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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 23: Tire Irons Are Funny, Stonings Are Not

Conservatives who were offended by an actor who wanted to stone Henry Hyde are mum about a radio host who wants to bludgeon Hillary Clinton.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/15/2003

What kinds of things do conservatives think are funny?

A conservative talk show host named Michael Graham made on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" May 7 the following statement (scroll to end of transcript): "Anyone listening to Hillary Rodham in her speech last week about patriotism, that screaming, screeching fingernail, I wanted to bludgeon her with a tire iron. That’s what I wanted to do." Graham now says, as he did to blogger Atrios, that the statement was a joke. (Which left Atrios wondering just where the humor was in such a statement.)

This, of course, is not the first time a conservative has publicly threatened bodily harm to a member of the Clinton family. The National Review's John Derbyshire advocated the deaths of the entire Clinton family in a column he later claimed was "tongue in cheek."

With examples like these -- and given the lack of outcry about them from other conservatives -- it's easy to believe that all conservatives believe in violence against political enemies. Yet surprisingly, conservatives do not afford said opponents the same courtesy. Conservatives, in fact, have become quite upset when non-conservatives advocate violence against their political opponents.

Take, for example, the 1998 statement of actor Alec Baldwin on NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" at the height of the Clinton impeachment controversy: "I’m thinking to myself if we were in other countries, we would all, right now, all of us together, ... would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death! Wait! ... Shut up! No shut up! I’m not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death, and we would go to their homes and we’d kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families." (Baldwin is probably on record somewhere saying that he was kidding.)

Since then, Baldwin's statement has been referenced by the following conservative writers, either explicitly denouncing it or referencing it in relation to some other "liberal" offense (this is not a complete list): Linda Bowles, David Limbaugh (who claims that "You cannot credibly contend that with that language Baldwin was kidding"), Larry Elder, Dick Boland, Paul Craig Roberts, Brent Bozell, Michael Medved, Jon Dougherty, Joseph Farah, Alan W. Bock, Jerome M. Zeifman and Jonah Goldberg. ran an article on the head of some obscure group calling for the House of Representative's sergeant-at-arms to investigate Baldwin. Try finding that volume of concern over Derbyshire or Graham in the so-called liberal media.

Bob Barr, former U.S. representative and conservative darling, is quoted in a 1999 story about a statement made by director Spike Lee that then-National Rifle Association leader Charlton Heston should be shot (which he later said was a joke): "But, of course, all Spike Lee has to do is what Alec Baldwin did when he said that Henry Hyde ought to be stoned to death. They say, 'Oh, we were misquoted. We were only kidding.' Well, they aren't kidding when they say that sort of thing."

And a 2000 NewsMax story quotes Hyde himself to be, unsurprisingly, not amused by Baldwin's statement. "Excuse me for not laughing. He wants my family stoned to death by a mob. Imagine if a Republican said such a thing." To which NewsMax adds: "Imagine indeed."

Derbyshire's and Graham's statements give us the answer to NewsMax's Lennon-esque pondering. NewsMax and the rest of the ConWeb, not to mention all those conservative pundits mentioned above who beat up on Baldwin, ignored Derbyshire's words and will likely ignore Graham's as well for the usual reasons: Hypocrisy and the unspoken wish they will someday come true.

Which brings us back to our original dilemma: What do conservatives find funny? A November 1999 article on provides another clue. It's a piece of satire by David Burge recycling all the usual conservative canards about Al Gore in the guise of a fashion show. At one point Burge "quotes" one of the "show's" attendees: "'Al's got me so hopped up on testosterone, I'm going to club Henry Hyde with a tire iron,' chimed pudgy-but-lovable thespian Alec Baldwin."

Well, Atrios, there's your answer. To conservatives, tire irons are comedy gold.

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