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Category: Media, Media Monitoring

What Should A Radio Host Do When Guest Calls a Woman a Whore?

| January 31, 2013

What is a radio host’s responsibility when their guest crosses a line? More to the point, what should a radio host do when their guest suddenly calls a U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz a “seditious whore?” Should they remark that the comment is out of line or should they essentially ignore it and move on?

The latter is what happened on Voice of Russia American Edition on Monday, January 29. (Voice of Russia, is heard on AM 1390 Washington, DC; AM 1430 New York City; and 99.9 HD-2 Miami, FL).

Host Rob Sachs had on Andrew Auernheimer, an internet “hacktivist” to discuss the suicide of Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit and co-creator of RSS, who had been charged by the federal government for unauthorized downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR, in what many believed constituted a case of overzealous prosecution by Ortiz.

Auernheimer said on the program (at the 4:25 mark):

I think it’s quite ironic that [Carmen] Ortiz, who tried to steal a man’s motel business because she thought he was weak, has comments like that to make about respect for property. I think she’s a seditious whore.

To which Host Rob Sachs merely stammered: “Okay. Well, getting…apart from that…”

We’re not unsympathetic to those that believe the government’s treatment of Swartz was wrong. But, regardless of those strong feelings, using certain epithets, like whore, hurts of the standing of all women.

A radio host has a responsibility when a guest crosses the line. The correct and proper response is to call attention to the unfair term.  The host doesn't have to "win the point" by engaging in a debate of whether that’s acceptable, but they certainly must not let it stand.

Sachs could have said, "I'm surprised to hear you say that."  Or even "I don't know how to respond," or  "I'm speechless at that."

Sachs fell down on the job by glossing over the gross insult. It's no different than hearing any truly off-color statement from a guest where he might say, "I don't agree,” or “I don't think that's true.” He shouldn’t have let Auernheimer’s comment slide by without an appropriate reaction.

We understand that any program host might be surprised by what their guests say. But part of being a host is being able to react, and interact, with their guests. Being caught off guard isn’t an excuse for failing to react when a guest crosses a line.

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