Sometimes, swear words can add to a news story
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci launched an obscenity-laced tirade against his colleagues yet many in the media blanked out the actual words used
Like many people, I have been suffering from Trump fatigue. But the latest shenanigans at the White House have got my curiosity piqued again. If nothing else, I am intrigued by the way the news has been reported.
It separates the men from the boys, a highbrow publication like The New Yorker from most other middle- to lowbrow news outlets; the distinction being how they quoted a crucial phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the just-resigned White House communications director who had been at the job for less than two weeks.
The former hedge fund ace called the magazine’s writer, Ryan Lizza, to complain about a leak. It quickly degenerated into an obscenity-filled tirade against the soon-to-be former chief of staff Reince Rriebus and Donald Trump’s adviser, Steve Bannon. Rather carelessly, Scaramucci – nicknamed the Mooch – neglected to make the phone call off-the-record, thereby freeing Lizza to quote him in full. (How come I never get scoops from phone calls like that?) Because of the widely reported outburst, Trump had to get rid of Scaramucci quickly.
To get the full flavour of the conversation, you have to go back to the original Lizza article or John Oliver, the infotainment comedian on HBO. Most “respectable” and family-oriented English-language publications and broadcasters in the US and around the world either blocked out the profanities entirely or inserted xxx in place of letters in the swear words. Others resorted to euphemisms. Sadly, this publication is no exception.
My favourite is one where the TV newsreader helpfully informed viewers that Bannon, 63, would have to be a very elastic gymnast to perform the specific auto-erotic act that Scaramucci accused him of committing. Another female TV commentator asked, incredulously, whether such an act was even physically possible. Scientifically, it is: the 19th century poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio, was rumoured to have had several ribs surgically removed to perform the act on himself.
My point is, given the gravity of the news story involving the sacking of the White House chief of staff and the communications director, any self-respecting news organisation should have reported the offending quotes in full, without filters.
My own publication has a no-swear-word policy. Most of the time, it’s justified. But when it’s integral to a story, we should respect our readers as discerning adults. As for their children who might be reading, believe me, they already know those words.