While on KTRS today, I played the audio of Sen. Carl Levin going after a Goldman Sachs executive in a Senate committee hearing yesterday. At one point, Levin read from a GS internal memo that referred to a deal as “shitty.” Levin used that word over and over — 11 times in a four minute span. Later, Sen. Claire McCaskill used it, too, in reading from the same memo.
Of course, when I played the audio on the air, I had to bleep out the s-bombs because of FCC regulations. While that took some work, I wonder how the commission would have felt if we’d been carrying the hearing live. Would they hold me and the radio station responsible for allowing those words from a US Senator to air uncensored?
A few weeks ago, just before President Obama signed the health care reform bill into law, he was introduced by VP Joe Biden. When Biden finally finished, he turned to hug Obama and tell him, “This is a big fucking deal.” Obama blanched at Biden’s use of the word, probably knowing that the microphones in front of them picked it up — and indeed they did.
I happened to be on KTRS that day, too. We were carrying the event live, but I made no attempt to hit the dump button — for two reasons. One, I didn’t think anyone in the audience noticed it or cared. In all my years on the air, I have never received a complaint from any listener on the rare occasions when a profanity slipped through. Ironically, I’ve never had a problem with that from any caller, but a few guests (hello, Graham Nash!) have been so comfortable in our conversation that they seemingly forgot we were on the air and said one of the banned words. I didn’t hit the dump button on them, yet no one else outside the studio seemed to care. Or perhaps they didn’t believe they heard it and wrote it off. Most likely, they know that this is how real people talk sometimes, so it wasn’t a big deal.
The other reason I didn’t hit the dump button on Biden is that I’d love to see the FCC go after a broadcast outlet for carrying a live appearance by a top government official who happens to drop a curse word — language that has been used by big shots in both parties (hello, Mr. Cheney) in the discharge of their official duties.
This morning, WJR/Detroit morning man Paul W. Smith had Levin on his show and asked the senator if he’d defend any broadcasters who might get fined by the FCC for allowing Levin’s expletive to hit the airwaves. Levin responded, “Sorry to put you guys in that position, but to answer your question, of course I would.”
Now there’s a debate I’d like to see. And carry live.