Two guests on the far-right channel Newsmax – including gay conservative podcaster Dave Rubin – tried to downplay homophobic and racist insults made by former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, even going so far as to suggest that he was talking about cigarettes when he called people “faggot.”
“You know what, over in Europe, the word faggot’s actually for a cigarette,” said podcaster David Harris Jr. in a segment on Gruden’s emails, referring to how “fags” (not “faggots”) refer to cigarettes in slang in the U.K. and Ireland. “So who knows if that’s what he was talking about?”
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This past week, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times obtained emails sent by Gruden over the past decade that involved slurs, racist and homophobic insults, as well as negative views about minorities, like complaining about “queers” like Michael Sam in the NFL.
Gruden used the word “faggot” to insult National Football League (NFL) commissioner Roger Goodell as well as other people with who he had conflicts. He insulted NFL Players’ Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith’s “lips the size of Michelin tires” in an angry email. Smith is Black.
Gruden resigned this week and issued a public apology, but conservatives are stepping up to defend him.
Harris, who is Black, downplayed the racist statement about Smith’s lips, saying that it’s “hilarious” to him that “in this era of woke culture” people are looking at Gruden’s emails “from decades ago,” even though the first emails are from 2011.
Harris argued that while “faggot” is sometimes “a derogatory word for a homosexual,” maybe Gruden was referring to cigarettes when he referred to people with that word, even though that makes no sense and Gruden has already apologized for the slurs.
“But to use this and just slander Jon Gruden and make him stand down and resign from the head coaching job of the Raiders – for me, I stopped watching football when they all started taking a knee and then when they started doing the whole BLM stuff, I didn’t want to watch them anymore,” said Harris.
“I read portions of the email for him to refer to a Black man and say he had lips the size of Michelin tires,” he said. “You know what, what happened to some good old-fashioned football humor and banter? I don’t think that means he’s a racist.”
“He didn’t say he was Black. He didn’t throw color out there.”
Rubin chimed in to say that maybe Gruden was making a joke about cosmetic surgery when he insulted the size of Smith’s lips.
“You know, I’m here in Los Angeles and big lips have nothing to do with skin color,” he said, even though there’s no reason to believe that Smith has had lip injections or that Gruden was thinking of that. “It’s basically a botched injection job over in Beverly Hills.”
Rubin then got to his bigger point, the reason Newsmax has an audience longing to believe that Gruden was calling people “cigarette” as an insult: everyone has made mistakes in the past and said things they later learned were hurtful, and if people start to care about others, guilt about those regretful moments will make them uncomfortable so it’s better to blame something outside of oneself.
“What we are doing right now is all sort of descending into Wokist Hell together,” Rubin claimed. “We have all said bad things in our lives. We all have regrets. We have all done bad things.”
“If they are going to continue to do this Cancel Culture destruction,” he said, even though Gruden resigned before the story about his emails got traction, “it’s going to come for everyone.”