A New Jersey Trump-supporting caller to my radio program on Monday expressed how, though NFL players have “the right to free speech,” he was “offended” by NFL players taking the knee because his nephew had died in combat in Afghanistan “defending their free speech.” The protests were wrong, he said, and should be stopped.
This makes little sense since, if his nephew indeed died to preserve their right to free speech, why would he want to stop them from expressing what he believed his nephew died for?
My first response, however, was to simply explain to the caller that the protests had nothing to do with any war and everything to do with police brutality against African-Americans. Many of us have lost friends or family members in many wars over many years, and yet we don’t view these protests as an affront to those who died. Why does he get to decide how they’re defined, and then cause people to be stopped from protesting or to lose their jobs, as Donald Trump is demanding?
But as he went on about how gravely offended he was, it dawned on me how utterly preposterous it is to hear a Trump supporter talking about being offended by something and demanding some sort of repercussions for the offenders. Trump, after all, has grotesquely offended many different individuals, groups and entire nations ― from a former Miss Universe and a Gold Star family to transgender Americans and all Mexicans ― and his supporters have excused it entirely and certainly didn’t think there should be ramifications.
How, I asked him, could he vote for Trump after Trump said on tape that he grabs women by the vagina? What about Trump referring just the other night to a protesting player as a “son of a bitch”?
The caller dodged, saying, “We’re not talking about those things now, we’re talking about this now,” trying to separate out Trump’s own offensive behavior. But as I persisted with example after example, he finally admitted, that, yes, it was “wrong” when Trump said John McCain wasn’t a war hero.
So, he admitted that Trump has engaged in offensive actions, yet he clearly didn’t believe Trump should have faced any penalty for the actions ― and Trump didn’t, at least not from this caller, who nonetheless voted for Trump.
Trump indeed spent much of the election campaign railing against “political correctness” ― including during a debate, when he defended his vicious attacks on women, including Rosie O’Donnell, who he’d called a “pig” ― and thus rejecting the very idea of punishing people, including himself, for saying horribly offensive things. (“I don’t frankly have the time for total political correctness,” he said.) His supporters have taken it as carte blanche to say things they were previously afraid to say, now openly expressing their racism and their animosity toward Muslims, Mexicans, LGBT people and other groups.
And no, they and Trump have made no distinction between people expressing their views at work (in the current case, on the playing field) or outside. To them, “political correctness” was a blight on our society and certainly they believed no one should lose his or her job for saying or expressing something “politically incorrect.”
So for this man from New Jersey to call me saying he was offended by what, in the Trump vernacular, is politically incorrect speech, is the height of hypocrisy and downright ludicrous.
Trump opened the floodgates on people saying whatever they want and offending as many people as possible without any ramifications. And Trump supporters, in excusing it all, have completely forfeited any right to be offended by anything now.
Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msignorile