MSNBC's Ed Schultz has apologized for calling Laura Ingraham a "right-wing slut," as he should. But his comments reflect a fundamental problem with the wild west of talkradio that seems to have become a recurring problem for cable TV news.
Relying on radio hosts like Schultz, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck to double as talkers on TV betrays the different standards between radio — where almost anything goes — and TV, where the companies like to think they operate with a modicum of civility. Schultz got in trouble for what he said on radio, just as many of Beck's most incendiary comments — see his recent fake vomiting over Meghan McCain — have come in that medium.
As an aside, it's hard to be much more provocative than Ingraham, whose radio hijinks have won her regular fill-in duty on Fox News Channel. And so it goes. You have to be either hideously inappropriate (Michael Savage), hopelessly untelegenic (Mark Levin) or simply not interested (Rush Limbaugh) to avoid a TV gig if you're a high-profile radio yakker.
Yes, it's possible to demand that these guys (and gals) adhere to higher standards on TV. But let's face it, these networks know what they're buying, so it's merely a question of the level of vitriol, not the vitriol itself.
By that measure, while Schultz clearly crossed a line, that line's drawn in chalk. Or more accurately, given the level of discourse on talkradio, crayon.