February 25, 2010, - 2:23 pm

Speech Police: Free Tony Kornheiser . . . & Get ESPN a Sense of Humor

By Debbie Schlussel

ESPN–which was once edgy, cool, and had a sense of humor–has lost all that.  And that’s why the cable network is considered by many (including me) to be old hat and boring.  Instead, political correctness (including calling McCain voters “racist”) is the order of the day. This is the network that looks the other way when it hires a serial sexual harasser (Steve Phillips), but goes ballistic if one of its personalities dares to describe another in a very accurate way.

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ESPN’s Humorless Speech Police Hard @ Work

Tony Kornheiser knows this more than anyone.  ESPN suspended the “Pardon the Interruption” and ESPN talk radio host for two weeks and forced him to apologize to ESPN reporter Hannah Storm, live on the air.  His crime:  Kornheiser and his on-air staff mocked Storm and ESPN’s Chris Berman, respectively, for her clothing and his weight.  But that’s talk radio, where witty commentary and observation are most welcome and entertaining.

And Kornheiser was on the money on both of them.  He said that Hannah Storm’s skirts were too short and tight for her age and noted that Chris Berman (whose name he didn’t mention) did ads for a weight loss program, but quickly gained back all the weight he lost.  Frankly, Kornheiser did a public service in both cases:  telling us to beware of a gimmicky dieting program which doesn’t work in the long-term and alerting ESPN that the network might not want to have a reporter galavanting around like an aging stripper.

Moreover, Kornheiser said this all in a sharp, funny way.  Here are the quotes that got him disciplined.  On Storm:

Hannah Storm in a horrifying, horrifying outfit today. She’s got on red go-go boots and a Catholic school plaid skirt way too short for somebody in her 40s or maybe early 50s by now. She’s got on her typically very, very, very tight shirt. 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? She’s what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.”

Check out the photo above. That’s the referenced outfit. Kornheiser hit the bull’s eye. Storm looks like she’s headed to the Scottish Hookers’ Union’s annual Christmas party. (Yes, she looks good for her age–she is 47 and will turn 48 in June.)

On Chris Berman (who, again, he did not mention by name):

I know I’m not supposed to be critical of ESPN people, like if I point out that people say that they lost 50 or 60 pounds have actually gained all the way back.

[Kornheiser's co-host:] Gained the weight back, back, back, back.

Again, this is the network that employed Steve Phillips, despite his admitted record of repeated sexual harassment and sleeping with co-workers at his previous jobs. And yet they discipline Tony Kornheiser for these relatively harmless, accurate observations?

ESPN =  Especially Stumped on Perspective Network.

(Full disclosure:  My lifelong friend, the brilliant David Karp, was Tony Kornheiser’s agent for many years, but I do not know Kornheiser.  Never met him.)

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44 Responses

I’m with you. This PC stuff is getting ridiculous. I heard what he said and I didn’t think it was offensive at all.

Kelly on February 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I heard about this as well, but I didn’t see the outfit in question. I didn’t realize that Forever 21 and Hot Topic were suitable wardrobe choices for on air personalities.

My eyes hurt now.

cirrus1701 on February 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Debbie, like the WWE in Stamford, I am disgusted Bristol, CT is ESPN’s home! I WOULD NEVER EVER WORK FOR THAT CHANNEL! That’s what you get for being a Mickey Mouse operation as Disney/ABC owns that network.

Bob Porrazzo on February 25, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I think Hannah looks kinda hot in that actually…..

Kaiser Sozay on February 25, 2010 at 3:04 pm

If I didn’t like football so much ESPN would be useless to me. They are not only PC, but they consistantly dig up dirt on people and repeatedly harp on whatevedr player they target until whatever commissioner for that sport feels some unknown pressure to do something inorder to save face.
Berman is a tool who thinks just because he come up with some cute nicknames for players he’s the best commentater since Cossell, just ask him he’ll tell you. When Stewart Scott showed up he felt real threatened and tried to shun him even using Tom Jackson to further his cause.
I watch ESPN in the morning just for Hannah Storm, don’t care what she’s wearing (perferably nothing) I think she’s best thing on TV.
Of course Tony is correct in his comments though he usually is, I miss him on PTI can’t stand LevRETARD,
ESPN reminds me of the defunct media show Hard Copy.

Sic Semper Tyrannus on February 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Suspended for 2 weeks? Geeze. Lighten up!

Musiccgirl on February 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I have to say Canada is still a leader in government sanctioned censorship. Take for example comedian Guy Earle is going to trial for hate speech at the end of March in British Columbia. No silly not in a real court but in a Kangaroo Court – the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal – were rules of law and evidence do not matter and only the complainant gets free lawyers provided by the taxpayer.

http://thedailyrasp.blogspot.com/2010/02/40000-bchrt-shakedown-of-guy-earle.html

Rob at dailyrasp on February 25, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Dear Rob: Not a kangaroo court-a star chamber proceeding. A kangaroo court is a thrown together, spur-of-the-moment proceeding, set up, for example, by soldiers on a battlefield or convicts in a prison. It doesn’t pretend to be official or to abide by the rules of law. This proceeding against Guy Earle does pretend that its set up by people who strive to be just and seek the truth, when actually its just to punish him and terrorize future dissenters.

    Miranda Rose Smith on February 26, 2010 at 2:17 am

Mike Wilborn should have been fired for libeling Rush Limbaugh. Wilbon racism is evident every time he talks. He even attacked an NFL team that did not hire black coaches. It was leaned that the team offered a job to Tony Dungy.
http://sleepyeyedwhiners.blogspot.com/2009/10/michael-wilbon-lays-egg-on-limbaugh-and.html

madman on February 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Amen, Amen and Amen to this post, Ms. Schlussel. The Stupid Police are out in force.

Jack on February 25, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Absolutely correct. I’m amazed at what passes for professional clothing for women “journalists” and talking heads on TV, who, I assume actually do want to be taken seriously.

Female sports commentators are the worst, which really sucks cuz they’re everywhere now, from local news casts to national, women are taking over. Men spend their whole lives being yelled at by their ladies for spending too much time on sports, and but yet we’re supposed to have women telling us about football and baseball? Hell no. That TV gets muted, every single time Kolber or Oliver or any of them come on. I’m not interested in hearing about what the players wives are up to.

Matt on February 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Hannah storm is a hag. Tony is a liberal but I still like his show. This is outrageous, espn has been showing there fascist tactics for years. There nba announcers are the worst, there football announcers are the worst and when I watch games on espn the volume is on mute. They have women announcers doing football games, nba games and college games. If they weren’t so awful I wouldn’t mind it but they suck. I despise espn. They are pc to the nth degree. They should be embarrased by this two week suspension, after basically everyone said its outrageous I thought maybe espn would save face and let him back but no thats not how they operate.

tyler on February 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm

From the picture above, she looks like she is auditioning for an Irish super heroine role in a very bad movie.

Jarhead on February 25, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Looks like Hannah is trolling for a young man. Keep her away from high school sports.

Michael on February 25, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Do you think Tiger ever “met” Hannah when he was on the PGA tour?

Jarhead on February 25, 2010 at 4:53 pm

The only thing good about ESPN is MNF–and that’s it.

chuck poindexter on February 25, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Whether or not his opinion is correct, it’s just bad form to knock anyone on your own team. It wasn’t funny it was rude. Yea, the outfit may have been ugly, but for him to address it in an embarrassing way was out of line. Who is he to talk about the appearance of anyone else?? Geez!

Mary on February 25, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Quite arguably, the announcers should present a united front to the public, unless one of them is guilty of an outright lie or blatant, careless inaccuracy on the air.

    Miranda Rose Smith on February 26, 2010 at 2:21 am

Jeez. If it was in jest, he shouldn’t be in ANY trouble.

Hannah Storm looks great!

Skunky on February 25, 2010 at 5:54 pm

This is stupid. On a network that covers sports where so many athletes are slapped on the wrist for stuff like rapes and implications in murders, they want to press this guy for comments??? WTF!!! They lined up to kiss Vicks butt as soon as he was able to play ball again. Ray Lewis was treated like royalty every chance they got. The examples go on and on with this hippocritical b.s. Once again the old white guy gets slammed when others who’ve done much worse get a pass.

Joe on February 25, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Hannah Storm looks like she is wearing a roleplaying outfit at a swinger’s club. Of course, I would have to put Ann Coulter in that category as well with her teenage outfits.

sorrow01 on February 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    How would you know? Have you been to a swingers clubs to get the inside scoop on how the women dress?

    Who cares? on February 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm

I agree that Kornheiser should be able to say what he said. Right on.

Bimbo look on Hannah Storm, whatever. Most everone on TV, Websites and in the media puts a FAKE FACE out there–at least a heavily made up face. I think it takes a little guts for her to wear the red get up, but find it interesting and sort of attractive!

I still like that Kornheiser said what he said. That’s the age we live in. And Kornheiser ain’t got much to brag about in the looks department–so he should expect to be asked why he looks so fried out and scruffy himself. That would be a more appropriate “punishment.”

One of the bad things about HDTV is it is too honest. The caked on make up and crummy toupees and hair dye jobs all look as bad on TV as they do in real life.

Overweight is worse on TV as the TV camera adds 20 lbs automatically, it seems.

BB on February 25, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Forcing Kornheiser to apologize to Storm ON THE AIR was borderline Stalinism, ridiculous and wrong. It was also wrong to suspend Kornheiser. B-U-T, perhaps the CEOs at ESPN feel that the employees should present a united front to the public and save the teasing and constructive criticism for off-the-air? The CEOs themselves, or somebody, should have told Storm to lose that outfit.

Miranda Rose Smith on February 26, 2010 at 2:04 am

    Borderline? It is Stalinist. Free people do not have to kiss ass & say they are sorry for telling the truth as he saw it…
    I don’t go to strip clubs but I’ll bet you that you’ll find those same boots on some of the skanks stripping.
    Hanna actually is kind of hot despite that ugly ass skirt. She’s probably just trying to “feel” young by dressing like she’s a ready, willing & able Cougar going at a college frat party.

    Who cares? on February 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Tony Kornheiser would never get a chance for a hot looking woman like Hannah Storm. To be fair she doesn’t know much about sports and her looks got her the anchor seat. If I saw her on the street I would turn my head. Kornhole is balding and looks geeky and is no shape to talk about others looks. Hey let’s not suspend Kornhole, let’s have Hannah Storm talk some smack about this nerd. Storm probably blew him off and he is gripping. Hey remember Kornhole was an announcer for Monday Night Football? What a disaster that was. Can you say Dennis Miller. PTI Sucks.
Hey I am a Jim Rome type of listener. At least Rome gets all the athletes on his show. Rome has a following and Kornhole needs to learn from a pro. This is how you throw down some smack.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-vTsJ1tiKo&feature=related

CaliforniaScreaming on February 26, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Dear CaliforniaScreaming: Vulgar jokes about people’s names are immature and tacky.

    Miranda Rose Smith on February 26, 2010 at 3:44 am

Dear Miranda RS, (MRS?)
You are right, but in this case I am laughing at the nicknaming of “Kornhole.” Calscreamer is pretty much– right on. Some offenders just beg for it. Such a time — is this.

I’m putting you on notice CalScream–I’m stealing your material.

BB on February 26, 2010 at 9:01 am

Yup. Stupid women. They should just get their burkas back on and do what they do best: biscuits and babies. I don’t want to see any silly women thinking they’re allowed on TV. Or that they know anything about sports – don’t they know scientists have proven that knowledge of sports is organized via the Y chromosome? And I sure as hell don’t want to see them wearing something I didn’t pick out for them. F!@#in bimbos.

H: Lighten up. No-one’s saying that (although I do think the outfit is ugly, which has nothing to do with what it does or doesn’t cover). In fact, ESPN is doing exactly what you disdain here–intolerance, not of clothing, but of speech about the clothing. It’s a radio show. A talk radio show aimed at 20-50-something guys. That’s what they talk about on these shows. And, frankly, what he said was relatively tame compared to most guy sports talk radio. DS

hellcat on February 26, 2010 at 10:17 am

    DS: I know. I agree with what you wrote – he has every right to say it without being punished. I think it was a classless comment, for reasons I outlined in other comments, but I don’t think he should have been suspended. However, I was responding more to comments like Matt’s, which imply that women are universally unqualified to discuss sports – a sentiment that I would imagine you would disagree with equally, but I could be wrong.

    hellcat on February 26, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Miranda, there is something in the US Constitution called FREEDOM OF SPEECH! THE FIRST AMENDMENT! OR DOES THAT GO AGAINST YOUR POLITICAL THINKING?!

I know there are some concerns about Wikipedia, but here you are about freedom of speech and the 1st amendment…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States

Bob Porrazzo on February 26, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Dear Mr. Porrazzo: I will defend to the death people’s right to be immature and tacky, but I will also defend to the death my right to point out that they’re BEING immature and tacky.

    Miranda Rose Smith on February 28, 2010 at 6:29 am

In all seriousness though: yes, her outfit in that picture is kind of silly looking, but it’s not terrifically slutty – no cleavage, her ass and upper thighs are sufficiently covered. So unless she frequently wears stuff sufficiently more revealing than this (which she may – I don’t watch her), it’s more an issue of personal taste than anything else – and it’s my understanding that they don’t pick their own outfits, that they have stylists for that purpose? So I do agree it’s in bad taste to talk sh!@ about people on your own team. And my comment above was directed more at certain commenters above than at this article.

hellcat on February 26, 2010 at 10:22 am

Bob – why do people think that just because something’s in the Constitution that that makes it ok? Yes, it’s well within his rights to say whatever he wants about her on air. But it’s really rude and in poor taste. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it the classy thing to do.

hellcat on February 26, 2010 at 10:24 am

That network has been ruined since ABC bought them out. How about when Sean Salisbury on NFL Live that he was on then said ” Peyton Manning JEWED the ball down the field, he nickeled and dimed it all the way until the Colts scored the game winning TD”.

I MYSELF HEARD IT LIVE. iT WAS POSTED ON WEB FOR OVER A YEAR AFTER.

ESPN said he didn’t say it, only firing him over a year later for “alledgedly” sending photos of his penis to women by cellphone.

They fired Limbaugh and twisted his words – all he said was that media wanted McNabb to succeed and overated him because of his race – on that he was right(re:media).

harold reynolds they fired for no good reason.

keith olbermann is a graduate- that tells it all.

Jim on February 26, 2010 at 10:49 am

Tony Kornheiser should tell ESPN to f**k themselves. Instead, he wussed out for speaking the truth bluntly.

Bobby's Brain on February 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

Their attitude of anti-White/coddling and total excusing of of non-Whites ( No matter how racist their beliefs,or violent, destructive their behavior ) has always been the very definition of PC. It’s been that way since Day 1 – I’ve seen it since 1982.

Phineas on February 26, 2010 at 3:03 pm

That ugly lefty needs to be out of action for more than just 2 weeks.

Tony is the quintessential inside the beltway far left lib. Live by the PC, suffer by the PC.

G-Tom on February 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Are you sure he wasn’t suspended for badmouthing his co-workers on air? That seems like something worth punishing him for.

Dan on February 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I’d say Dan summed it up quite nicely, slamming your fellow workers either on the air, or in the workplace tends, in the real world to get you fired, not suspended and forced to apologize.

I really can’t believe Debbie took up for him, I’d bet if she was working in such a scenario, and some dude took a potshot at her she’d not take it kindly as “humor.”

I don’t watch either Hannah or Tony, I’m not home in the daytime to see their programs. If her employer has an issue with her fashion statements, fine, let them counsel her, but the comments by Tony were cheap shots, having nothing to do with the format he’s supposed to be covering (SPORTS) and I’d suspect Tony knows he’d be shot down in flames if he had the stones to even hit on a woman of Hannah’s caliber.

Pat on February 28, 2010 at 2:02 am

Someday the USA will truely have freedom of speech.

Truth on February 28, 2010 at 7:16 am

Hannah may look good for her age, but she should look into more age-appropriate outfits. Her outfits scream “I’m still trying to look like I’m in my 20′s!”…but really, she just looks like she is desperately trying to cling to youth. I am sure the guys would appreciate it more if it was actually a 20-something hot little number in that outfit. And by the way…that look went out in about 1998.

Angela04 on February 28, 2010 at 10:59 am

What was Hanna thinking? What does her husband think? I bet he does NOT disagree with Tony. Why did her husband not say it first…like, before she walked out the door! Why would he let his wife go on the air dressed like that?

Who cares? on March 1, 2010 at 9:30 am

What the hell is the matter with (most of) you people?

Where I work, if anyone said those things about a female coworker, they would be fired immediately.

And if Hannah were my wife, Kornheiser (whom I usually like) would get knocked the fuck out.

Jeff on August 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm

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