His pathetic display of borderline seditious boneheadedness on Fox & Friends this morning earned him the title of former singer of the intro song for Monday Night Football. His on-air comparison of the President of the United States to Hitler and his description of Mssrs. Obama and Biden as “the enemy”—an enemy so horrible, apparently, that John Boehner’s playing golf with the POTUS was “one of the biggest political mistakes ever”—was so outrageous that even Gretchen Carlson backed away from his lunacy. Let’s face it, if there are four people in a conversation and Gretchen Carlson is the smart one, you’re in serious trouble.
OK, Brian Kilmeade’s silly introduction notwithstanding, Hank Williams, Jr. does not “[know] a lot about politics.” He is, in fact, a buffoon. The fact that he has arrogantly-asserted opinions and a boorish smirk does not make him knowledgeable, although he could probably hold his own against the majority of the guests on Fox & Friends, including most of the alleged political experts and undoubtedly all of the presumed journalists. That he was previously enamored of Sarah Palin tells you that, let’s say, his politics and mine are not terribly well aligned. That he—or anyone—thinks Herman Cain is a reasonable candidate sends chills up my spine. But that’s not a reason to fire his sorry ass. Comparing the President to Hitler is.
By the way, this isn’t a partisan issue. A few years ago Senator Dick Durbin was describing conditions at Guantanamo Bay and suggested (accurately, I might add) that:
If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others—that had no concern for human beings.True, we expect a little more from a US Senator than from a pompous country singer the majority of the country knows for a single song from a generation ago. But Durbin was describing conditions, not people… and mentioning Nazis in general isn’t the same as a direct analogue to the guy with the funny mustache. Still, here’s what I said at the time: “… you don't mention Nazis. You just don't. Even if you're not really making a comparison, even (no, make that especially) if the point you make is legitimate, you've got to understand that all people are going to hear is a slur.” Williams’s walk-back appears to be even less sincere than Durbin’s, and demonstrates his fundamental failure to comprehend even the most basic of political realities: that Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner have to work together at least a little bit or everyone loses.
There will be those, including over 40%—as I write this, at least—of those responding to an online poll by USA Today, who think ESPN was “wrong” to fire Williams because “there’s free speech.” OK, once more: “free speech” means only that the government can’t prosecute you for what you say (with a few exceptions: incitement to riot, slander, perjury, etc.). It doesn’t mean that you can say whatever you want without repercussions. Sarah Palin may not comprehend this; Hank Williams, Jr. may not comprehend this. But it is a fact nonetheless: a private company can get rid of you for embarrassing them. Indeed, it is their responsibility to their stockholders and to their employees who aren’t dumber than the proverbial box of rocks to do so.
What will be really interesting to watch will be Fox News’s response to all this. They (or at least Carlson) backed away from Williams’s more incendiary rhetoric, but don’t be surprised to see them suddenly trumpeting his “right” to do whatever he chooses without restriction. (Watch the fireworks fly if one of their employees has the apostasy to question the Solomonic wisdom of Michele Bachman, however.)
Most significantly, of course, all of this leaves ESPN without a singer for their self-indulgent, over-produced and hellaciously boring intro. Luckily, I’m here to help them out. In Williams, they had a bigoted, reactionary has-been country singer. The reasonable replacement: a bigoted, reactionary has-been rock singer. And the Lions are on next week: “Cat Scratch Fever” seems particularly apt.