If you’re a public figure who has at his center a set of truly rotten beliefs, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve found ways to mask them so that you can move about the world without the risk of becoming a pariah. You can use verbal misdirection — dog whistle words and phrases that leave you some wiggle room or a little plausible deniability if challenged on them — or you can just keep your mouth shut. But Anthony Cumia has never been one to choose either of those options and he’s never much concerned himself with the potential consequences of saying exactly what’s on his mind. As one half of The Opie and Anthony Show on SiriusXM, he’s paid to not only talk but to push the boundaries of taste and propriety as far as they’ll go. With that in mind, it’s almost kind of refreshing that he just unleashed a heaping, indefensible torrent of ugly racism and vicious profanity on Twitter after allegedly being assaulted on a New York City street. This isn’t to say he’s right, only that it’s helpful that he didn’t hold back a thing and now has no place to hide.
Late Tuesday night, Cumia claims he was walking around Times Square taking photographs of New York City after dark when he snapped a picture of an unidentified woman who had walked into the frame. The woman was black and, according to Cumia, immediately confronted him, shouting that she didn’t want her picture taken and calling him a “white motherfucker.” He says she then began punching him, getting in one shot to the face before he could respond and try to fend off the attack. Things escalated further when several black men heard the commotion — which included Cumia calling his alleged attacker a “cunt” — and came to the woman’s defense. Eventually, all went their separate ways; Cumia didn’t file a police report, saying on Twitter in the aftermath of the incident, “It doesn’t work! White guy/Black ‘girl’. We’re doomed!”
But that little remark was only the tip of the invective iceberg that Cumia launched into on Twitter. The next couple of hours were a nonstop tirade of unapologetic racist fury. Unless you’re a big fan of the unemployment line, don’t read any of this at work.
Now obviously if what Anthony Cumia claims about the incident is true, then the woman who attacked him was absolutely in the wrong first and arguably more egregiously. You don’t approach a stranger on the street, even one who snapped a picture of you that you didn’t ask for, and begin violently assaulting him. There’s just no excuse for that, nor for calling somebody a “white motherfucker.” But because there was no police report filed, all we’re getting at this point is Cumia’s side of the story along with a couple of pictures that taken out of context seem to confirm that he was assaulted. But responding to an attack by one person with a ferocious, misogynist rant against that person’s entire race is just fucking obscene. There’s no excuse for that either. While rarely being this blatant about it, though, being a reliable dispensary of racially charged resentment is par for the course with Cumia; anyone who listens to the O&A show knows this. Cumia is the kind of guy who dwells on the supposed injustice of never seeing a black person play the role of the home invader in those home alarm system commercials. He considers it dishonest and cowardly. To him, this is a false media narrative that requires immediate rectification.
It goes deeper than that, though, as you can tell by the “Obama’s America” tweet. I’ve never held back when it comes to my unabashed appreciation for The Opie and Anthony Show. I started listening to it years ago on WNEW in New York City and for a time I was a regular listener on SiriusXM; it’s a funny as hell show and the guys who host it are for the most part as smart as they are deliriously offensive. The only time I ever tuned out, though — well, besides whenever the terminally unfunny Rich Vos was on — was when they start talking politics. That’s because while Opie tends to stay out of the way and Jim Norton is at least balanced in his views, Ant is tyranically reactionary to the point of being damn-near intolerable. For a bright guy, he’s an almost unimaginably laughable stereotype: a white multi-millionaire man-child who dates college-age women and who stalks around his mansion on Long Island fetishistically carrying a gun on his hip just in case one of the welfare queens he blames for taking all his hard-earned money — that would be the money he makes working 4-hours-a-day — breaks in and tries to kill him. He’s like Howard Hughes, right down to the paranoid racism. Again, funny guy, but completely insane when it comes to his far-right politics and cultural views.
At the very least Anthony Cumia has the nerve to stand by his opinions, as reprehensible as some of them are. This case is no different. He hasn’t deleted any of his tweets or run in the other direction from the onslaught of entirely legitimate anger he’s already faced in the wake of his diatribe. He’s also not likely to apologize (and you wouldn’t want one from him anyway considering that the last time he and his co-host offered up a contrite mea culpa for an on-air offense — a guest’s rape crack about Condoleezza Rice — they later admitted that they’d been forced into it by management and had done so only to save their jobs).
Whatever happens to Cumia in the wake of this, he’s probably not going to try to duck it, although he does insist that his Twitter fusillade wasn’t at all racist. The question is whether he finally went too far here and let his true colors shine a little too brightly — far and brightly enough to cost him his show.
Update (7.5.14 10:30am PT) Anthony Cumia was fired by SiriusXM late Thursday night. Despite initially insisting he wouldn’t apologize or back down, he’s since deleted almost every tweet on his feed (which means that the pictures linked to above can no longer be seen through the embed). The future of the Opie and Anthony Show is now uncertain, but Jim Norton and Colin Quinn posted the following to Twitter last night:
For 10 years, @AnthonyCumia has made me laugh harder than anyone alive. No one has silenced me, I just have no idea what happens next.
— Jim Norton (@JimNorton) July 5, 2014
.@anthonycumia I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death my right to stop u saying it (Voltaire if he worked for gawker)
— Colin Quinn (@iamcolinquinn) July 4, 2014
I’ll have more to say on this tomorrow.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.