A popular San Francisco news anchor inexplicably made a joke on a Wednesday evening newscast suggesting NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. “should marry his stepmother.”
First, some background: Preceding the quip by KPIX news anchor Dana King was a flawed report from sports anchor Dennis O’Donnell about the unveiling of the stock car Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be racing with his new team next season. Dale Jr., son of the late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr., is in his final season with Dale Earnhardt Inc., the racing team his father founded and left to Dale Jr.’s stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt. Dale Jr. and Teresa have been publicly at odds about the direction and management of DEI.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR’s most popular driver, and his millions of fans have purchased merchandise emblazoned with his #8, which is the property of DEI. Negotiations with Teresa to allow Dale Jr. to race under #8 on his new team broke down, forcing him to choose a new number. 88 is the number he selected (he purchased the right to use the number from another driver).
O’Donnell, who as the sports guy really should have known more about the matter than, say, me, suggested that the sole reason why Earnhardt Jr. switched numbers was so more Dale Jr. merchandise could be sold. As O’Donnell concluded, news anchor Ken Bastida -- who apparently knew more about the story -- chimed in, saying “I thought it was about his stepmother.”
At that point, co-anchor Dana King said “I think he should marry his stepmother.” Nervous laughter from the rest of the team resulted, to which I believe King responded, “Well, isn’t that what…” leaving her follow-up comment a fragment. Then she turned to the camera, smiled, and said, “On that note…” went into the introduction for the following program, and the reminder to view the 11pm newscast.
Sure, it’s a “joke.” But what type of joke is it? One that plays on stereotypes of southerners as inbred hicks. Don't think so? Think about it: Would King's joke have made sense if Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the most popular figure in yacht racing? If this was bicycle racing and not NASCAR, and the dispute was about Lance Armstrong’s feud with his stepmother, would anyone have suggested Lance marry his father’s widow?
Most disturbing to me personally is the fact that Dana King is 1) normally, one of the Bay Area’s more balanced anchors, and 2) black, as am I. I don’t think she would be amused if an anchor she worked with made a remark based on racist stereotypes on the air. But white southerners, unlike minorities, are still politically correct targets.