- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2014


Supporters of fired Opie & Anthony co-host Anthony Cumia claim it was a violation of the radio personality’s First Amendment rights to sack him over his recent controversial Twitter remarks.

It’s great to see people are aware enough of the Constitution that they would attempt to invoke it. Unfortunately, in their effort to construct a constitutional defense for Mr. Cumia, his backers are confusing what the First Amendment actually protects and riding roughshod over an equally important American right.

Fortunately for Mr. Cumia’s supporters, the First Amendment empowers them to make headway in their fight to reunite Opie & Anthony on the airwaves.

SiriusXM, which broadcasts — or, more accurately, “broadcasted” — Opie & Anthony, fired Mr. Cumia on July 3 after he posted what the company described as racially charged and hate-filled tweets. A day earlier, he was taking pictures in Times Square when a black woman, angered at being in one of Mr. Cumia’s photographs, allegedly called him a “white mother-[expletive]” and repeatedly punched him in the head.

Mr. Cumia refused to physically retaliate, a commendable decision, especially in the heat of the moment as he was getting his dome walloped. Instead, he chose to hit back over social media, posting the woman’s photo and launching into a salty Twitter tirade.

In one tweet, he called the woman a “pig face,” a “worthless meat sack” and at least four other terms that I can’t figure out how to clean up enough to put in a newspaper. Suffice it to say, the comments were mean, vulgar and funny. In other tweets that are far more uncomfortable than uproarious, Mr. Cumia referenced issues of violence within the black community and inferred that some black people are “savage violent animal[s].”

While it’s unlikely that Sirius XM would’ve sent Mr. Cumia packing for defending himself and sending the woman away with a black eye and a bloody nose, the satellite radio giant fired him and canceled his $3 million a year contract for the tweets.

It’s a sad indictment on our culture that hitting a woman could be more acceptable to a major company than making fun of her on social media. After all, Mr. Cumia’s words on social media were just that — words. That’s the reality of this bizarre circumstance, though. That’s also why so many Opie & Anthony fans claim that Sirius XM’s decision to can Mr. Cumia was an infringement on the shock jock’s First Amendment rights.

But it’s not.

The First Amendment ensures that government cannot interfere or constrain an American’s right to free speech. The Constitution, however, doesn’t prevent an employer from firing an employee for what he says.

And it shouldn’t.

Just as it’s a fundamental American right to speak out without the threat of being silenced by government, it’s also a fundamental American right for a company to decide what’s in its best interest.

Sirius XM obviously felt sacking Mr. Cumia was the right move; so, good for them.

What gives me the right to be so heartless about someone being fired for exercising their free speech? Well, because it happened to me, too.

I was fired by The Chattanooga Times Free Press for penning an editorial criticizing President Obama’s failed record on job creation while he was in the Tennessee town for a speech on his umpteenth new jobs plan. Apparently, the paper thought it was in bad taste to do anything other than bow down to Mr. Obama and thank him for coming to Chattanooga.

Leaders at the paper thought that it was not in the company’s best interest to continue to employ someone who would dare criticize the president’s disastrous domestic economic policies while he was putting Chattanooga on the map, at least for the day. So they kicked me to the curb, and they had every right to do so.

Like a newspaper, satellite radio is a subscription-based service. That means anyone with a Sirius XM subscription who thinks that Mr. Cumia shouldn’t have been fired has the opportunity to hit the company where it hurts most; namely, in the pocketbook. If Sirius XM loses enough subscribers and hemorrhages enough money as a result of splitting up Opie & Anthony, there’s no doubt that Mr. Cumia will have his old job back in no time.

Fans who claim Mr. Cumia’s First Amendment rights were violated won’t help get him back on the air. But supporters who exercise their own First Amendment rights to spend their own money however they darn well please could make all the difference in the effort to reunite Opie & Anthony.

Drew Johnson is an editorial writer at The Washington Times.

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