- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

A radio segment joking about the rape of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has failed to draw the same bevy of condemnations as the on-air comments that got shock jock Don Imus fired last month.

XM Satellite Radio hosts Opie and Anthony, whose real names are Greg Hughes and Anthony Cumia, apologized yesterday for a segment Wednesday during which a guest said he would like to have sex with the secretary of state, first lady Laura Bush and Queen Elizabeth II.

The shock jocks egged on the man, whom they called “Homeless Charlie,” describing the “horror” of Miss Rice if she were held to the ground and punched in the face. The full comments are too vulgar to be published in a family newspaper.

“We apologize to the public officials for comments that we made on our XM show on May 9th,” the hosts told listeners yesterday. “We take very seriously the responsibility that comes with our creative freedom and regret any offense that this segment has caused.”

“We deplore the comments made on Wednesday’s Opie & Anthony show,” XM said in a statement. A spokesman declined to comment further.

The remarks come a month after Mr. Imus referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos,” an utterance that sparked a maelstrom of protests eventually resulting in his firing from both MSNBC and CBS Radio.

The Opie and Anthony segment was first reported by Breitbart.tv and linked off the Drudge Report Thursday. By yesterday, the story had been picked up by the Associated Press, and news of the duo’s apology appeared online on numerous media outlets.

But the remarks seem to have flown under the radar of — or were deemed unworthy of condemnation by — those who led the charge for Mr. Imus to be fired.

Representatives for the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, both of whom lobbied Mr. Imus’ employers to fire him, did not return repeated calls or e-mails seeking comment yesterday.

“I don’t think we should stop at NBC, and I don’t think we should stop at Imus,” Mr. Sharpton was quoted as saying by MSNBC last month. Mr. Jackson led a protest in Chicago opposing “the words of racial violence and gender bashing on the Imus show,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

The situations of Mr. Imus and the XM duo differ in at least one key respect: Unlike Mr. Imus, whose show was broadcast over public airwaves, the Opie and Anthony show is not subject to federal content restrictions because it airs on subscription-based satellite radio. In addition, the targets were public officials, not college students.

However, those who decried Mr. Imus’ comments should still object to the Opie and Anthony segment, said Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center.

“Compare the phrase ‘nappy-headed ho’ to a skit involving the violent rape of a public official. Which one is more egregious? To all those people and all those organizations who were so outraged publicly by Don Imus and are silent now, my message is: You are frauds,” Mr. Bozell said.

The fact that Mr. Imus’ comments were made on over-the-air radio is not a meaningful distinction, he said.

“They didn’t go after Don Imus because he was on the public airwaves; it’s what he said. They can’t slither out of it that way,” Mr. Bozell said. If the target of the XM segment were New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton or California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, “there’d be marching in the streets,” he added.

Similarly, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who is black, yesterday called Mr. Sharpton a hypocrite.

“Where’s the outrage from Al Sharpton on this attack of a black woman? Does his selective defense of black women only apply to nonconservative women?” he said.

Latifa Lyles, vice president for membership at the National Organization for Women, said that “there’s no mistaking the status of the women in question” and called the segment “a very desperate attempt” to cut down successful women.

Karl Frisch, spokesman for the liberal Media Matters for America, said the group “hopes that this will continue the national dialogue about race and gender in the media and the important progress that still must be made.”

While no laws were broken, the segment could bring a dark cloud over the proposed merger between XM and Sirius Satellite Radio that, if congressional skepticism is any indicator, is already facing an uphill regulatory battle.

“This is a delicate time,” said Tom Taylor, editor of Inside Radio. “It gives [merger opponent the National Association of Broadcasters] some ammunition to say, ‘Hey look, they didn’t do this on radio, they did this on satellite; this shows what a sort of Wild West range there really is over there.’ And there are enough members of Congress that are inclined to think that way anyway.”

Calls to the chairmen of four congressional committees that held hearings on the merger were either not returned or officials had no comment on the matter.

A spokesman said the Federal Communications Commission, one of two agencies that must approve the merger for it to go through, had no comment.

Even though the remarks about Miss Rice were “disgusting,” Mr. Bozell, whose Parents Television Council regularly criticizes violent and indecent programming, said he does not think satellite radio should be subject to content restrictions.

“If you look at the walls built by XM, they have overall been quite responsible in the way that they are treating this kind of content,” he said. “Consumers are given many different ways to block this, and, if they don’t want it, they don’t have to take it and can get regular radio.”

XM’s parental controls let users block channels that frequently air explicit language. Such channels are identified with an “XL.”

Opie and Anthony have been at XM since 2004. They were fired by CBS Radio in 2002 after broadcasting what they said was two listeners having sex inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. They were rehired by the company last year, but Wednesday’s controversial segment did not air during their CBS Radio show.

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