Tuesday, February 08, 2005

New Jersey censures talk show host

More Jerseyana than IP but of interest.

On Monday, Jan. 24, 2005, New Jersey talk show host Craig Carton of 101.5 ridiculed women "who claim they suffer from this post-partum depression" and got into a tiff with (among others) acting Governor Codey. On Monday, Feb. 7, 2005, a committee in the New Jersey legislature voted 5-0 (two Republicans abstained) to censure the talk show host.

from JEFF PILLETS at northjersey.com:

A panel of state lawmakers voted reluctantly Monday to "censure" Craig Carton, the irreverent radio talk show host whose barbs at New Jersey's first lady nearly brought him to blows with acting Governor Codey.

Members of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee took pains to argue that their 5-0 vote was a personal slap at the New Jersey 101.5 host - not a jab at media freedom and the First Amendment.

"To censure is a bit strong, to censor is intolerable. ... No one believes in freedom of speech of more than I do,'' said Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, a D-Cape May County.

He then voted for the measure because he said he was "deeply disturbed" by Carton's on-air comments regarding Mary Jo Codey's bouts with mental illness.

Two Republicans, Assemblymen Kirk Conover and David Wolfe, abstained. Both said they wanted to vote "no" but refrained out of respect to the resolution's sponsor and committee chairman, Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo, D-Essex.

"When you use the auspices of the government to call for the censuring of a private individual, it's wrong,'' Conover said.

But Caraballo said Carton had "crossed the line" when he poked fun at Mary Jo Codey's illness. Caraballo said he was especially upset by Carton's on-air threats to work against Codey's election if he ran for governor.

"We have a right to say we won't be bullied by someone's raw assertion of power,'' Caraballo said.

After the vote, Carton said New Jersey's elected officials should turn their attention to more serious matters - like the property tax crisis and the state's multibillion-dollar budget shortfall.

Carton said his remarks have been reported out of context and that he was not making fun of mental illness. The radio host also pledged that, despite the committee's censure, he would continue to aggressively offer his views.

"I get paid to give my opinions. If I can't air my opinions without having the governor come in here with four state troopers by his side and try to bully me into silence - then something is very wrong," Carton said.

Carton, co-host of the popular ''Jersey Guys,'' said during a show last month that the governor should legalize marijuana for medical uses, ''so women can relax and have a joint instead of putting their babies in a microwave.''

Mary Jo Codey has talked openly about recurrent bouts with mental illness and postpartum depression that included violent feelings toward her two sons - who are now 16 and 20 - when they were newborn. She confessed that she had even been tempted to place one child in a microwave.

''Women who claim they suffer from this postpartum depression,'' Carton said on the air, ''must be crazy in the first place.''

Codey confronted Carton about the comments at the Mercer County station before a taping of "Ask the Governor," a weekly call-in program. The two had a brief shouting match and Codey challenged Carton to fight it out.

Nothing came of the challenge. But Codey's action was cheered by many, including his wife, who said she was "pleased as punch."

Andy Santoro, the station's vice president and general manager, suggested Monday that Codey staged the entire confrontation in a shrewd move to boost his appeal to the public.

He pointed out that the governor's office moved quickly to publicize the incident, even going so far as to make transcripts of Carton's on-air comments available to reporters the next morning.

Santoro added that Codey's office negotiated with the station on possible ways for the governor and the radio host to reconcile. He said Codey's office approached the station with several ideas, including an exhibition boxing match between Codey and Carton to benefit mental health charities.

He said plans for the exhibition fight fell through because the governor's office demanded an apology first.

Kelley Heck, the governor's spokeswoman, said suggestions that Codey had staged the confrontation and negotiated with the radio station are "completely false and outrageous.'' She declined to make further comment, saying that Codey has moved on.


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