Remember last month, when President Trump called African countries “shitholes”
and the news media took an almost schoolboyish delight in saying that word over and over on live television and slapping it on all of the chryons
? As immune as we’ve become to salty language—the president, after all, once boasted about grabbing women by the pussy and still got himself elected—there were still people sufficiently angered by the sudden proliferation of this naughty word during prime time to complain to the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the words that cannot be said on broadcast television.
Those FCC complaints are public record, and Buzzfeed’s Jason Leopold FOIA’d them
. Of the nearly two hundred complaints the FCC received in the days after the story broke—seven came from North Carolina. (The complainers aren’t identified other than by city.) Let’s see what they had to say:
Complaint 1: Ticket: # 2165185—CNN said "Shithole" over 10 times based on false reporting
Date: 1/12/2018 7:23:55 PM
City/State/Zip: Hendersonville, North Carolina 28792
The president was accused of saying that Haiti was a 'shithole.' It turns out that this reportage is FALSE and that he did not say that, certainly not today and that this reportage was a conflation and possible fabrication, according to Jake Tapper, one of his accusers https://archive.is/dT42J
Many broadcasters have picked up on this 'shithole countries' comment—that is likely fake news—and in their outrage, they said the word 'shithole' (not bleeped) not less than 10 times, possibly over 100 times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkkKzKAa7-w
I am very offended that our media has to repeat shithole over and over today. I feel like it's some kind of mental assault. In fact, hearing it over and over feels like the broadcasters are calling ME a 'shithole' because of their hysteria and histrionic backbiting and hatred.
I'd really like FCC to consider fining them millions upon millions of dollars for today, and that goes not just for CNN (main offender) but to all TV news as well as Washington Post print and other print journalism for the same reasons stated. I believe FCC has to make an example out of CNN, so that they know this behavior is NOT ok. Even if Trump had said that, it still would not be ok for these "news" stations to say the word "shithole" all day long.
Think of all the children at airports where CNN is playing at full volume all day long who have to be assaulted by this word said over and over. They have no choice but to hear it. Think of the example this is setting if FCC does nothing!
Complaint 2: Ticket: # 2165251—CNN News continuous vulgarity
Date: 1/12/2018 7:55:56 PM
City/State/Zip: Greensboro, North Carolina 27409
I don't understand why CNN News is allowed to continue speaking and billboarding the word "Shithole" on the excuse that the President "allegedly" used that word during a government meeting. Other stations utilize the spelling "S**thole" or similar and are not actually speaking this word while CNN has for 2 full days had the actual word on the bottom billboard of their screen and at most times during the day actually say this word over and ove many times. I counted 32 times they said it in one hour alone. Does this not break any FCC rules? I understand that they are a Trump hating station and I figure they are just paying any fines you may impose but it is still very offensive to me.
Complaint 3: Ticket: # 2165324—Swearing on TV
Date: 1/12/2018 8:26:56 PM
City/State/Zip: Waxhaw, North Carolina 28173
I would like to register a complaint about the new outlets actually saying the word sh*t on TV repeatedly today 1/12/2018 regarding the President’s statement in a meeting. When I was watching CNN this morning at 6AM John Brennen kept using the word repeatedly and was almost giddy about being able to use it, which was childish.
Complaint 4: Ticket: # 2162841—CNN 24/7 indecent newscast
Date: 1/12/2018 9:25:09 AM
City/State/Zip: Fayetteville, North Carolina 28314
Continuous 24/7 CNN offensive broadcast of "shithole" on tv and all of it's other media outlets. Not a fan of Donald Trump but to repeatedly display profanity on tv merits a fine for every minute that CNN used the offensive term. At least, other news outlet had the decency to edit (s#*&hole) their broadcast of the word.
Complaint 5: Ticket: # 2166333—Obscene language
Date: 1/13/2018 5:46:43 PM
City/State/Zip: Vass, North Carolina 28394
CNN displayed the word shithole on prime time news.
Complaint 6: Ticket: # 2169619—CNN / Lanuage
Date: 1/15/2018 9:13:20 PM
City/State/Zip: Winston-salem, North Carolina 27127
I have watched CNN for the last 2 hours and is there any way we can prevent them from saying
s***hole or s***house...? It is non-stop. I would like to be able to watch news and learn about policy and the process of government but this is ridiculous. It was said at least 15 times in one hour, and nothing is being done about it.
Complaint 7: Ticket: # 2172457—Vulgar language
Date: 1/16/2018 7:36:40 PM
City/State/Zip: Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina 27948
Aren’t their rules against vulgar language on TV? How many times in one day can broadcast news say ‘S...hole’ and not be fined? Do they get a pass because they are liberal?
To answer complainer 7’s question, they’re not getting a pass because they’re liberal. They’re getting a pass because what they did is perfectly legal. Most of these complaints have to do with CNN, a cable news network. Unfortunately for the offended, the FCC only has jurisdiction over over-the-air broadcasts, and CNN doesn’t qualify. Moreover, the FCC’s control over the language used in over-the-air broadcasts is limited; profanity is only banned between six a.m. and ten p.m. Moreover, the FCC has to take into consideration the news value of any profane language used—and since this language originated with the president of the United States, it is inherently newsworthy.
Which all means the FCC hasn’t yet punished any broadcasters, and won’t.
Read through all of the complaints to the FCC here.
See related PDF