Robert Knight

A quick quiz: Which category of celebrities is most likely to slip up and utter an obscenity on a TV talk show?

Could it be Hollywood film stars?

So why was Good Morning America unprepared when Diane Keaton dropped the f-bomb during her interview Tuesday with Diane Sawyer, who giggled and suggested that Keaton’s mother might want to use a bar of soap on her mouth (wink, wink).

It can’t be that the network is incapable of intercepting obscenities. In the digital age, blaming a lack of technology is a non-starter. It’s probably not because ABC executives, while cruising in the Dumbo ride at the parent company’s Walt Disney World, got the idea to “let one through and see what happens.”

However, it could also be that ABC was blasé about such things because a federal appeals court last year decided to bar the FCC from enforcing the rule against obscenities in cases of “fleeting” use. The decision left FCC officials scratching their heads.  So far, they have not announced whether they will pursue any action against ABC.  If they don’t, will any rationale still exist for pursuing future “fleeting” f-words uttered by guests?  This isn’t a problem that can be safely ignored.  Public vulgarity is like kudzu. If you don’t deal with it quickly and completely, it spreads out of control.

GMA spokeswoman Bridgette Maney told the Washington Post that GMA does not use a delay on the morning shows and that the obscenity was bleeped out in all but the East Coast broadcasts. And ABC News Senior Vice President Jeffrey Schneider said, “It was obviously unfortunate, and we were quick to correct it for subsequent feeds.” 

But why not have a delay?  How hard could that be when they do it for news talk shows?

It could be that the folks at ABC, like the rest of the New York/Hollywood axis, hear so much of this stuff on a daily basis in their own world that they fail to see how offensive it could be to others.  After all, they had no problem with Joy Behar and the girls on The View on Monday discussing “three-ways” and Behar’s own taste for viewing porn.    

More clues to ABC’s worldview and overall character in providing information to the public can be found on the ABC Television Web site.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.