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Donald Trump’s Cursing

October 3, 2019

Words matter.

Admittedly, I come from the old school of decorum.  Growing up at a time when those in public either knew or were trained, to act in a manner that did not offend others.  Richard Nixon could be mightly foul-mouthed on the private White House tapes but he well understood the necessity of not spewing such words in public.

Wednesday Donald Trump used a curse word in a Tweet that caused broadcasters to consider how to react when reporting the news.  Jake Tapper on “The Lead” put it this way.

A parental advisory for you: In this block, I’m going to be quoting from things that the President of the United States has tweeted, so if you have kids in the room, you might want to mute the television.

Then he quoted Trump’s “bullshit” tweet.

CNN accurately quoted Trump’s tweet, expletive included, throughout the day.   MSNBC and Fox did not use the expletive on those channels.  At least as far the research had shown by late last night.   It needs to be noted that the broadcast networks, subject to rules enforced by Trump’s FCC, said “bull” or “B.S.” instead.

Trump has regularly used curse words at public events, especially on the campaign trail where he sprinkled his speeches liberally with “damn” and “hell” and even “s—“ and “p—-.” In a notorious speech in Las Vegas in 2011, he dropped the f-word repeatedly, arguing that his message to China would be ““Listen you motherf—ers, we’re going to tax you 25 percent!”

I know that such language use, and especially in public, underscores a low caliber of an individual.   I wrote about the issue of cursing in my book Walking Up The Ramp and looked at it from the perspective of radio broadcasting.

Over the past couple of decades, I have been more interested in the standards we should want honored by those who hold broadcast licenses. I am really concerned about our airwaves becoming ever more angry places than the friendly ones I recall from my youth. The AM dial has become littered with heated political talk that makes bombast, and rancor the foundations for ratings. That style underscores what I think is often wrong with radio. Compare that crass style to the calibrated and cerebral offerings from NPR to gauge how far radio has too often been allowed to drift. This isn’t to say that there are not many wonderful stations.

This noticeable shift in content and tone is just particularly evident among some stations. I still recall as a kid the time my Mom was not pleased to hear the word “damn” used by a politician in a news actuality. She felt there was no need for cursing on the airwaves, and that it sounded bad. I mention this to show that there was a time, and it was not so long ago, when broadcasting standards were a desired thing. Listeners noticed when things ran counter to the expected norms. For the sake of full disclosure, though, I do remember at the time telling my Mom I did not think the word usage was out-of-bounds. She held to her belief that people who were educated could find word choices that did not offend, especially on the airwaves. She was right of course.

What I could not see when younger was the turn being taken in radio broadcasting, a curve that was long and unseen due to the length of its arc. Little by little standards were lowered in radio broadcasting that now allow for someone to go on the airwaves and make lewd and completely outrageous statements. Worse yet announcers who make such statements on the radio expect to get away with it. 

Trump shows what a profanity presidency looks and sounds like.  In the course of just one rally in Panama City Beach this May Trump used 10 “hells,” three “damns” and a “crap.”  His audience made up of those who carry their resentments about life on their sleeve cheered and whooped and applauded.

Would we expect any more of them?  If they picked up a dictionary and expanded their vocabulary they might have fewer reasons to be rejected by employers, have fewer reasons to attend a Trump rally, and see the rationale to cast a ballot for a president who did not curse in public settings.

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