Friday, June 17, 2016

Reporter Emily Austen Sacked By Fox For Racist Comments

Emily Austen
America is a country where we enjoy the privilege of freedom of speech, and that's a good thing.

But I think there's a line that separates something said in private in the company of friends that might be considered off-color, or not politically correct, and something that's clearly racist, sexist, anti-Semitic or offensive said in a public forum.

Fox sports reporter Emily Austen was doing an interview on a casual sports program broadcast on Facebook Live called Barstool Sports; it's basically a few guys sitting on a couch with microphones talking about sports.

So one of the guys was commenting about a story of a young woman named Mayte Lara, the valedictorian of Crocket High School with a 4.5 GPA who'd earned a full scholarship to the University of Texas - who happened to be an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

So, unprompted, Austen turns to the guy and says, "So do you think it's real? I didn't even know Mexicans were that smart!"

Realizing the inappropriateness of her comment, Austen remarkably began to try and justify racial stereotypes with even more racist comments by pointing out more stereotypes.

"I mean, you guys know that the Chinese guy is always the smartest guy in math class."

The whole thing just began to devolve from there as the whole group began talking condescendingly about the hard work ethic of Mexicans, one guy said, "I think illegals are good." and in response another reasoned, "You get cheap labor out of them."

Austen also chimed in about her experiences with Jewish people when she worked as a waitress in Boca Raton, Florida, saying, "The way I used to talk to the Jews in Boca...I just didn't care. They would complain and bitch about everything. I gave a guy, delivered his beer, and he was complaining to me that there was too much head. I knew that he was a stingy asshole and he wasn't going to give me a tip."

Given her attitude about Mexicans, Jews and Chinese, no wonder that dude in Boca stiffed her.

Now I don't watch or read Barstool Sports so I have no idea who any of these smarmy opinionated
ass-hats really are, I don't go to Facebook Live to watch four dudes nicknamed El Presidente, Big Cat, KFC and Kmarko hang out on a couch in someone's poorly-lit apartment to get news or opinion on sports.

If you do, and find them entertaining, that's cool, I support their fundamental right to say what they want even if the comments I heard them make on the segment where Austen appeared were offensive.

The Barstool Sports crew, CEO David Portnoy (Center)
"Barstool Sports", according to a January, 2016 article, have built up a popular online following among mostly white male millienials.

Enough so that media magnate Peter Chernin bought a 51% stake in the company in January for between $10 and $15 million and moved the operation from Boston to New York.

Where their unique brand of satirical sports-mens lifestyle commentary is now broadcast from the media capital of the world.

That kind of unfiltered intentionally non-PC "frat-boy" commentary is their schtick and if that works for their (alleged) millions of followers, more power to them - personally, I agree with the opinion expressed on today asking why the four hosts of the Barstool show aren't being rebuked or held accountable for the numerous racist comments they made.

Barstool Sports took the video down, but you can watch it here if you want to.

But their comments about Mexicans, Jews and Chinese were inappropriate for a live public broadcast in my opinion; and as a professional sports reporter working for Fox, Austen should have known better.

Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman
The last time I blogged about a blond-haired blue-eyed female sports anchor getting flack for saying something offensive during a live broadcast was back in 2008 after Kelly Tilghman jokingly suggested to co-anchor Nick Faldo that the only way young golfers could beat Tiger Woods was to "lynch him in a back alley."

Now I don't know a whole lot about Emily Austen, but as someone who used to work as television reporter, I know she worked hard to get to where she was.

Despite some of the more unsavory stereotypes that some people have of TV reporters, it takes brains and guts to stand in front of a camera and speak intelligently on a subject or interview someone.

Austen grew up in west Texas, now I don't know a lot about the specific town where she was raised, but my guess is that as an attractive blue-eyed blond girl, she was wasn't exactly marginalized by society.

Let's be honest, the proximity of the state of Texas to Mexico has created a social-cultural environment in which there has historically been some pretty deep-seated prejudice and bigotry towards Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Hispanics from central and south America who've immigrated up through Mexico.

High School Valedictorian Mayte Lara
When Emily Austen was sitting on that couch and remarked that "I never know Mexicans were that smart!", my guess is that she was revealing some of the ingrained prejudices about Mexican people that she grew up with in west Texas.

But given the widespread media coverage of Donald Trump's demeaning comments about Mexicans, and the nature of the tone of the way-beyond-politically-correct commentary of Barstool Sports, perhaps she was trying to make some kind of off-color joke that she thought would play well to the audience; which is now global.

Unfortunately it wasn't funny.

Especially given that they were talking about a gifted high school student Mayte Lara (pictured above) who defies Trump's denigrating stereotypes about Mexican immigrants by being her class valedictorian who earned a scholarship to college.

Given the racial tensions that have dominated American media headlines and the highly public nature of her (former) job, it's remarkable that she'd even consider saying the things she did knowing she was in front of a camera, but now that Fox has fired her, she's got plenty of time to reflect on the repercussion of her actions.

No doubt she has a newfound respect for the power of the spoken word.

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