Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the radio therapist who ignited controversy last August with her repeated use of the “N-word” while speaking to an African-American caller on air and subsequently moved from broadcast radio to satellite, said Tuesday: “To call me a racist? That was absurd.”
During an appearance on TODAY to promote a new book, Schlessinger told Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb: “What it is is, I’m a social conservative; that’s what it’s about.”
Schlessinger also made it clear she feels singled out for her political views — she has spoken out against extramarital sex, working mothers, abortion and gay rights, among other issues — during an earlier TODAY interview with Matt Lauer.
“With the Urban League coming after me, the NAACP, Media Matters (Media Matters for America, a progressive watchdog group) ... all without talking to me at all; deciding I should be silenced,” she told Lauer. “That's when I realized I had to go on Sirius XM or something like that in order to have the freedom of speech without being assassinated.”
From broadcast to satellite
Last August, Schlessinger used the N-word several times while speaking to a woman who called herself Jade, who had called in to complain that her husband’s friends made racist comments about her in their home. When the woman asked if the N-word was offensive, Schlessinger said "black guys say it all the time." She went on to repeat the word several times, not directing the epithet at the caller.
When the caller objected, Schlessinger replied, "Oh, then I guess you don't watch HBO or listen to any black comedians." But the next day, the talk radio host issued an apology on her website, saying she was trying to make a philosophical point.
"I articulated the N-word all the way out — more than one time," Schlessinger said, quoting comments she made on air in a subsequent broadcast. "And that was wrong." The following week, she announced on “Larry King Live” that she was shutting down her program, which had been syndicated on broadcast radio for 30 years, so she could get her “First Amendment rights” back.
She told King, "My contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year and I've made the decision not to do radio anymore." Dr. Laura has since resumed her radio career with a daily show on Sirius/XM satellite radio.
“I didn't get fired,” Schlessinger told Gifford emphatically on TODAY, where she was promoting her new book, “Surviving a Shark Attack (on Land).” “I was working for myself. George Stephanopoulos said I was fired; a lot of people said I was fired. I'm my own boss; I didn't get fired."
“Would you do it differently?” Gifford asked.
“Well, I was inartful how I presented it, but the point was not that I called someone a name; I didn't,” Schlessinger replied. “I was pointing out that being upset about people using that word around you depends on the context, because many black artists and everyday people use it for affection and entertainment. That's just a truth. I was inartful and I apologized the next morning and got on with the universe, and it took some 36, 48 hours from CNN just to decide to make hay out of it and call me a racist.”
As proof of her claim that she was unfairly targeted because of her conservatism, Schlessinger added: “Bill Maher went on ‘Larry King’ and articulated the word, and nobody sucked in a breath because he's a social liberal. So the media distinguishes between good and bad by political persuasion. That's something I've had to deal with.”
Cupping a hand to her ear, Schlessinger asked: “Where's the screaming about all the use [of the N-word] at the Grammys? The music that's up for awards is vulgar and vile.”
When Gifford mentioned that Bill Cosby has complained about the same issue, Schlessinger commented: “What a good guy he is. And look what they did to him. They Uncle Tommed him because he stood up for values.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.