One of the delights of Liberty Weekend, as many observers of the national celebration have pointed out, is the knowledge that the Statue of Liberty managed to rise above all attempts at trivialization. Unfortunately, Bob Hope’s attempt at humor was the only exception. He shocked an audience with a tasteless and offensive remark about Miss Liberty.
Hope appeared before 360 guests, who paid $1,000 each for a July Fourth dinner and fireworks cruise aboard the yacht Princess. His so-called “joke” was about Miss Liberty having AIDS. Hope said, “Nobody knows if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Ferry.” Those who did not groan in embarrassment sat silent in dismay.
Hope’s “joke” was worse than obscene. It was abusive and unworthy. He should not have to be reminded that profanity--and he was profane--is the refuge of insensitivity. It is both sad and shameful that a man who many have considered a national treasure should think it would be funny to besmirch Miss Liberty on her 100th birthday with the kind of glibness and vulgarity that, in truth, only brings discredit to him in the evening of his years as an entertainer.
The Statue of Liberty survived all of the hoopla, slogans and souvenirs of the weekend--and it will also survive the morally crude and indecent language of Bob Hope. The Statue came through everything with its dignity intact. Regrettably, that is more than can be said for Bob Hope.
JOHN H. BUNZEL
Bunzel is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.