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“They aren’t people”: Why Anthony Cumia got exactly what he deserved

Sections: Essays, Internet

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Opie and AnthonyI wrote a big piece last year for Philadelphia Magazine, about the “Knockout Game,” that moral panic that briefly seized America last November and December, when local news stations and newspaper websites convinced white Americans that random black people could and would punch them at any moment. This “epidemic” happened, for some reason, for only a brief two-month period in late 2013, but never before or after, even though various top law enforcement officials questioned whether it even existed at all.

When researching the piece, I spent a lot of time on Twitter, and while doing so I read a whole lot of racist tweets, and I noticed a pattern: A lot of the sort of tweets that did things like refer to black men as “animals” and “vermin” either tagged the Twitter handle @anthonycumia, or were tweeted directly at Anthony Cumia, the cohost of the long-running Opie and Anthony radio show.

 On a couple of occasions I clicked over to the feed itself, and was sort of surprised that this Twitter account by a well-known public figure was so full of full-on white supremacist venom, the kind normally found on white power websites, as well as your average big city newspaper comments section. I found it especially shocking that this was established to the point where the white racists of Twitter, in large numbers, knew that if they had new anti-black stories or anecdotes to share, Cumia was their guy. Call him a sort of unofficial King of Racist Twitter.

That all came to a head last week, when Cumia went on a Twitter rant about a confrontation he allegedly had with an black woman in Times Square, which was later joined by several black men.  The hours-long rant, liberally punctuated with the c-word and various racial slurs directed at African-Americans in general- culminating in the unfortunate phrase “they aren’t people”- has since been deleted, although you can find it here. 

This led, over the holiday weekend, to the announcement that Sirius XM had fired Cumia. According to The Wrap’s account:

“SiriusXM has terminated its relationship with Anthony Cumia of the Opie & Anthony channel,” Patrick Reilly, senior vice president, Communications, SiriusXM told TheWrap. ”The decision was made, and Cumia informed, late Thursday, July 3 after careful consideration of his racially-charged and hate-filled remarks on social media.”

Reilly concluded: “Those remarks and postings are abhorrent to SiriusXM, and his behavior is wholly inconsistent with what SiriusXM represents.”

The company is absolutely justified in their decision and honestly, it would have been indefensible if they’d done anything else.

Cumia’s version of events doesn’t pass the smell test – Times Square isn’t a deserted dark alley, there are always hundreds of people and lots of police around, and there’s a giant police station right there on 43rd Street. When this supposed major violent confrontation happened, why did no one whip out a camera phone? Why did no cops break it up or arrest anyone?

But even if Cumia is telling the absolute truth that he was innocently taking pictures and a woman attacked him, it brings to mind that famous quote from Justified (as raised on Facebook by my friend Isaac)- “you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day long, you’re the asshole.”

And even if we don’t know exactly what happened in Times Square that night, there’s no ambiguity about Cumia’s vicious comments. And we know exactly what Cumia has been saying, publicly, unambiguously and in his own voice, for years and years. This Gawker dossier, published last week, is a by no means exhaustive list.

 Sirius XM is a publicly traded company, accountable to its shareholders- some of whom, I would imagine are black. As are some of the company’s employees and even more importantly, some of their customers. Can you blame the company for not wanting an open white supremacist as one of their main public faces?

And besides- if you or I or anyone else made public comments along the lines of Cumia’s, and our boss heard about them? We’d probably get fired too.

Not to mention- open racism is bad for business. Read the comments of that Gawker piece. It’s full of people who were longtime O&A fans who dropped the show at some point when the racism started to overwhelm the comedy. I had to stop listening to Adam Carolla’s podcast for the same reason- at this point in his career Carolla’s a lot more interested in complaining about the Mexicans than he is in being funny. (Howard Stern, on the other hand, has become much less racially provocative- and even more notably, dramatically less anti-gay- with age and the passage of time.)

The blogger Chez Pazienza, a self-proclaimed longtime O&A fan, said it best: 

Anyone who’s listened to Opie and Anthony for a long time, as I have, could imagine that there might eventually come a day when Ant would do something to get himself kicked off-air. He’s always been a reactionary asshole, but just within the past couple of years it feels like something has changed — like his beliefs and behavior both on-air and off have become more caustic and not as easy to chalk up to amusing misanthropy. He’s entitled to his views, as are we all, but particularly on Twitter he’s become an unstoppable geyser of paranoid resentment and bigoted, hyper-conservative antagonism — and it’s infected his performance on the show as well. I don’t have to agree with your politics to think you’re brilliantly funny — and Ant is absolutely hilarious — but when you begin abandoning humor in favor of regularly raging against whatever bizarre injustices you believe are being committed against wealthy, heavily armed white people like yourself, it becomes exhausting.

The reactions from Cumia’s defenders, when they haven’t been disgusting, have been laughable. No, Cumia’s First Amendment rights haven’t been violated, as there’s nothing in the constitution guaranteeing one the right to a radio show. The First Amendment does not, and never has, shielded one from the consequences of their speech.

They fired him on the Fourth of July? It was actually the 3rd. Cumia’s been saying these sort of things for years? That’s a strike against him, not for him. The sociopathic behavior happened off-air? So what? “Some of his best friends are black”? Please. And that’s to say nothing of the much, much uglier stuff. 

There is one place where I agree with Cumia’s defenders- he shouldn’t have to issue a public apology because obviously, he’s not sorry. But I’m not going to praise him for having the courage of his convictions, when those convictions are so hateful and odious.

Cumia’s had a whole bunch of chances already, and I’ve got a feeling he’ll get more chances in the future. Of all the racial injustices in America today, his momentary lack of a radio show is very, very low on the list.

What is happening to our country? First Donald Sterling, now Anthony Cumia. It’s almost like no one with a decades-old record of virulent racism is safe.

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  • Matt Vickrey

    You Sir are the problem. YOUR PC beleifs are whats dragging our country down. We live in a nation where blacks speak with inpunity and whites are labeled as a KKK grand wizard. The only time you Liberals defend free speech is when you aggree. If not you want the person fired and their head on a platter. You libs are the most intollerant group of folks out there and you say we are the bad ones. No sorry I will defend to my death your right as liberals to bash me left and right. Unlike you who choose to silence to opposition I actually want to hear what you have to say. Us conservatives rarely ever go after a persons jobs due to words. You libs howver I can make a list of at least 20 people now including anthony. So please tell me Libs how much fun will it be when all you ever hear is your own opinion. At the rate we are going it will only be left leaning liberal thinking in this country. Liberals = the party of excuses. Also back in the 50’s and 60’s a black man was always guilty over the white man. The cops would always beleive the white man over the black. Now in 2014 its the other way around and you dont even see it. Was just proven. Now a white man is nailed to the wall before the facts come out. I just wish the media would do its due dilligence before they destroy a persons life. Sorry their are so many problems in the black community but you white libs keep making excuses and never speak the truth. The more you do this lib comentators will get pulled as well. Just like I stand up for liberal beliefs even though I despise them you need to do the same with conservative thoughts. Cant work only one way libs

  • John

    If it was a white girl he said it about it would be totally acceptable. The fact that the girl happened to be black makes him a racist?? Double standard. I don’t like Jesse Jackson, there im a racist now too, right? But Jesse Jackson can say whatever he wants about white people and its acceptable. Fuck you and this society we live in. He never said ALL black people, he said THOSE black people. He has even said the same about white’s. He said there are alot of white vultures out there too, everyone skips over those lines though and makes it a race issue.

    GO SCREW, ASSHOLE..GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT! Don’t listen for your key words about blacks, listen to what he says about whites too…

  • Nope

    Ummmmn yes, he was fired on July 3rd but it didn’t make the news till the 4th of July idiot. If Anthony is such this vile racist with a history of these type of “racially charged “comments why would Kareem Abdul Jabar, Kevin Hart, DJ Whoo Kid, T.I., ICE Cube, and the late great Patrice O’neal and host of other black stars come on the show? I love how people being the most supportive of the Anthony Cumia firing literally know nothing about the show other than the comments they read on Twitter.

  • eric

    I guess this is the media’s chance for revenge since these guys have made fun of them and making them look like fools their whole career. I’ve listened since the 90’s and Anthony did not mean black people when he said “Those People”. If that was a white woman acting that way he would have said the same thing. When i read that tweet it didn’t even pop into my head that he was referring to black people. Steven Silver is a douche.

  • NYJ

    Way to completely sidestep the issue of UNPROVOKED ASSAULT. If the situation is reversed, it’s called a hate crime…PERIOD. Yet here you are giving violence a free pass because you don’t care for the victim’s reaction.

    “various racial slurs directed at African-Americans in general- culminating in the unfortunate phrase “they aren’t people”-

    That’s a gross misrepresentation, if not libel

  • Barrison Morrison

    Ah, here come the O&A fans to defend their resident asshole. No one listens to satellite radio anymore, kids. Where’s the loss?

  • John Welch

    Mr. Silver you are talking out of your ass. I have a nephew who in feb. of this year was blindsided by a black youth while coming out of a late movie. He remembers nothing of the attack but his horrified girlfriend watched the whole thing. There were three black teens, one punched him in the side of his face. Whether it was that punch or the kick the second attacker gave him to his head when he was down that broke his jaw we don’t know, although we are sure it was the kick that knocked out 3 of his teeth. All while the third kid filmed on his phone. I have spent the last few months searching the internet for the footage of my nephews attack, hoping to identify the teens (they have not been caught) and in doing so have been exposed to dozens of such attacks most of which, like my nephews, were never reported on the evening news. Why is that Mr. Silver? my only conclusion is due to people who don’t want to be responsible for creating “racial tensions”. well as my nephews attack and many others like them should illustrate, racial tensions already exist and that the media and certain apologists in our society refuse to recognize that for every angry white man yelling curses, somewhere in this country is a black man committing a violent crime. That sounds horrible when said aloud or written but something being horrible doesn’t make it false. Mr. Cumia claims he was assaulted and other than having an innate need to want disbelieve an accusation made by an angry white man against a black woman I see no reason anybody would doubt him. His emotional vitriol certainly seems the right tone for somebody who has just experienced a violent public attack where he was rendered helpless and the emotional strain that puts on somebody. But I can see why you would dismiss that, because that would mean assigning more condemnation to a black woman than to a man you perceive as a racist.

  • pleasedtomeetme

    This might be off-topic, but you brought it up in your article: What exactly are you talking about when you refer to the “Knockout Game” as a “moral panic”? Who was it that panicked morally? And can you cite some of those, “…local news stations and newspaper websites that tried to convince white Americans that random black people could and would punch them at any moment”?
    Now, on to Anthony Cumia. First of all, it doesn’t matter whether you believe Cumia’s version of events or not. You weren’t there, were you? And why do you say this was a “major violent confrontation”? I certainly didn’t get that impression. It was an argument between two people (with a few others apparently joining in). And you’re right, Sirius XM is a publicly traded company, accountable to its shareholders. But we’re not talking about a company that doesn’t broadcast controversial individuals or controversial shows on a daily basis. They have Howard Stern and the Vivid Channel (that covers the entire world of adult entertainment), not to mention Raw Dog Comedy. Here’s Sirius XM’s Mission Statement: “With XM, listeners will enjoy the clearest, hottest, hippest and most provocative radio entertainment, seamlessly across the country. Wherever they live, whenever they want…XM Satellite Radio will provide the quality programming, choice and convenience that today’s consumers demand.” The irony in this whole debacle is that it wasn’t even anything Anthony did as a Sirius XM on-air personality that got him fired. It was his personal opinions on his personal Twitter page. Yeah, that’s some real provocative radio entertainment.

  • jdmillinois

    This whole situation is rediculous and its because of people like you Anthony cumia did nothing wrong people are so quick to turn to racism when in fact nothing racist was said..and it was his personal page not on the air so why should it concern siriusxm they are the reason satellite radio is fading before the merger their show was the best thing on radio now they are to worried about howard stern if he said this on his Twitter it would be fine everyone would look the other way and besides usnt that the reason they have an xl channel its supposed to be unfiltered and unrated but u can change the channel and here live sex on the vivid channel or whatever its called but this guy get fired for sticking up for himself when he gets attacked!!!!! GO SCREW

  • 21149315

    storify(dot)com/craigbob99/anthony-cumia-assault

    Or just Tweet “Storify Cumia” and watch the hate flow.

    A perverted racist got caught taking creepshots woment and one woman happened to retaliate. So this pervert decided to (instead of CALLING THE POLICE over a supposed assault) uses twitter like a whiny teenager who doesn’t understand the term “consequences”. Only giving his side of the story. Why would a woman randomly attack a man (at night) for no reason?

    Calling a woman of any race a listing of degrading names doesn’t make you right. He goes on about incivility yet displayed that in every tweet he made, by which (like the coward he is) deleted post heist. He and his mindless followers are against people being “PC” and “Censorship”, yet made a point to insult and block people who gave their “Free Speech” ideals about his person. Don’t dish out what you can’t take.

  • KarmaisabAnt

    So a rampaging Racist is finally pulled off the air….Nothing but Net !!!!!!!

  • gooooooob

    I like how “his remarks and behavior are inconsistent with what SiriusXM represents” but the Shade 45 page on Sirius’ website promotes: “all things improper, immoral, and inappropriate.”

    Nope, no hypocrisy there!

  • Rob

    Anthony, If you read these posts, rest assured that someone with common sense will soon realize what a comic genius you are, and put you back on the air where you have already been missed. Anything more bad press about your incident is just a waste of time by assholes who just don’t get it. Good luck Ant, hope to hear you soon

  • http://msn.com juniebjones

    It is refreshing to read comments that point out the inconsistencies in Cumia’s story. I don’t understand why the woman in the picture hasn’t come out and told her side of the story. Anthony is a nut job and the fact that he has followers who take his words seriously scares the hell out of me.

  • CHAD Nice

    Your article sucked and I hope you get hit by a school bus you tool.

    Also bing F you to SiriusXM for distorting talk radio once again. Had to cancel service since that was the only show worth listening to.

    Btw, The AnthonyCumia Show is great! Full HD video and audio, plus no management or lawyers to get in the way. Free speech at last!

    Check out his show and make up your own minds. Stop listening to douchbags like this A-Hole.

  • jackie freitas

    I concur. <3 Anthony

  • Mike G

    Dear everyone who commented,
    After reading this article and the following comments i had the sudden urge to wrap my legs around my head and deeply inhale my own farts until my eyes rolled into the back of my head.
    P.S.
    Smell my butt