It’s no secret that Jerry Springer has seen more examples of the decline of civility in society than probably anyone.
So when he blames Donald Trump for the current rise in rudeness, maybe he’s onto something?
He thinks so anyway, as he told MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle during a segment on Friday.
“I used to joke and say that my anger at the president is that he took my show and brought it to the White House,” Springer said.
He then talked about civility in a manner familiar to anyone who has seen one of his “final thoughts” that used to end his talk show.
“Civility is critical in terms of our norms, and we can’t function as a society unless we have norms of how to behave,” said Springer, the former mayor of Cincinnati. “You can’t pass enough laws to take care of every human interaction.”
But Springer said for norms to work, top leaders have to take them seriously.
“When they misbehave, when they say the norms don’t matter, when they say, ‘You can use whatever language you want, anything you can get away with, get away with it. If you don’t pay taxes, you’re smart.’ Demeaning other people. When they have this behavior, it tells society that we really don’t have any norms anymore,” Springer said.
He added: “There’s no appropriate way to behave. We can’t have that in the leadership of our country.
“We can change policies, we’ll survive that [but] once we do away with civility in terms of our institutions, we’ve lost it.”
Ruhle then noted the irony of Springer, a man who got famous for hosting a show where people often expressed disagreement by tossing chairs, decrying increased incivility.
“Jerry, are you saying it’s our leaders that need to set the example?” Ruhle asked. “Because, again, the success of your show in some part was predicated on America’s love of the battle. When people were chanting ‘Jer-ry! Jer-ry!’ it wasn’t when the people on your stage were hugging it out.”
Sadly for daytime-TV buffs, Springer declined to respond by throwing a chair. Instead, he responded more civilly, but with calculation, like he’s heard that line of questioning before.
“First of all, our show was about dysfunctional behavior, so obviously everyone who’s going to appear on the show is acting dysfunctionally,” Springer said. “That was the point of the show. But no one ever suggested, never did I do a final thought, and say, ‘This is the way you ought to behave.’”
Springer then pointed out the folly of saying that because there’s “a crazy television show where you’ve got people that admittedly are dysfunctional” on the air, that “therefore, it’s OK to have an administration that’s dysfunctional.”
He then pointed out how “The Jerry Springer Show” was a step above the current administration in terms of class.
“When you have the president of the United States using language that even on our crazy show we’d bleep out, then society’s in trouble.”