Back in March, liberals tried to make a major controversy out of Rush Limbaugh’s parody of Al Sharpton singing "Barack the Magic Negro" (to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon") even though it borrowed the "magic negro" term from a black writer in the Los Angeles Times. Critics thought it was racist and made Sharpton sound like an idiot. One blogger called for station managers to drop Limbaugh and this "worst kind of vile, demeaning garbage." It even became a news story on NBC.
But what about when the left does a similar kind of satire against Clarence Thomas – and on National Public Radio, no less? On October 1, the first day of the Supreme Court’s new term, NPR’s All Things Considered aired a parody by Bruce Kluger and David Slavin, using ethnic and racial stereotyping for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, and Thomas. Scalia is pitched as the Godfather (complete with notes from the "Godfather" soundtrack) and Thomas is mocked as Scalia’s goon, who repeats everything Scalia says and even calls him "Boss." Fake Thomas also seems well-versed in the signals of public-restroom sex. (You have to hear it to believe it. Audio here.)
The skit’s protagonist is Anthony Kennedy, and the first half of the skit is Kennedy being troubled by a hoary Jewish-mother stereotype of Justice Ginsburg, wondering why Kennedy didn’t send her a postcard over the summer and telling him to wear a scarf because the Court building is over-air conditioned. Then, Kennedy tries to go to the bathroom, where he is threatened by the Godfather and his goon:
SCALIA: Well, well. Look what we got here, Clarence.
THOMAS: Yeah. Look at what we got here.
KENNEDY: Oh. Antonin, Clarence, you startled me. Hi, fellas.
SCALIA: Word on the streets says you're making nicey-nice with old lady Ginsburg. Is that true?
KENNEDY: Look, fellows, I just need to go [to the bathroom]...
SCALIA: You just need to go – to lunch with us today. We'll meeting Alito and Roberts for a little pow-wow, Galileo's, 1:30, back room. They got a bacala to die for.
THOMAS: Yeah. To die for.
SCALIA: And we got a lot to discuss, Paesan -- habeas corpus, discrimination, the environment. And we just want to make sure that we're all on the right and narrow.
THOMAS: Don't you mean straight and narrow, boss?
SCALIA: Shut up, Clarence.
KENNEDY: And if I refuse? ("Godfather" music swells)
SCALIA: Let's just say the rumors have a nasty way of spreading around this town. I mean, I’d hate for somebody to pick up the Washington Times tomorrow and read it, oh, we found you in that stall over there, tapping your right foot like a woodpecker.
THOMAS: Right. Tapping three times, then you carefully move your roller back to the front of the stall and then, baby, oh.
SCALIA: Basta, Clarence! So what it's going to be, sunshine? Can I tell the boys you'll be joining us for lunch?
KENNEDY: Well, I suppose.
SCALIA: Good decision, your honor. We'll give you a ride just as soon as Sam finishes washing my car. Let's go, Clarence.
THOMAS: Yeah. Let's go, Clarence. ("Godfather" music)
KENNEDY: It's going to be a long year.
NPR ANCHOR ROBERT SIEGEL: Satire from Bruce Kluger and David Slavin with Jane Gennaro and Todd Cummings.
To NPR's credit, three days later, as the All Things Considered anchors dipped into their mailbox, the anchors read a letter calling the satire stupid, and unfit for NPR (although the racial-stereotyping skit isn't mentioned in the web summary):
ROBERT SIEGEL, anchor: Many listeners wrote to say that they were not laughing at Bruce Kluger and David Slavin's parody of Justice Anthony Kennedy's role as the swing vote on the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week.
MICHELE NORRIS, anchor: Anna Herrick (ph) was among them. Nothing more than an embarrassing depiction of cliched stereotype, she writes.
SIEGEL: Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the kvetching overbearing Jewish mother.
NORRIS: Antonin Scalia, a Mafioso.
NORRIS: It's especially sad to hear something this stupid coming from NPR.
NPR’s website proudly lists Kluger’s left-wing credentials:
Kluger and Slavin also created and wrote the popular "Memo to George" column for Salon.com, in which they imagined secret correspondences to President Bush from Chief of Staff Andrew Card. The series was hailed by the media website Cursor.org as "pitch-perfect satire" (which might have been a feather in their caps had anyone known what cursor.org was).
Prior to their collaboration, Bruce Kluger was an editor of Playboy Magazine for 13 years, and is currently a member of USA Today's Board of Contributors, a columnist for Parenting magazine and a regular contributor to Alternet.org and Time.com.
If one were to follow the anti-Limbaugh model on this, it's hard to imagine a campaign calling on NPR affiliates to drop All Things Considered. It would sound as odd as writing CBS and telling them to drop the CBS Evening News. NPR, and thus the taxpayers, has paid for and endorsed this ethnic and racial stereotyping.
NPR should not be seen as a sober and serious and more intellectual take on the news. It's often just a program made by liberals seeking to please other liberals. At least Limbaugh doesn't take the money of liberals before he skewers them.