Goodell Cannot Fine Tucker Carlson For Calling For Michael Vick’s Execution
By Evan Weiner
December 29, 2010
(New York, N. Y.) -- Roger Goodell, who is trying to rule the National Football League with an iron fist when it comes to disciplinary matters (although his critics have not been that kind to him in slowness the Brett Favre investigation of sending lewd pictures to a "reporter" who worked for the New York Jets--Goodell eventually fined Favre $50,000, the "reporter" was a model turned sportscaster named Jen Sterger. No doubt she was on Versus and turned up as a Jets TV reporter for her investigative qualities), has a major problem. One of Commissioner Goodell's business partners (and backer of an NFL lockout of the players in March), Rupert Murdoch, has seen one of his carnival barkers on the FOX News Channel ---Tucker Carlson---say "I'm a Christian, I've made mistakes myself, I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should've been executed for that. He wasn't, but the idea that the President of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs? Kind of beyond the pale."
Goodell cannot fine Carlson for anything.
Carlson was looking to do the FOX thing which is a constant negative critique of President Barack Obama. The way cable TV news and political talk radio works in the United States is pretty simple. No real debate, the testosterone ladened host (or hostess) is angry at something and that appeals to the loyal viewers or listeners who are looking for someone to vent for them. One radio programmer at WMAL told Sam Donaldson he was not angry enough on the air and that hurt his appeal to the older white male listener who hates his wife, his kids, his job, his lot in life. Donaldson quit the gig. The more vile built up, the better the dramatics and the ability to say some useless product or medicine to the loyal viewer or listener.
Carlson's vitriol looks well with the FOX News Channel audience. It doesn't with the NFL crowd but that's not Carlson's problem. Carlson is just another mouth who works for Murdoch, a media mogul who was ripped by Chicago legendary columnist Mike Royko after Murdoch bought the Chicago Sun Times. Royko quit as a Sun Times columnist in 1984 and said,”No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Rupert Murdoch newspaper. His goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast power for Rupert Murdoch, political power".
Royko was right. (For the record this writer was fired in 2000 by a Murdoch editor as a contributor to a FOX sports business website and David Hill, the head of FOX Sports at the time told me that he loved my show idea for a sports business program but his audience would hate it.)
Murdoch gives Goodell's owners hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the right to put National Football Conference regular season and playoff games on his FOX TV syndication (FOX is not a network in the truest sense of the word network) along with a Super Bowl every few years. Goodell and his owners are eternally grateful that Murdoch stepped into the bidding for NFL TV rights in 1993 and have been reaping the benefits ever since. Murdoch will be paying his annual rights fee in 2011 to the NFL and help fund a lockout fund for the owners. FOX, ESPN, CBS, NBC and DirecTV are giving the owners money for their lockout war chest. But never has one of Murdoch's carnival barkers ever called for the execution of an NFL player. Not even Rush Limbaugh was that stupid during his days with ESPN.
Limbaugh resigned from the Disney-owned network ESPN after a critique of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in October 2003. The sad part was that Limbaugh might have been right about McNabb as a quarterback but he introduced a racial angle which works well in his milieu (talk radio) but not in sports reporting, not that Limbaugh does anything that resembles reporting or journalism.
"I don't think he's been that good from the get-go," Limbaugh said during a Sunday night cablecast on ESPN. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
Tucker Carlson has no ties to the NFL and that is where the story gets complicated for Goodell, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Vick. Goodell can blast Carlson's statement but comedian Jon Stewart skewered Carlson and cable TV news in general in 2004 when some young booker fresh out of college thought that Stewart would be the perfect guest on CNN's Crossfire which featured Clinton political strategist Paul Begala and conservative Carlson. That was a mistake as Stewart did not come onto the show as a funny man and instead told the two hosts what was on his mind.
"The thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations," Stewart said. "And we're left out there to mow our lawns."
"Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America," Stewart said. "You're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great. … What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery."
Begala and Carlson were stunned by Stewart's remarks but that shouldn't be surprising as so-called cable TV news talk show hosts rule their realm as they see fit. The who, what, why, where and how of journalism along with out of the box thinking doesn't apply to their world. CNN would eventually cancel Crossfire but in the world of cable TV news that just means another news network is waiting for the castoff with open arms. MSNBC hired Carlson. His show was a flop and now he like a lot of other flotsam and jetsam ended up on FOX. Sometimes FOX's flotsam and jetsam ends up elsewhere as in the case of Paula Zahn and Rita Crosby. Carlson has been hired by msnbc and FOX since his CNN debacle. He also appeared on Dancing With the Stars, the ABC-TV show that has some sort of fascination with conservatives like Carlson, Tom DeLay and Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol. No one ever loses a job in cable TV news world for slip ups or calling people names or wishing someone dead like New York radio personality Bob Grant did in the 1990s. Grant was fired by WABC and was quickly hired by WOR.
Limbaugh never recovered professionally in the world of the NFL though. In 2009, he floated an idea that he wanted to buy into the St. Louis Rams. The National Football league Players Association condemned the idea and eventually dropped the pursuit of the team. Carlson, from what is known about him, is not much of a sports fan and probably will never try to buy into an NFL team so he is safe from any NFL repercussions.
But that leaves Goodell and his NFL owners in a quandary. Goodell would like as sanitized league as possible but he is in bed with Murdoch and one of his carnival barkers said Michael Vick should have been executed. Murdoch pays a lot of money for TV rights and most football fans really don't care about Murdoch, his FOX News Channel, his New York Post, his inaccuracies with his newspapers globally, they want to watch games. The zombie media in Washington probably will be quiet about Carlson or as quiet as they can in that he is one of them and they seems to protect one another as Stephen Colbert could tell you following his appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2006 when he blasted, in a satirical way, the zombie media. The New York Times was not pleased and other Washington media didn't enjoy the satire very much either. The zombie media brought in Rich Little the next year so that everything would be in order.
Carlson was out of line but he will get away with his comment. He has his own website, The Daily Caller, and he fits in well with the style of the FOX News Channel. He probably won't get Eagles press credentials anytime soon but he did his job well for Murdoch and Roger Ailes and the FOX News Channel audience. Meanwhile, Murdoch should be called onto the carpet by Goodell and Congress should review the 1984 Cable TV Act and allow customers to choose whatever they want in basic and go a la carte. If that happens, the FOX News Channel probably loses 95 percent of its subscribers as would CNN, msnbc, CNBC, FOX Business Channel and ESPN. But Murdoch has half of the 2012 presumptive Republican Presidential candidates on his payroll at FOX, so how likely is it that Congress changes cable TV laws? Goodell can do nothing except ask Carlson for an apology and maybe condemn his statement.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at www.bickley.com, xplana.com or amazonkindle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org