THE DANGERS OF MISSPEAKING
"An American radio station has sacked a talkshow host who used a racial slur to describe the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice." according to Media Guardian (registration required).
Really? Well, not quite, as the story goes on to make clear. In fact the presenter was commenting favourably on Rice's stated desire to one day run the NFL when he said this:
"She's got the patent resumé of somebody that has serious skill. She loves football, she's African-American, which would be kind of a big coon," said Mr Lenihan. "Oh my God - I totally, totally, totally, totally am sorry for that. I didn't mean that." He later told a local television news channel he had meant to say "coup".
An inexcusable racial slur, said his boss who fired him on the spot. Pretty tough, you might think, for what was seemingly an unfortunate slip of the tongue. I suppose it's just about possible - and you would only be able to tell by listening to the broadcast - he genuinely was making an unpleasant racist joke but to judge from the report, it was simply a mistake.
A few years ago a Washington public official was forced to resign after his use of the word 'niggardly' was incorrectly taken as a racially offensive epithet. I believe he eventually got his job back so there may yet be hope for Lenihan.