In case you missed it last week, radio self-help shrink (and nutcase) Dr. Laura Schlessinger repeatedly used a racial epithet with a caller. After a justified outcry, Dr. Laura gave one of those quasi-apologies that are so in vogue these days.
Tuesday, she was on "Larry King Live," saying that she was ending her show at the end of this year. Part of the reason is, and I quote, "because she wants to regain her First Amendment rights."
Hey, Dr. Laura -- you never lost them. You didn't go to jail for something you said; nor did you pay a fine. You're losing your job -- big difference.
Everytime someone says something offensive or stupid these days and suffers some sort of consequence -- be it Dr. Laura, Oliver Stone, Mel Gibson or Helen Thomas -- they get a series of defenders saying "What about their First Amendment rights?"
Newsflash: I've been a journalist for 16 years now, and the First Amendment restricts government from infringing upon the rights of people to speak their mind, no matter how offensive it might be. There is no listing -- none -- that says a person can't face the consequences of losing their job to a private employer for airing those views.
None of those people I listed are going to jail for their comments. (Gibson might be going to jail, but it will be for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend, not for the bile he spewed that was caught on tape).
Pretty much anyone who has a job working for someone else does have the right to say whatever they want without fear of imprisonment or a fine. But equally, the employer has the right to punish that employee if he or she embarrasses the company in some way.
I can write whatever I want to on this blog without fear of being prosecuted for it (unless I write something that libels someone, but that's a separate issue). However, if I write something offensive or demeaning, The Telegraph has the right to punish me by firing or suspending me. The Telegraph isn't infringing on my First Amendment rights; it's practicing smart business.
So please, enough bleating about freedom of speech. People who use the First Amendment argument ought to be at least educated about it.
THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: I'm exercising my First Amendment right to say that I hope the Jesse storyline will soon be over as "Burn Notice" (USA, 9 p.m.) winds down this season. Hopefully, none of my bosses are Jesse fans. It's followed by a new "Royal Pains" at 10 p.m.
On the networks, ABC has new episodes of "Rookie Blue" and "Boston Med," beginning at 9 p.m. Meanwhile, sports fans can watch the Falcons battle the Patriots in preseason action (Fox, 8 p.m.)
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