Tony Kornheiser suspended from ESPN two weeks for Hannah Storm remarks
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ESPN announced a two-week suspension of Tony Kornheiser on Tuesday afternoon, not exactly swift, but a reprisal nonetheless for allegedly humorous remarks (at least Kornheiser thought they were funny) about the way ESPN co-worker Hannah Storm presented herself on ESPN television.
On his Washington D.C.-based radio show last Friday, Kornheiser described Storm’s outfit as ‘horrifying.’ He called her shirt ‘very, very tight’ and suggested her skirt, a ‘Catholic school plaid skirt’ was, as Kornheiser said, ‘way too short for somebody her age.’ That age, Kornheiser said, was upper 40s or maybe past 50. The horror! Storm is 47, by the way.
We get it. Kornheiser makes fun of lots of stuff, including himself.
But how many of us, in our work place, could get away with publicly calling out our co-workers’ appearance? Think about it. What if Judy in accounting said that Joe in human resources needed to lose the form-fitting shirt that accentuated his overly-prominent breast area? What if John in the mail room suggested Joan the receptionist needed to quit wearing the tube top because, well, she was too old for it. Hey, it might all be true. But you just can’t say it for public consumption, not if the public is only the 20 people in the cubicles down the row and certainly not if the public are thousands of listeners (are we overly optimistic about how many people listen to Kornheiser’s radio show? Maybe).
In any case, ESPN’s executive vice president of content, John Skipper, released a statement Tuesday afternoon that said: ‘Tony Kornheiser’s comments about Hannah Storm were entirely inappropriate. Hurtful and personal comments such as these are not acceptable and have significant consequences. Tony has been suspended from PTI for two weeks. Hannah is a respected colleague who has been an integral part of the success of our morning SportsCenter.’
And we already know what some of the arguments against this will be. Free speech, Kornheiser’s shtick, Storm is a public figure, women are just too darn sensitive, get a sense of humor.
Really, though, here’s what ESPN is doing. It is saying that it can’t stop the outside world from ripping its on-air talent. But it’s really not happy when its on-air talent rips other on-air talent. Not a lot different from any business.
Kornheiser did apologize to Storm on his next radio show. ‘I apologize, unequivocally. I’m a sarcastic, subversive guy...I’m a troll, look at me. I have no right to insult what anybody looks like or what anybody wears. That, I think, should go without saying.’
Obviously, it should also have gone without saying of Storm: ‘She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body. I know she’s very good and I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people so I won’t. But Hannah Storm? Come on now. Stop. What are you doing?’
What Kornheiser won’t be doing is his mighty popular ESPN talk show. But he’s still got radio. One might say Tony has a face for radio. But that just wouldn’t be right.
-- Diane Pucin
Top photo: Tony Kornheiser in 2006. Credit: Jim Mone / Associated Press. Bottom photo: Hannah Storm. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press