to Nazis over questioning of [Alberto] Gonzales during hearing

And that's just a tiny sampling.

Was none of this "fit to print"?

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