Opie Returns To the Air To Talk About Life After Anthony (as SiriusXM Makes a Very Questionable New Hire)

I’ve spent the past eight years voicing strong opinions about politics and the media online. Breathing occasional partisan fire on these topics is generally the kind of thing that draws the wrath of those who strongly disagree, and yet for eight years I managed to avoid ever getting a death threat in my e-mail inbox. My friends Bob Cesca and Mary Beth Williams at Salon claim to be able to print theirs out and wallpaper their homes, but, thankfully, while I’ve been shouted down plenty, I never had to deal with somebody actually saying they wanted to kill me over something I said that they didn’t like. That impressive streak ended, however, as soon as I wrote about Anthony Cumia being fired by SiriusXM. That’s the thing that finally pissed a group of people off enough to where they’d tell me I need to die.

It should be surprising that what I hoped was a pretty measured take on Anthony’s racially charged Twitter rant and his employer’s reaction to it would draw such venom. But honestly, it’s not a shock at all considering that these are Ant’s fans and defenders we’re talking about — and they’re not just loyal to him and the show he’s co-hosted for 20 years, they’re fucking rabid in their devotion. Being a huge fan of the Opie and Anthony Show myself, having listened to it for more than a decade, I can understand the desire of some to protect it and the people behind it, who feel more like personal friends than guys sitting in a studio in New York City on the other end of a satellite transmission. I love O&A and I love Jim Norton. I’m not sure I’d tear into somebody who dared to simply point out the obvious when it comes to Anthony — namely that he’s racist as hell and his recent Twitter diatribe was unequivocally wrong — but to an extent I get the defensiveness.

This morning, Opie and Jimmy returned to the air, hosting a show that now feels like scorched earth and uncomfortably addressing the elephant not in the room. Right off the bat they made it clear that they weren’t sure how to approach “the shitty position” they’re in given that it’s really no longer The Opie and Anthony Show. They also highlighted something Jim had made clear on Twitter last week, which is that a lot of the fans are calling them traitors for returning to the air without Ant. The problem, of course, is that Opie and Jimmy are under contract and can’t afford to be sued for breach; Jim also leveled with the audience, saying that he personally can’t lose the regular paycheck provided by SiriusXM. This calls back something I wrote last week about Anthony’s tirade, namely that it was startlingly selfish considering that Ant had to understand it could put the entire show at risk. That’s a lot of jobs and a lot of money that people depend on — and it doesn’t even include the wants and needs of the fans.

YouTube Preview Image

While Opie is used to Antony’s controversial comments about race, he said this morning that even he was stunned by how vicious and sustained Ant’s Twitter rampage was following an alleged assault by a black woman in Times Square two weeks ago. He said his first reaction upon reading the tweets was, “Oh my God, we’re fired.” He remarked that while SiriusXM had granted the duo a lot of freedom and creative control on-air — and surely within the realm of their personal media — he knew when he saw the tweets that it didn’t “feel right” and that there was likely going to be trouble. Once the diatribe began hitting the online media, both Opie and Jimmy figured it was all going to spiral from there. And it did.

Opie said he doesn’t believe Ant should’ve been fired for what he did and that if the show hadn’t been on vacation they all would’ve been able to immediately address the tweets and possibly mitigate the damage. He’s right that a show the following morning might have allowed Opie, Anthony, and Jim to bring some perspective and maybe even an attempt at comedy to the incident, but nothing would’ve changed how relentlessly awful Anthony’s screed had been. It really doesn’t matter how many linguistic hoops you have to jump through to try to prove Ant’s rant wasn’t racist, you’ll still lose — because it was shockingly racist. It was so obviously racist, in fact, that there didn’t need to be a furious online outcry for Ant’s head in the wake of it. SiriusXM took one look at it and at the publicity it was generating and knew it had to distance itself from him as quickly as possible.

Like Opie, I’m not sure the network should have fired Ant outright, only because to do so was somewhat disingenuous given that it’s known for years what Anthony’s thoughts on race are. But again, what Ant said over and over again on Twitter was so indefensible only someone purposely trying to overlook and forgive the obvious in the name of loyalty would argue that there was nothing particularly wrong with it. It was a fucking despicable volley of racist invective, even if you claim that the worst of it was said in anger.

Anthony now plans to concentrate on his “Live from the Compound” podcast, and Opie and Jimmy both seem to recognize that Ant is going it alone in that endeavor. But Opie says the SiriusXM suits told him that “the door is not completely shut” on Anthony and that there may be a slight chance he could be brought back. If one of the conditions for doing so is an apology for his Twitter tirade, you can put that possibility to rest, though, given that Ant said on Fox News’s Red Eye on Friday that he’ll never say he’s sorry since what he said wasn’t racist. (To his immense credit, Red Eye‘s Andy Levy was pretty harsh on Anthony, demanding to know how he could make a claim like that given what we all saw for ourselves.) But if there’s a chance Ant can be brought back, I won’t lie, there’s a small part of me willing to put what I know to be right aside for the sake of making a show I love whole again. Crappy but true.

If there’s one argument supporters of Anthony can make when it comes to defending him in the wake of SiriusXM’s decision, maybe it lies in this double-standard: what Ant said was fucking horrific, but at least he isn’t responsible for peddling irresponsible pseudoscience that’s helped lead to a resurgence of dangerous diseases in children.

True, SiriusXM just fired Anthony Cumia. But it just hired Jenny McCarthy.

  • Deb_Gib

    It wasn’t just the blatant ,adamant racism that was so offensive , the attendant misogyny was repugnant in the extreme. The guy is obviously a loser and the biggest coward in the country –a scared little boy. Pathetic.

  • JozefAL

    “True, SiriusXM just fired Anthony Cumia. But it just hired Jenny McCarthy.”

    The only valid response:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avpFGlv7iw8

    • KWDragon

      As a subscriber, I sent a letter of complaint about McCarthy’s hiring. XM’s response? A canned email about my concerns with their commercials. Uh, folks, that’s not what the letter said. I am thinking about canceling my subscription, not just over McCarthy, but over their clueless customer responses. Not that they’ll miss my $20 per month…

      • Brenda Kline

        They will tell you to go fly a kite. They could care less.

  • http://vermillionbrain.blogspot.com/ Vermillion

    I understand how you feel. You have always been consistent about your feelings regarding comedians being able to work along the edge of what’s acceptable. You have championed for nuance and better understanding of the use of humor to make points, educate, or just entertain. You stuck up for folks like Oswalt and Colbert against the social justice warriors who tried to use political correctness as a cudgel for nothing more than self-aggrandizement. And you were right to challenge those who would do this. They willingly ignored past history and current action in order to turn out-of-context words into outrage bait.

    But the thing about being on the edge is, sometimes somebody is going to fall over it. And a racist asshole decides NOW is the time to stop holding back. And he gets rightfully castigated for it. There was no point to his diatribe beyond hate, no humor except the ugliest, darkest sort that gains entertainment from denigrating others. There was no attempt at sarcasm or satire. You can’t laugh at the ludicrousness of it, because it is naked and open and unapologetic. You can’t claim that he wasn’t like this before, because it was always there, barely contained. And like you said, he did it with no consideration of anyone else. No second guessing, no questions, no hesitation. He thought he was in the right, and all he would get would be accolades and the most minor of objections. Seriously, he didn’t think anything he said was racist. No way he is that clueless, no way. He knew exactly what he was saying, and gambled that nobody who mattered to him would object.

    There was a line, and he crossed it. And I gotta give you credit that you saw that line crossed, and refused to defend it. If anything, Cumia doesn’t deserve you as a fan. Let the knuckle draggers and neo-Confederates have him. He clearly feels more at home with them anyway.

    • Kataphractos

      Cumia appears to have started believing his own propaganda. He always tries to get away with saying racist stuff by declaring that he is a “realist” and not a racist, and then goes off on a two hour rant about how black people are all savage, murderous thugs who just happen to be responsible for all of life’s problems. His former co-hosts just let him go off for hours on end, and his loyal fans, most of whom are asshole bigots themselves, fall all over themselves to kiss Anthony’s ass. He seems to spend most of his life in an echo chamber, surrounded by like-minded bigots and asshole, who agree with whatever bullshit and lies that he is telling them because they all want to be his best friend. If he is ever called out on his BS by his co-hosts, Cumia excuses himself by saying that he was “just supporting (his) team”.

      I suspect that he thought that he was some sort of GOP powerplayer, due to his semi-regular appearances on FOX news and being “friends” with Sean Hannity, and therefore could get away with doing anything he wanted. I would also take Anthony’s side of the story with a grain of salt, given his propensity to blame black people for his own mistakes/crimes. Heck, he even proudly admitted that he and his brother Joe got away with setting a fire in some woodlot when they were kids by blaming it on a “couple of black kids” that he claimed to have seen lighting it.

      • maccamcfc

        He wasn’t your typical GOPer don’t get me wrong I agree with most of what you say about him being on FOX and the racist shit he said over the years, but he was pro choice, didn’t care for religion didn’t believe the earth was 6000 years old plus a load more examples of not your average GOP but his racism was the underlying factor with Ant even though he was a funny bastard and did the best Dice impression ever.

  • Neddy Merrill

    Opie knew the shit had hit the fan as soon as he saw the tweets. That
    makes it pretty clear, to me, that Ant got what he deserved.

  • cablejunkie

    never heard of any of these guys till now

    mission accoplished,i guess

  • Guester

    Oh well, Jason Ellis show is by far better than stern and opie

    • maccamcfc

      Jason Ellis is a dick the oldest radical dude ever a proper knob.

  • 92gsr

    “But if there’s a chance Ant can be brought back, I won’t lie, there’s a small part of me willing to put what I know to be right aside for the sake of making a show I love whole again. Crappy but true.”

    That is why black America always feels like they’re getting a raw deal, because no matter how much you say you’re against prejudice, you’re comfortable with it.

    • Chez Pazienza

      I try to avoid stepping into the comment section anymore because I figure I’ve got a lot of space above the fold to make my point. I assumed I made that point this time with the three full columns I’ve written excoriating Anthony Cumia for his racism, but of course everyone seems to be homing in on one line where I admit there’s a devil on my shoulder wanting the old show — or maybe not the old show but the “Opie and Anthony” show — to come back.

      Anthony shouldn’t be rewarded for his racism, and as I’ve said before it’s his views on race that made him unlistenable over the past couple of years as he went from joking about racial issues to being sickeningly serious in the most obvious of ways. But as someone who really loved the show, of course I’m going to mourn it and wish none of this had happened.

      I wish Anthony weren’t the racist prick he is and that SiriusXM didn’t have to do this. But he is and it did. He screwed it up for a lot of people: his partners on the show, the comics he regularly helped to promote, the producers behind the scenes, and of course — the fans. And what’s worse is that he doesn’t seem to care one bit.

      • 92gsr

        I apologize for the accusation. Thanks for clearing that up.

  • dukesirius

    I always wondered who actually liked those stupid morning shows. Even as a kid, I was irritated that they just wouldn’t shut the fuck up and play some goddamn music.

    • Matrim

      Word, every morning show I’ve heard as always been functionally indistinguishable from any other morning show, and they’re all pretty lame.

      • A_lawyer_who_knows

        DJ’s haven’t been allowed to choose their own music since the 1980s…Station Managers give them a playlist every morning.

    • http://www.osborneink.com/ OsborneInk

      Thank you! I can’t stand morning shows. Bob & Chez are the closest thing I can stand…

  • Gunnut2600

    Not a surprise at all…the one thing I have learned in 33 years on this earth…a white man will always defend another white man’s racism.

    Still disappointing.

    • Sabyen91

      Wow, way to be what you decry.

      • Gunnut2600

        What? How so?

      • Brenda Kline

        Trutwhip the ho went crazy, she posted 20 replies to me today, and I was not even on-line! I think she is a drug addict or alcoholic, probably both. Have a good night.

  • bigdo

    yeah… he’s apparently been a racist for a long, long time, but nobody reallty took notice til’ he took to Twitter to vent those racist ass leanings…. *sigh* it is what it is… he’s still an ignorant prick, off somewhere making oodles of dough for being just that …

    • Brenda Kline

      You like when you get to say the word “racist” dont’ ya?

      • bigdo

        lol… you like being a lil’ troll, don’t ya?

        • Brenda Kline

          You must be happy today! You have said “racist” over 10 times!

  • stacib23

    Damn if this isn’t a disappointing revelation, Chez. It’s okay to be a racist asshole because your entertainment trumps all that bullshit. Oh fuck, that’s heartbreaking.

  • D_C_Wilson

    Amazingly, I’m still having trouble giving a rat’s ass about Opie’s firing.

    • JozefAL

      Not so amazing–Opie didn’t get fired. It was “the other guy in the title.”

      • D_C_Wilson

        See how little I care? I didn’t even bother to get the right name.

  • Jezzer

    Gosh, I sure hope all his racist apologists come back for this article.

  • GOVCHRIS1988

    Nice. A Fotomat racist was just changed with a formerly naked nutball.

    • Christopher Foxx

      Nice. A Fotomat racist was just changed with a formerly naked nutball child killer.

      FTFY.