St Louis, KTRS, Condi Rice, David Lenihan
After Condi Slip-Up, Host's Sacking Looks Unjustified
Why wasn't the dump button pressed?
In the wake of this headline-making instant termination of a St. Louis talk show host Wednesday, that's the first question that comes to mind.
After just eight days on the air, Dave Lenihan made what is quite clearly an unfortunate tongue malfunction regarding Condi Rice:
Lenihan was listing what assets Rice could bring to the league, including her tenure as a top academic officer at Stanford University and the fact that she is African-American.
“She’s just got a patent resume, of somebody that’s got such serious skill,” Linehan said on the air. “She loves football, she’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon, a big coon – oh my God, I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that, OK? I didn’t mean that. That was just a slip of the tongue.”
Lenihan later said he meant to use the word "coup." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
At STLMedia, Mike Anderson has been all over this (audio here, click on "misspoke"), as has Tom Calhoun at The Time Of My Life:
Based on what I heard, the guy actually had a brain fart and committed a slip of the tongue. He seemed instantly aware of how his mistake would be perceived and apologized profusely. But he only made the problem worse by apologizing and calling attention to what he had said.
Back in Broadcasting 101 you are taught that if you make a mistake, you can't take it back, you keep going on and DON'T CALL ATTENTION TO IT.
If he had just kept on talking and acted as though nothing had happened, someone may have called him on it but most of the audience would have realized it was a legitimate error and forgotten about it and the rest would have thought they must have misheard him.
He certainly didn't help himself either when soon after his slip, and resulting apology, he seemed to giggle as he went to a commercial break.
Damage control is the key phrase here. KTRS is trumpeting a new "edgier" and "hipper" direction and of course, its new partnership with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, or their radio station, can't be drug into any kind of a racial-oriented public relations problem and moving swiftly to nip any potential controversy in the bud was what had to be done.
1) While we hadn't previously heard of Lenihan, it's obvious he's a Condi supporter, so this was clearly an accident. In the audio, there's no doubt the second "coon" was his own stunned reaction to the gaffe.
Moments later, the "giggling" represents his disbelief over what has just occurred. One quick apology would have been more appropriate.
Listen for yourself, there's simply no other fair interpretation.
2) "Hosts" are often plucked right off the street now, there is no "Broadcasting 101" these days. That leads to nervous air talent. Though he'd worked at a crosstown station, Lenihan had just eight days at KTRS, meaning he was probably still quite uncomfortable.
3) Perhaps the worst offender in the business, KTRS has a terrible revolving-door staff reputation. No talented, experienced talk host would be caught dead moving his or her family to St. Louis for a KTRS gig.
At this perpetually-floundering mess of a radio station, ugly terminations are a near-certainty.
At STLMedia, longtime industry analyst Mike Anderson has been exposing KTRS sleaze for years, taking abuse from the station in the process.
4) With baseball and football teams beginning to take control of radio stations all over the country, a new element of political pandering is now added to talk radio's hassle mix.
Since teams and their leagues are notoriously moronic when it comes to dealing with these sorts of flaps, talk radio gains yet another new headache.
5) The biggie: doesn't KTRS have a delay system? Between the host, board-op and producer, nobody saw fit to press the dump button? To the Radio Equalizer, something doesn't smell right, as this never should have reached the airwaves.
If they don't have one, they're risking a heap of future FCC trouble.
6) Don't forget the obvious racial double-standard: nobody would get canned for calling Bush a "cracker", even if done intentionally.
With talk radio's frequent termination controversies, there are often fuzzy gray areas that make taking a strong stand on the fired host difficult. Not here: Lenihan was wrongly terminated.
What does Rice think? Will someone ask her?
UPDATE-- Anderson's new comment:
What happened this morning at KTRS was nothing less than another representation of the ongoing inability of management there to manage. He speaks quickly on the air and Lenihan misspoke himself as he delivered effusive praise of Condoleeza Rice. Listen to the audio, linked below. It's obvious he did not say it to be intentionally cruel or racist. The word "coon" doesn't even fit in the context of the sentence he was forming.Your Amazon orders that begin with clicks here, regardless of your final purchases, are vital to supporting this site's efforts. Thanks again!
Lenihan's a bright guy...a Chiropractor and a teacher. And because of the predictable over-the-top media swarm (this thing's even linked on Drudge), I understand he's been suspended from his teaching position. The guy is being unfairly castigated because he bumbled a word, and it began with the actions of Tim Dorsey, who has been bumbling the management of KTRS for almost a decade.
Now let's look to Dave's future. The Internet has plastered this patently false story around the world. At least one of his former workmates has stated unequivocally on his website that he should have been fired. The truth of the matter, though, is that Lenihan is guilty of nothing more than a simple slip of the tongue. There's considerable evidence to back that up...especially the audio record.
Now, how does he get his reputation back?