“To err is human; to forgive, divine,” said Alexander Pope in 1711. Those wise words are something every American ought to consider now, three centuries later, before attempting to “cancel” others, ruining lives, careers and reputations, for speech and behavior deemed offensive.
In his poem “An Essay on Criticism, Part II,” the English poet explains that anyone can make a mistake — we’re all imperfect — yet at these moments of human frailty, we should show mercy and aspire to forgive sinners as God would do. Hence, in an age of censorship, political correctness and “wokeness” run amok, it is imperative that we have a national conversation about what’s acceptable speech, what is not and whether we want to live in a country that practices forgiveness — or not.
Which brings me to Joe Rogan, who’s in hot water for ignorantly saying racial slurs in the past during his podcast, prompting calls he be removed from Spotify, the streaming platform that hosts him.
In an Instagram video released Friday, Rogan apologized profusely and said he’s not a racist. “I’m making this video to talk about the most regretful and shameful thing that I’ve ever had to talk about publicly. There’s a video that’s out that’s a compilation of me saying the N-word. It’s a video that’s made of clips taken out of context of me of 12 years of conversations on my podcast, and it’s all smushed together. And it looks f–king horrible, even to me,” Rogan said.
The host provided context for his use of the offensive word, explaining that he said it on air a long time ago when discussing “how times have changed so much since then, or about how Richard Pryor used it as one of the titles of one of his albums, or I was quoting a Lenny Bruce bit, or I was quoting a Paul Mooney bit, or I was talking about how Quentin Tarantino used it repeatedly in ‘Pulp Fiction.’” He said, “For years I used it in that manner. I never used it to be racist because I am not racist.”
Given Rogan’s sincere apology for his repugnant use of that word, will Americans forgive the comedian and give him a second chance? Or will Democrats use his offensive speech from years ago as a pretext to “cancel” him? Liberals ought to tread carefully here because if they don’t accept Rogan’s apology for wrongfully using racist slurs, they will be exposed as politically biased hypocrites for giving a pass to a plethora of high-profile Democrats who are guilty of similar offensive speech or behavior.
Start with President Joe Biden, who said the N-word multiple times during a Senate hearing while a US senator. “Joe Biden quoted the N-word 13 times during hearings in 1985, according to Senate transcripts,” reported the UK Sun in July 2020. “The racial slur was used as the presumptive Democratic nominee was quoting someone during congressional hearings.” You can watch the C-SPAN video here, beginning at the 17:00 time mark. Of course, Biden could have refrained from saying the offensive slur and instead said “N-word” or “racial expletive” in lieu of the racially insensitive slur, out of respect for the black community — but he did not.
So why does a Democratic politician get a pass but not Rogan? It’s important to note that Rogan is just an entertainer who has zero control over our lives, but that’s not the case with Biden, who is president of the United States and exerts enormous power and influence over our collective lives. He should be held to a higher standard than a comedian, not a lower one.
Then there’s Democratic Mayor Eric Adams, who apologized Friday after a damning video surfaced of him using a racist slur against white cops. At an event held by a Harlem business group in 2019, Adams said, “I mean, every day in the police department, I kicked those crackers’ a–.” If there’s a zero-tolerance policy today from the “cancel culture” mob for racial slurs, when does he resign?
Same with TV and radio hosts who’ve donned blackface over the years. This includes Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Howard Stern, who also used the N-word multiple times in a 1993 New Year’s Eve skit — just to name a few offenders. If we live in a culture that values fairness and “equity,” that means if Rogan ultimately gets booted from airwaves, so should similar transgressors. And yes, that includes Madonna, who used a racial slur in a 2014 social media post. “I am sorry if I offended anyone with my use of the N word on Instagram,” the singer wrote on her Facebook page.
But that’s not all. In 2020, the lifestyle site Cafe Mom published an eye-wincing list of dozens of lefty Hollywood celebrities using racial slurs too lengthy to publish here. When do they lose their jobs, get banished from social media and get otherwise “canceled”?
Bottom line: We can’t have a just society if we selectively punish one person or group for offensive speech and behavior but not another based on their political views or affiliation. That’s wrong, unfair and extremely divisive, which will further divide our fractured nation. Americans should practice forgiveness or implement one set of “rules” that apply to all.