Last week, old radio clips surfaced of the Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson saying some incendiary things. From 2006 to 2011, Carlson had called in regularly to a show in Florida, where he described Arianna Huffington as a “pig,” Oprah Winfrey as an “anti-man” crusader who “hate[s] the penis,” and ladies in general as “extremely primitive.” Iraqis are “monkeys” who need to “shut the fuck up and follow.” Carlson likewise had favorable messages. He spoke lustily of Miss Teenager South Carolina, saying, “She absolutely looks eighteen.” And he praised white guys for “creating civilization and things.”
After the first clips were aired by Media Matters, many marketers deserted Carlson’s program (including Just for Men, the beard-dye brand; MyPillow remains). Carlson refused to apologize. He argued rather that critics on the left have stifled the free flow of concepts by policing what people “are allowed to state and think.” The newest fight in the free-speech wars had begun.
The country has come a long method because Schenck v. United States, which verified that the Constitution doesn’t allow a man to incorrectly shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Social laws have showed harder. Can a man scream that pedophilia including a grown woman and a young boy isn’t so bad, on a nationwide radio show? To response that question, the nation may quickly turn to the case of Love Sponge v. Snowflakes.
The sponge in concern is Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, the host of the radio show that Carlson liked to call. Clem, who lawfully altered his very first name to Bubba the Love Sponge in 1999 (it pre-owned to be Todd), likes controversy. He interviewed the porn star Stormy Daniels about her intermediaries with Donald Trump, method back in 2007. Roger Stone has actually been a current visitor on his show. When Hulk Hogan took legal action against Gawker for publishing footage of Hogan having sex with his best buddy’s spouse—which the best friend had organized to record—Clem was the best good friend.
Lightning-rod free-speech cases have typically involved figures who are inconveniently unwholesome. The plaintiff in Brandenburg v. Ohio was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, the judgment in the Citizens United case protected the speech of corporations, and Larry Flynt was the centerpiece of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell.
To this list, we may add Clem, who has, in some quarters, been held up as a free-speech icon for his footloose, sometimes repellent radio segments. After the Carlson event, the byline “Bubba Clem” appeared on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, where Clem argued that even contemptible beliefs ought to be protected from the “speech police.” He invoked Lenny Bruce and the theory of “benign offense”—that humor can’t exist without breaking taboos.
The other day, after ending up his reveal, Clem agreed to participate in a discussion about First Change scholarship, over the phone, from his studio in Tampa. He was joined by his lawyer and one of his manufacturers.
Clem said that he’d been reading up on the law. “I’m most likely more familiar with landmarks, you understand, like Falwell v. Flynt,” he stated. “I’m fairly up to speed.”
Did he think that the Gawker case, in which the outlet was successfully took legal action against out of existence for publishing a video, has unfavorable First Amendment implications? “You can not confuse the Very first Modification with a personal privacy concern,” he stated. “The Very First Change doesn’t provide everyone the right to see or have gain access to to—or even in a newsworthy-type offer to report on—footage that was in somebody’s bedroom and was never implied to be seen.”
Where would he rank the likes of James Madison among free-speech heroes? “I’m sure our nation’s predecessors should be thanked before Howard Stern,” Clem said. “But not in my messed-up world.”
Clem was thrust into the speech fight on an otherwise normal Sunday evening, when he returned from a late dinner. “I live with my mother, by the method, and my mommy’s a huge Fox person,” he stated. “She goes, ‘They’re trying to mess with you and Tucker!’ I’m, like, ‘What? What did he ever do?’ ” He added, “I’ve had homeless individuals on who have stated very extravagant things, and nobody’s composing about them.” Clem stayed up that night reading Twitter—so late that he slept through his 3 a. m. alarm, and he skipped the show that early morning. He never looked for to be a free-speech champ, he stated, but he felt that he and his pal were being unjustly assaulted.
“I’m not almost as fantastic as George Carlin,” Clem stated. “But I try to be kind of a dumber, white-trash variation of George Carlin.”
Being a dumb, white-trash George Carlin has its costs, such as being attempted on felony charges of animal cruelty, in 2002, after he had a wild hog castrated and butchered on the air (he was found not guilty), or, in 2012, when his plan to “deep fat fry” the Quran was obviously shut down by David Petraeus, then the C.I.A. director.
Clem doesn’t argue with his critics’ right to lash out, but he is mad when the barbs are confidential: “I can go be, you know, JimmyJam415 on Twitter, and if I put on’t like your articles I can say the most over-the-top things about you—‘I caught him in bed with a goat!’ ” It is the position of Bubba the Love Sponge that allegations of bestiality are best used with one’s name attached.
Clem had a final thought, before hanging up. “Don’t write this any other way than you would,” he advised. “Just fuckin’ let it rip.”
His lawyer, Jeffrey E. Nusinov, added his own counsel: “I’m simply going to state, in the spirit of Bubba, don’t even let the editors see it.” ♦