Tolerance of Bigotry Has Run Out : Jimmy Breslin: The columnist flew into a rage. Now it’s the debate about what he said that’s raging.
Last Friday, Jimmy Breslin burst out of his office at New York Newsday and spouted off sexist and racist invectives against an Asian-American colleague, a reporter, who had written an internal memo complaining of sexism in his column. Newsday has suspended him for two weeks without pay. Following are two views on the controversy.
Some people have lumped Breslin with Al Campanis, Jimmy the Greek and Andy Rooney, all of whom came under fire for stupid remarks. The differences are in where and how Breslin spoke. Rooney’s comments were made to an interviewer. Campanis and The Greek spoke on camera. Had Breslin said this on TV or written it in his column, he would be fired, and justifiably. But he launched his tirade in the newsroom.
You’ll have to trust me on this; the newsroom has always been one of those places where people rant and rave. To folks who work there, the inside of a newspaper, like the inside of a locker room, is not a public place--it’s more like the family den. Rowdy comments are passed there that are never intended to be brought to public light. You fire all the reporters and editors who’ve shouted repulsive, obnoxious taunts at one another, there won’t be anybody left to turn out the lights.
Campanis, The Greek and Rooney spoke temperately, of things they believed. Breslin lashed out in rage, without thinking. It’s how he’s always been.
He quickly apologized to the entire staff and sent a private letter to Ji-Yeon Mary Yuh. Apologies can be easy to make and they don’t excuse the behavior.
But if his comments are inexcusable, are they forever unforgivable? We all have prejudices. Part of the struggle for all of us is to keep them in check. Breslin simply has to try harder.