Those two issues recently collided when ESPN felt pressured to dump singer Hank Williams Jr., who performed the rowdy Monday Night Football opening theme song, following controversial remarks he made about the current state of U.S. politics.
His crime? An analogy to describe Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner joining forces for a friendly golf game against Vice President Biden and Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich.
The gruff country rock icon didn’t like the idea, telling Fox News’ “Fox & Friends”: “It would be like Hitler playing golf with [Israeli leader] Benjamin Netanyahu.”
And just like that, a two-decades-long association came to an abrupt halt. What will the Thought Police think of next? Have we lost our minds? Our sense of humor? Our inalienable right to make political statements without fear of recrimination?
As a fan of analogies (and the game of golf), I thought his remarks were spot on. As a diehard football fan, I had to laugh. As a Jew who one might assume would take offense to Hitler being a part of any analogy, I still had to laugh. As someone who voted for the president and is sensitive to the plight of African Americans, ditto. But as a journalist who deeply cherishes our First Amendment rights, I almost had to cry.
The fact is that political correctness has gone awry, and I’m tired of people having to walk on eggshells all the time or fear the consequences of telling an off-color joke, regardless of whether the perceived offending party has a liberal or conservative view. Most Americans believe the country has become too politically correct, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey.
Another high-profile case of political correctness that comes to mind involves singer Tony Bennett, who cannot be more opposite Hank Williams, Jr. in political affiliation or musical style.
The pop-jazz crooner, who considers himself a pacifist, triggered public outrage for controversial remarks about 9/11. Appearing on “The Howard Stern Show” on Sirius XM Radio to promote his new album, Bennett said: “They flew the plane in, but we caused it, because we were bombing them and they told us to stop.” I remember comedian Bill Maher saying something similar (without the awkward sentence construction) shortly after the tragedy, which ironically, later cost him his TV show at that time, aptly entitled “Politically Incorrect.”
At the heart of these critiques is a belief that people from around the globe sometimes have an ax to grind with American foreign policy, which has had a spotty track record of success. What’s so wrong with saying that out loud? It’s a fact that people need to accept. Get over the hurt feelings, America, and let’s move on to more important matters.