If you’ve been on your computer or watched cable news in the past 24 hours, you probably know who Britt McHenry is by now. The ESPN sideline reporter is starring in the most popular video on the internet not to feature the line “Chewie, we’re home,” and reaping the consequences.
In case you missed it, McHenry went to an impound lot last week after her car had been towed, and fired a stream of privileged invective at the attendant that would make Better Call Saul‘s Jimmy McGill blush. More than just a dressing down, McHenry’s rant was a pathetic mix of minor celebrity weight-throwing, class-shaming, and mean-girl insults about the attendant’s appearance. It was, in short, disgusting and petty, like watching Ron Burgundy on a bath-salts bender:
The April 5 incident hit Live Leak on Thursday and became an instant viral hit, followed closely by a Twitter apology by McHenry:
In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and (cont) http://t.co/Wx37XF2QtM
— Britt McHenry (@BrittMcHenry) April 16, 2015
“In an intense and stressful moment, I allowed my emotions to get the best of me and said some insulting and regrettable things. As frustrated as I was, I should always choose to be respectful and take the high road. I am so sorry for my actions and will learn from this mistake.”
McHenry’s rant also earned her a one-week suspension, which some considered too light, others too excessive. The video, for what it’s worth, is edited only to show McHenry’s remarks, and not whatever provocation there may have been for them. Still, it’s hard to watch that and feel too bad for the entitled brat making fun of some working stiff’s teeth.
The feeling I couldn’t shake while watching that video, though, was that McHenry was suspended for a week, presumably without pay, for cursing out a clerk at an impound lot on video, video that bore the familiar black sidebars we’ve all grown used to seeing on viral cellphone videos like the one that captured the killing of Eric Garner.
It was seen as a sick sign of progress recently when Officer Michael Slager was arrested for the killing of Walter Scott, proof that shooting a man eight times in the back and planting a weapon on him on video will get you into a courtroom, even though Slager could still get off. But the punishment dealt to Britt McHenry for being very mean to a parking lot attendant is already orders of magnitude more severe than that meted out on the killers of Eric Garner, who was choked to death on video, with no edits to leave any doubt about it.
That officer was at first suspended with pay, a formality rather than a punishment, and is riding a desk during the investigation, but has faced absolutely no disciplinary action since. That we have higher standards for the verbal conduct of sideline reporters than for the killing of unarmed citizens by cops should tell you all you need to know about how far we still have to go before people like Eric Garner and Walter Scott can feel anything close to safe.