A week after igniting controversy with racially charged comments on her nationally syndicated radio show, advice guru Laura Schlessinger went on "Larry King Live" Tuesday evening to announce that she plans to leave the program when her contract runs out at the end of the year.
"I want my 1st Amendment rights back, which I can't have on radio without the threat of attack on my advertisers and stations," Schlessinger said.
She emphasized that she is not retiring. "I will be stronger and freer to say my mind through my books, my YouTube Channel, my blog and my website," she said.
A radio fixture for more than three decades, Schlessinger — best known simply as Dr. Laura — is said by the trade journal Talkers magazine to have the third highest rated talk radio show in the country, trailing only Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Much of that time she was heard locally on KFI-AM (640), but a year ago she jumped to KFWB-AM (980), which switched formats from news to talk with her as the centerpiece of its daytime lineup.
Schlessinger drew fire last week when she got into a discussion with a woman who called in to get advice on what to do about racial comments made by relatives. Schlessinger suggested the caller was "hypersensitive" to racism and observed that many African Americans use the very racial epithet that they hate hearing non-African American use. Schlessinger used the N-word repeatedly in making her case.
Schlessinger apologized the next day, saying her behavior had been wrong. But she said on her program Monday that "as the media have rebroadcast my error again and again and again and again, compounding the damage which I shouldn't have done — and never intended to do in the first place — the effect has been that my words have offended many, many, many, many more people and there are many who are saying they will not accept my apology."
In that statement, which she also posted on her website, Schlessinger reiterated her apology, saying that "I made the promise that it will never happen again." But she complained of receiving "hate-filled diatribes" and reflected on how society has changed.
"When I first started out in radio," she said, "people would disagree — they disagreed, they didn't hate. They didn't try to censor, they didn't try to destroy an opposing point of view. Instead, they just argued and debated, and argued and disagreed, and debated and argued." Now, she continued, "self-appointed activist types breed hate, breed anger, breed destruction should anyone hold up a mirror or dare to disagree." She added that the phenomenon could be observed in all aspects of society, from politics to education to the workplace.