We re-learned a basic principle for the nth time last week: people paid to say borderline offensive things in public may also say and/or tweet offensive things in “private”. Also: a discouraging number of people do not seem to understand that getting fired for distributing questionable messages does not violate anyone’s Constitutional right to do these things.
The point: as of this moment, at least 12,500 people have signed a Change.org petition calling on Sirius XM to re-hire Anthony Cumia, who long served as one half of Opie & Anthony, or the slightly more intentionally offensive version of The Howard Stern Show.
There’s really no need f0r us to get into the specifics of the matter, because of course Gawker’s all over that. But here’s the statement from last week and some of Cumia’s own thoughts (as well as those of his supporters)…
“SiriusXM has terminated its relationship with Anthony Cumia of the Opie & Anthony channel…after careful consideration of his racially charged and hate-filled remarks on social media…[which were] wholly inconsistent with what SiriusXM represents.”
Now for the confusing part of the story. Compare Cumia’s take on his own firing:
…to those of his supporters, represented by “Frrrrrrunkis Chipperson” and the thousands of people who signed his petition:
“Anthony Cumia should not have lost his job as a radio personality for remarks, electronic or otherwise, that he made in his personal life, on his personal Twitter account. If SiriusXM had taken offense to remarks he had made on the air, or on a company social media account, that’s their right, but the remarks that led to Mr. Cumia being terminated were a series of tweets accredited to Mr. Cumia’s personal Twitter account. Americans should be allowed to lead their personal lives how they see fit, without having to worry about repercussions from their employer. Mr. Cumia is afforded the same freedom of speech as every other American, even if you find his views disgusting or in bad taste.”
OK, now: Cumia is an employee of a business who is paid to say things publicly. That company believed that statements he shared on “his personal Twitter account” (which are very much visible to his 120,000 followers and the rest of the public except when he deletes them) reflected badly on them. So they fired him.
It’s not like this came as a surprise to Sirius: the guys behind the show have been fired repeatedly throughout their careers.
The petition’s suggestion: no person can possibly be terminated for posting something that anyone in the world with an internet connection can see…unless it appears on a feed managed by that person’s employer. Think about that and the fact that a given company has every right to fire whoever it wants for things posted on social media (which, again, is public). In fact, a company can fire people for pretty much anything as long as the action isn’t directly discriminatory.
Here’s Cumia’s most recent defense of his now-deleted tweets:
“animal & savage” were directed at people, like the one who attacked, who resort instantly to violence. It was far from a generalization.
— Anthony Cumia (@AnthonyCumia) July 7, 2014
Right, because speaking negatively about a nebulous group of people whose most obviously shared characteristic is their race could never be perceived as “generalization” or “racism.”
Sirius can do whatever it feels is best, but if this dude gets rehired then we think it might be time to accept that the whole “apology” exercise is just a formality.
Thanks to Richard Horgan for the excellent avatar pic here.