There was, for instance, his effort last year to identify and expose politicians who are gay, inviting listeners to provide tips and offering protection to gay elected officials if they would sign a statement that he promised to keep confidential. This was, of course, presented as a humorous exercise – which it was, for those who still think that the fact of someone’s sexual orientation is itself a punchline. There was also the time he waded into local politics in Edison, New Jersey, a township of about 90,000 people, many of whom are Asian immigrants. Several weeks before an election in 2005, Mr. Carton turned his attention to Jun Choi, a 34-year-old Korean-American who was running for mayor.
“Chinese should never dictate the outcome of an election!” Mr. Carton thundered, apparently confusing Mr. Choi’s ethnicity.
“Well, go to A.C. for a week and try and get a table,” the host continued, assuming a crude Chinese accent, “‘Ching-chong, ching-chong, ching-chong.’ You hit it on 17, you stupid bitch! The dealer’s got a 5! I’m holding an 18. What’re you hitting for?! You know?”
When a caller from Edison told Mr. Carton that he’d decided to leave town because “we’re being overrun,” Mr. Carton replied, “Damn Orientals and Indians!”
Mr. Choi, no doubt powered by the public backlash against Mr. Carton’s tirade, ended up winning an upset victory. But of Mr. Carton’s effort at vigilantism takes the cake. Earlier this year, as talk radio across the country embraced the crusade against illegal immigration, Mr. Carton inaugurated “Operation La Cucha Gotcha,” in which he deputized his listeners to report anyone they even suspected of being an illegal immigrant to authorities, creating a climate of hysterical scape-goating that surely intimidated many of New Jersey’s perfectly legal immigrants. Mr. Imus and Mr. Carton actually reached fairly similar, male-dominated audiences. But Mr. Imus, before he went off the air, treated his listeners to numerous interviews on the immigration debate, providing reasoned and informed dialogues on what has become an emotionally-explosive topic. Mr. Carton took that same topic and stoked his audience’s fears for ratings.
With Craig Carton, CBS will probably get the ratings it wants. But those who enjoy a touch of intelligence with their political talk would do well to look elsewhere.