Out of Air: Dr. Laura Quits Radio Amid Controversy
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a popular conservative female talk radio host in the country, says she is leaving radio at the end of the year, following criticism for repeating a racial slur on air.
In an interview with CNN's Larry King on Tuesday night, Schlessinger (who has a doctorate in physiology, but no medical degree) said she feels her ability to speak freely has been limited by the negative publicity generated by recurring controversies.
Her syndicated talk radio show will end after her current contract expires in December, but she said she will continue giving public addresses, writing books, and blogging.
The latest round of criticism was sparked by Schlessinger's response to an African-American caller who said she was upset by her white husband's use of the word "nigger." Schlessinger dismissed the caller's concern, saying she was being oversensitive, then went on to use the slur 11 times in a diatribe, in which she pointed out that African-American comedians frequently use the word without negative repercussions.
Although Schlessinger didn't apply the slur to anyone, she continued saying it after the caller objected. The conversation quickly escalated into an angry confrontation, and Schlessinger accusing the caller of being "hyper-sensitive... which is being bred by black activists," and ideologically hidebound by "black-think."
The incident encapsulates tense racial dynamics, never far from the American public consciousness. Such concerns are heightened by the election of America's first biracial president.
In late 2006, comedian Michael Richards was forced to publicly apologize for calling African-American hecklers "niggers" during an on-stage diatribe, which was widely viewed as a career-ending meltdown. Then in April 2007, Don Imus ignited a firestorm of criticism for referring to members of the Rutgers women's basketball team as "some nappy-headed hos," leading to his firing by CBS Radio. (The morning drive-time shock jock later signed with Citadel.)
More recently, pundits have debated whether white racism contributes significantly to the opposition to President Barack Obama, with conservatives dismissing the racists as a small and unrepresentative fringe group, while liberals paint them as the vocal representatives of a broader racist undercurrent.