Monday, July 21, 2008

Michael Savage tries to defend his comments on autism on Larry King Live


Tonight, Glenn Beck was the stand-in for Larry King on CNN, and the last half of the show interviewed (by audio hookup) talk show host Michael Savage, who created a firestorm and calls for his resignation for an apparent rant about autism in kids (as well as asthma), a lengthy quote (read on the show) that he says was taken out of context. “Savage Nation” is claiming that false diagnoses of disabilities are made to get benefits fraudulently. However, the language of his “rant” was quite graphic in “moralistically” characterizing certain kinds of non-conforming behavior from children, and some of his comments would have applied to me, particularly in junior high school in the 1950s.

CNN offers a two-minute video quoting his rant, here. The "Media Matters for America" link for this matter is here.

Here is Savage’s statement of explanation (He calls it "The Autism Controversy", as if he could give it a formal historical name for encyclopedias, analogous to "The Investiture Controversy".) The home page also has an audio link with his explanation. All of this would seem to be necessary to protect his job (and sponsorship) and show from angry parents. CNN also interviewed two autism specialists, a Dr. Wiznitzer (from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland) and another specialist from UCLA. The Cleveland specialist indicated that some diagnoses of autism are changed to other diagnoses in time. But the UCLA specialist insists that many children needing intervention for autism are missed. Both indicated that medication should be approached very carefully. The subject of vaccines and autism was barely mentioned.

There have been other “offenses” on the air, such as from Don Imus in 2007, or even Al Campanis, general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who made his unfortunate remarks (using the word "necessities") to Ted Koppel in 1987 and was promptly fired. (ABC archive retrospect is here.) ) You could almost see Phil Gram’s recent “whiners” remark in this light.

There was an interesting moment when Beck himself (he says he is conservative) said that at one time he felt dispassionate about the issues of families with children, until he had four kids himself.

The show discussed the controversy over John McCain’s having his op-ed still unpublished by The New York Times because it was too “vague” (compared to Obama’s) and there was a general discussion of Obama’s Iraq trip, and comparison of Obama’s and McCain’s energy proposals, by Peter Beinart, Ben Stein, Jamal Simmons, David Gergen, and David Frum.

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