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HOWARD ROSENBERG

Is CBS News Guilty of Andy Rooney-Bashing?

February 10, 1990|HOWARD ROSENBERG

Rooney went on to ask: "Is it ethically or morally wrong and abnormal behavior? It seems so to me, but I can't say why, and if a person can't say what he thinks, he probably doesn't have a thought. So I'll settle for thinking it's merely bad taste."

The bad taste is his.

The year-end special and letter to The Advocate are merely the latest public displays of homophobia on the part of the 70-year-old Rooney, who some years ago made absurd and inflammatory comments about gays before a gathering of the nation's television critics in Los Angeles. Those comments made headlines, too.

The point is that whatever Rooney's opinions on any topic, he is not the sort of person who hides what he thinks.

For the sake of argument, let's assume the worst-case scenario, that Rooney is indeed a rabid racist and gay basher. In more than three decades at CBS, including a dozen years with "60 Minutes," he would not have conveyed such evil biases to his colleagues and bosses? An off-color crack at the water cooler, a passing comment at lunch? Trading taco and watermelon jokes with Wallace?

Of course he would have. Whatever Rooney is, be assured that CBS did not learn of it just this week. The network's rule of thumb in such matters seems to be: Be a jerk, just don't embarrass us by being one publicly. If you do--Wallace exempted--we'll slap you with a three-month suspension.

Three months? If CBS does believe it has a racist homophobe on its hands, does it really believe three months at home will clear up Rooney's problem?

How sad this whole affair is, and how much it detracts attention from festering, deeper maladies infecting America and, in this case, television, where blacks and other minorities are still largely outsiders with their noses pressed against the candy store window.

Hey, CBS, did you ever notice how "60 Minutes" seems almost monolithically white, how it has only one black correspondent, Ed Bradley, who was hired way back in 1981, and how Diane Sawyer's departure led to the addition of two white correspondents?

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Time is passing, CBS, and suspending Andy Rooney is only camouflage.

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