ESPN Fires Mark Madden For Kennedy Assassination Remark

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Mark Madden, whose acid-laced comments have made him a hit on ESPN, has now taken a hit: he has been fired from ESPN due to a comment about terminally-ill Senator Ted Kennedy that clearly crossed the line:

Mark Madden, who made his reputation with bold, outlandish attacks on famous people, has been permanently removed from the air by ESPN.

His dismissal, which came down from ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., came five days after he made a scurrilous remark about U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on his 1250 ESPN talk show, which ran from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays.


The comment?

At the opening of his show last Wednesday, Madden said this about Sen. Kennedy, who days earlier had been diagnosed with brain cancer:

“I’m very disappointed to hear that Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts is near death because of a brain tumor. I always hoped Senator Kennedy would live long enough to be assassinated.

“I wonder if he got a card from the Kopechnes.”

At the urging of station general manager Mike Thompson, Madden apologized over the air for his remarks about two hours later.

After initially reviewing the situation on a local level, Madden was neither reprimanded nor suspended. When asked if there would be some form of punishment, Thompson said, `No. The fact is we took action right away. Frankly, it was a comment that was stupid. He admitted that. I don’t think it requires any such thing as [discipline].”

ESPN had a change of heart, and it came from the corporate level in Bristol. Krulewitz explained the change of course

“We had a chance to regroup and review the situation and consider it more thoroughly from all perspectives,” he said. “This is the decision we have made, and we feel it is the right one.”

In other words: they probably got a ton of complaints, perhaps even from outraged advertisers. OR, they sincerely looked at it and decided the remarks were not just in bad taste due to the timing, but crossed the line and didn’t want the corporation to be associated with that kind of comment.

What crossed the line was most likely not the comment about the Kopechnes. Quite a few A.M. conservative talk show hosts have done riffs on that for years.

But saying even in jest that he wants to see Kennedy assassinated?

Not a good career move…
Washington Post sports columnist Leonard Shapiro says ESPN waited too long to give Madden the boot:

Madden made his comments last Wednesday, but incredibly, was not initially disciplined. Instead, his immediate boss, station general manager Mike Thompson, told him he had to go on the air and apologize. Madden did, and was allowed to keep broadcasting that day, and Thursday, though he did not appear on the show Friday on what station promos often refer to as “The Mark Madden Station.”

“The fact is, we took action right away,” Thompson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Frankly, it was a comment that was stupid. He admitted that. I didn’t think it requires any such thing as (discipline)…I had a long talk with him after the show and went out for dinner. He clearly understands my position. He was wrong. He knows that first-hand and he also knows that (management) is involved.”

Some offended listeners clearly disagreed, as did readers who learned about Madden’s Kennedy comments in last Friday’s editions of the Post-Gazette in a column written by Bob Smizik, a long-time Pittsburgh sports columnist. Smizik also questioned how ESPN, the sports media juggernaut, could possibly continue to allow Madden to stay on the air.

“Keep in mind that 1250 ESPN is owned by ESPN, a network that prides itself on high ethical standards,” Smizik wrote. “ESPN is part of the ABC family, and ABC is owned by Disney. It only can be concluded that no one in this steep chain of command, and they should have been aware of it, felt Madden’s comment merited punishment.”

ESPN clearly had been aware of it, and on Tuesday following a three-day holiday weekend, the cable network finally took action.

Prediction: This won’t be the last of this kind of comment by broadcasters. The fact is: shock radio makes big bucks for corporations, which will give their talent the boot if the reaction is too angry, but smilingly count the money as politically oriented talk show hosts push the hot-buttons of demonization to go after those on the right, left or center with whom they don’t agree.

Controversy gets ratings which can trump taste. But the risk of loss of audience share and advertising due to controversy will often trump the ratings.

17 Comments

  1. Yes its bad, but do you want me to show you comments over Bush's term favorable to Bush's assassination, not on shock radio, but in newspapers?

    And not newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch?

  2. There will always be fools like Madden around, but I expect most people would expect better judgement from a station manager. Sounds like a case of backbone deficit to me.

    Redfish, I hope your comment (however unsubstantiated) isn't intended to pass for some kind of tit-for-tat logic. Irresponsible behavior doesn't gain legitimacy based on frequency of use.

  3. JSpencer,

    No I couldnt care less for tit-for-tat. I was commenting on the fact that it was done in major newspapers, as compared to by shock jocks as a contrast also. I'm commenting because many people here talk as if this is a whole phenomena created by people like Rupert Murdoch to get profit.

    Besides the point that there are hundreds of bloggers on the Internet, not paid by any corporation, that say ridiculous things, when conservatives complain about institutional bias in newspapers—not having to do with any corporate influence—they're not wrong either.

    Major newspaper editorialists might have a more erudite, informed style, but that doesn't mean they don't do the same things that you sometimes see in shock jocks.

    I don't visit themoderatevoice enough, so I don't know if these Bush assassination editorials were well covered here.

  4. great, he shouldn't been put to rest – that's a horrid comment.

  5. “I wonder if he got a card from the Kopechnes.”

    Now THAT line was funny!

  6. “'“I wonder if he got a card from the Kopechnes.'

    Now THAT line was funny!”

    Well, I didn't say anything, but when there was some gushing a few days ago which was accompanied by the rhetorical question, where would Kennedy have taken us (Americans, the USA) if he had been elected in 1980 I was going to say,

    “A swerve to the left off a bridge?”

  7. You hit the nail on the head, redfish…….and the paucity of left field comments is indicative of its veracity. There can never be an over the top comment about Bush, Cheney, McCain et al on TMV. But make the slightest off-color humor about Chappaquidick Ted and the TMV world is aghast.

  8. EXCUSE ME. But perhaps Redfish you will be kind enough to supply us with some LINKS and/or specific newspapers with dates when they had an editorial sugessting it might be nice to assassinate George Bush. That has NOT happened and will NOT happen with a major newspaper. I worked wrote for many papers and news organizations, and did some broadcast remotes (for National Public Radio) for nearly 8 years overseas. I also worked for the Knight Ridder and Copley chain and am (you can tell by the blog) a REAL news and newspaper junkie. You won't be able to give me the links, not because I'm game playing with you but because they do not exist.

    Any newspaper editorial writer who got that into their newspaper at the last minute would be a)investigated by the Secret Service (and rightfully so) b)fired (and rightly fully so) and c)never work again on a major newspaper (and rigfhtfully so).

    Any publisher of a newspaper chain that allowed that in the newspaper would be fired by their corporate office and wind up selling hot dogs at a football stadium.

    YEs, this IS typical of the tit for tat game that goes on with partisans. It is reprehensible PERIOD whether a shock jock is suggesting he'd like to see Teddy Kennedy live long enough to be killed, or a veteran newswoman and journalism teacher who should know better makes a jokoe about Obama being killed. Anyone who called for removal of Bush by violence needs to face serious consquences.

    So NO. Newspaper editorials have NOT written the same kind of thing about Bush. This is not a matter of partisanship. It's a matter of common sense and humanity. The tit for tat game is rationalization.

    If I'm wrong, kindly leave a comment with links so we can see what major newspapers have suggested the same kind of thing about Bush's term. I don't mean the Podunk Daily Journal.

    But send us the links so we can see all the major newspapers that have called form something just like with Bush. Not editorials that say they don't agree with him or want him out of office.

    TMV has several people with long journalism careers who write on it. They'll attest: anyhone who did that would be fired and a newspaper publisher of a chain who allowed it would be booted out of their own newspaper by the head office the same day.

    NOT FACTUAL.

  9. Would you care to provide some proof for that claim, redfish? The only things that I could find were a column by a television critic in the Guardian in the U.K. (related to a mockumentary made on the admittedly tasteless subject) and a “wrapper” from another U.K. source, that didn't call for his assassination but was in fact a fake newspaper front page created to promote the same mockumentary.

  10. “You hit the nail on the head, redfish…….and the paucity of left field comments is indicative of its veracity”
    ============

    No.
    What the absence of a previous comment by this reader actually indicates is that some comment threads pollute the waters to te point that others hesitate to get into the sludge with them.

    Assasination is never a joke. Neither is someone's illness or funeral.
    Some people are repelled by ghoulish tendencies, even when the target is their worst political enemy.

  11. redfish was ham-handedly trying to say that slime-slingers like Bill Maher & his ilk don't get even a rap on the knuckles when making remarks about how sad it was that Cheney wasn't hurt in the assassination attempt in Afghanistan.

    Joe Gandelman is so biased against any views from the right that he excuses excesses on the left, which occur daily in the blogosphere and very often in the printed press, though he's probably right that no US publication called for violence against Bush's person.

  12. Daveinboca, given the consistently lopsided perspective you've displayed at TMV, your comment about Joe rings utterly hollow. Credibility starts at square one.

  13. The argument you guys are having makes absolutely no sense. But please, keep going, it's entertaining. :-)

  14. I'm with Joe Gandelman, redfish, I'd like to see some of these newspaper articles suggesting the assassination of Bush. Otherwise, shut the hell up.

  15. Maybe Mark Madden is thinking about doing something special when Obama is elected. Remember, Kennedy endorsed Obama. I hope Barack Obama learned what Mark Madden said about Ted Kennedy. Then Obama will break down and cry, have a heart attack and stroke, and be paralyzed for life. Maybe Madden's comments about Kennedy may strike Obama like a chain reaction.

  16. Maybe Barack Obama heard about it, and possibly had a stroke. Kennedy endorsed Obama, you know.

  17. Mark Madden's comment about Kennedy should be a chain reaction. After Kennedy, Obama. Then Biden. Then Pelosi. Then Harry Reid. Ted Kennedy helped destroy this country thanks to helping Illegal Aliens come in. And Obama, Biden, Pelosi and Reid are on the same team. Maybe Hillary and Bill Clinton could follow after that. By the way, Mark Madden is on 105.9 the X (WXDX-FM Pittsburgh) afternoons at 3. Can't wait to see if Madden says Obama/Pelosi/Hillary should be assassinated. That could deserve a spot on C-SPAN for Mark Madden!

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