2004-07-23 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular

by Stuart W. Mirsky

A couple of months ago I was doing an errand up in College Point, picking up a new toilet, actually. Why all the way up there? A long story. But some time before 10 A.M. I was in my car on the road back, spanking new bowl safely in my trunk. I had the radio on, listening to the New York Times classical music station, WQXR. Yeah I know, the New York Times. But what can I say? I like the music and there’s minimal commentary... and I always listen to their news reports with a jaundiced ear anyway, so it seemed safe enough.

So there I was, heading toward the Van Wyck when the show’s host, Jeff Spurgeon (I think that’s how you spell it) came on and informed his listeners that Attorney General John Ashcroft had been hospitalized. I had already heard, earlier that morning, that Ashcroft was in intensive care due to an inflamed gall bladder.

“I was surprised to hear about Ashcroft’s hospitalization for gall bladder disease,” opined Mr. Spurgeon in his steady, mellow voice, as the music faded. A pause, as for a moment of studied reflection. “But then,” he added, without alteration in tone or inflection, “who has more gall than John Ashcroft?”

I nearly drove off the road. Here’s the Attorney General of the United States, one of the highest officials in the federal government and a fellow human being, apparently facing a life threatening illness, and this fellow Spurgeon could not resist a snide remark.

I was still thinking about this, having safely returned to my lane, when Mr. Spurgeon returned to the airwaves to tell us, never mind.

“I shouldn’t have said what I said,” he said. “No need to call in, the phones are already lighting up I see... but I wasn’t thinking when I spoke,” he continued. “It’s the earliness of the morning, people just going to work and all,” he added. 

“They’re telling me here... never mind, I take it back.” And then a pause. And then, as though mumbling to himself, as he allowed the music to take over again, he added: “still, I’m not THAT sorry.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing on this presumably respectable radio station, a station owned and operated by the nation’s “newspaper of record,” a self-declared paragon of the journalistic virtues.

First Spurgeon insults a government official and fellow human being, without any apparent thought for the state of the man’s health or his feelings... or for the feelings of his family. And then he apologizes... AND THEN HE TAKES BACK THE APOLOGY IN ALMOST THE SAME BREATH!

Is that supposed to be it? Everything’s okay now because hey, Mr. Spurgeon misspoke but he apologized for it... well, sort of anyway, if you can ignore his parting retraction of his retraction.

The elite liberal establishment makes a big deal about conservative and Republican negativity, and decries so-called negative talk on certain conservative media programs.

Fox News, for instance, is always catching it for presenting the news in a way that questions various liberal conceits. (Hey, you’re not supposed to do THAT, right?)

If the mainly liberal media is to be believed, this is enough to make Fox News a mere conservative house organ. Better to listen to CNN, they seem to be telling us, or to one of the major broadcast networks, or NPR, or, of course, the radio station of the New York Times.

These outlets know how to tell us what’s really going on which, for them, seems to be mostly a matter of continuously trolling for scandal on, and taking potshots at, the Bush administration.

Of course, I expect the usual slant from the usual suspects whenever I listen to the various news shows on the different stations. But while listening to a music program? And from a fellow whose job is to select and play tasteful selections for his listeners as they wend their way to work, not interject his own political views?

The problem seems to come down to an ongoing sense of aggravation that infected the liberal establishment and its supporters that a guy like Spurgeon can think there’s nothing wrong in insulting and demeaning a public official while he’s seriously ill. Hey, he’s only a Bush official, right? I mean it’s not like he’s worthy of serious consideration or our sympathy!

It’s not enough, it seems, for a gentleman like Mr. Spurgeon to oppose a set of policies, to argue for a change on his own time, to work for President Bush’s soon-to-be-official opponent on his own time. No, he has to exude a snide disdain for this president and his administration even as he conveys what should have been a simple news item.

It’s a disdain that literally reeks of an “I’m better than they are” mentality. Mr. Ashcroft is in the hospital in critical condition? Well, people like Spurgeon seem to be saying, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

A lot of gall, Mr. Spurgeon? Yes but it’s not John Ashcroft, then lying sick in intensive care with gall bladder disease, who has it.

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