Should This TV Commenter Have Been Fired For an Off-the-Air Comment About Gay Marriage?

I’d like your opinion on this:

Sports commentator Ralph Gurdy was recently fired from an NBC affiliate for saying — not on the air, but during a public function unrelated to his TV work — that gay people are born that way and that there’s nothing wrong with same-sex marriage.

That’s pretty weird and outrageous, isn’t it?

It didn’t actually happen (I made it up as a thought experiment; there is no Ralph Gurdy who’s a talking head for NBC), but this did: Sports commentator Craig James (pictured below) was fired from a regional Fox outfit because he was “not a good fit” and a “polarizing figure in the college sports community.” Fox also said that James, who had just one on-air performance before he was kicked out, had not been “properly vetted.”

So far, so uninteresting, but the problem lies in a further statement made to the Dallas Morning News by an unidentified Fox spokesperson who referred to James’s unsuccessful Senate run, during which the candidate said that being gay is a choice and that gay people will have to answer to God.

Craig James (Bob Daemmrich – Texas Tribune)

“We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department,” said a Fox spokesman. “He couldn’t say those things here.”

Again, James didn’t say “those things” on the air, during his commentator gig. Instead, he voiced his opinion many months earlier, as a political candidate. While I disagree passionately with his opposition to marriage equality, it should be noted that his views on homosexuality are firmly in the mainstream (if not the majority), and are actually part of the GOP platform. It seems bizarre that he’d get fired for voicing such a widespread opinion (especially by the same network that owns the arch-conservative, pro-GOP Fox News Channel that’s been known to engage full-throttle in exactly these kinds of culture-war skirmishes).

Fox reflexively defends Christians against this kind of thing, so it’s hard to know what to make of the Craig James case. Maybe the Dallas newspaper misunderstood the Fox spokesperson. On the other hand, maybe the spokesperson was uninformed and misspoke, erroneously suggesting that James’s exit was the result of his anti-gay stance during the political campaign.

And then there’s the unpleasant possibility that James was indeed fired for his opposition to marriage equality.

Whatever the case, he just decided to sue Fox, and he immediately went overboard in rather grotesque fashion, by alleging that “people of faith are banned from working at Fox Sports.” That’s clearly not true — but he does have a less hyperbolic point worth considering. Should he have been pinkslipped for his statement on gay people, if that’s indeed what happened?

If the firing of the fictional Ralph Gurdy (in the first paragraph) rubbed you the wrong way, how about the equivalent actual firing of Craig James? Once you take politics and your personal opinion on gay marriage out of it, is it fair that Fox kicked Craig James to the curb?

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.


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