Howard Stern addresses his racist behavior from nearly three decades ago

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Over the weekend, Don Trump Jr (I guess?) tried to make “Howard Stern is racist” into a thing. It’s this pathetic clownery from MAGA racists now – they try to “own the libs” by pointing out problematic sh-t various celebrities did or said in the past. Most of the time, those celebrities had already apologized and acknowledged their own problematic behavior years ago too. That doesn’t make those acts any less racist or problematic, but it just feels like Don Jr and his coterie of dumbasses are telling on themselves – the “libs” they’re trying to own are always like “yeah, that was problematic AF, and we said so at the time.” So it is with Howard Stern, who did and said absolutely horrible and racist stuff in the ‘80s and ‘90s, like use the n-word and wear blackface. Yesterday, Stern acknowledged Don Jr’s struggle-callout and made a statement of his own. Here’s part of what Stern said:

“The s*** I did was f***ing crazy. I’ll be the first to admit. I won’t go back and watch those old shows; it’s like, who is that guy. But that was my shtick, that’s what I did and I own it. I don’t think I got embraced by Nazi groups and hate groups. They seemed to think I was against them too. Everybody had a bone to pick with me.”

“It was something in me, a drive you wouldn’t believe. As a young man, I wanted to succeed on the radio and I wanted to go f***ing crazy. Emotionally it was costing me a lot. The FCC was after me, the right wing was after me, I had the Ku Klux Klan after me, threatening my life. All kinds of crazy stories. I could do 17 movies on my life, how crazy it was. I was fined millions of dollars by the federal government, for sex. Not for race, because if you talked about race, they never cared. Look, that was the show. I went into therapy and said, what is this? Do I always have to be the guy pulling my pants down? Can I find a way to do the show where I can be a lot happier? Over the years, I did change the show…I got soft. I came to realize in therapy, if I’m going to be with my kids, and have a successful marriage, I can’t be insane completely 24 hours a day. I have to figure out a better way to communicate. So I evolved and changed.

“The big headline is this, and this is my fear in all of this. I was able to change my approach, able to change my life and change how I communicated. If I had to do it all over again, would I lampoon Ted Danson, a white guy in blackface? Yeah, I was lampooning him and saying, I’m going to shine a light on this. But would I go about it the same way now? Probably not. Not probably, I wouldn’t.

“At the same point, I will say, it f***ing distresses me that Donald Trump Jr, and Donald, themselves won’t go into psychotherapy and change. Why not change the way you’re approaching things because, wearing a mask is not a bad thing. Telling people the actual size of the crowd at your inauguration is okay. Attacking me during the coronavirus and Black Lives Matter is absolutely f***ing crazy, concentrating on me. You want to concentrate on me and bully me, and expose me, with all the TV shows I’ve done? They’re all out there. There’s nothing new here. We all know. I was the craziest motherf***er on radio. There will never be another show crazier than mine….. I’m not a hater. I’m excited about being on the radio as most of those who listen on the radio know. I’m excited about gay rights, telling you not to beat up gay people. I’m excited about the changes that are coming out of Black Lives Matter. Watching [George Floyd] choked to death, as I’ve said before, it’s sickening and appalling and I think real change might be in the air. It has nothing to do with me; it’s these guys hitting the streets and saying we’ve had enough. I’m excited about real change that is coming…I’m excited about the changes I’ve made in my approach to radio. But Jesus Christ, anybody who wants…I would suggest the people who are listening now have heard my shows over the past 40 years.

“I never go back and look at that stuff. I cringe when I look at myself 30 or 40 years ago, and that was 27 years ago, I go, I can’t stand it. Am I a bad guy? I don’t think so. Donald Trump didn’t think so, he was on my show 27 times. Donnie Junior did the show. On TV he said, I’m really disappointed in Howard, he’s changed, that I’ve gone Hollywood. Which is it? Do you want me to get in blackface and make fun of Ted Danson? I have changed. They leak TV shows that have been on TV to the press. I remember how badly Donald Jr wanted to take a picture with me.

“Dude, if you’re the president of the United States and you want to worry about me, go ahead. I don’t think I have much influence honestly. And breaking news: Howard Stern was absolutely insane and out of his mind. I would take on anything and say anything and do anything. All the old shows prove it.”

[From Just Jared]

I like a lot of what Stern says here, and it’s true that he went into therapy, he evolved, he tried to grow as a man and as a broadcaster. He’s never hidden who he was or what he did, and if that’s a dealbreaker for some people, so be it. I think Stern would be the first to acknowledge that too, that he’s gotten away with a lot of crazy sh-t in his life because of his privilege. And I love that Stern keeps picking at the Trumps too – they used to love his show, they used to love being on his show. Anyway, just another self-own from Don Jr.

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19 Responses to “Howard Stern addresses his racist behavior from nearly three decades ago”

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  1. Tiffany says:

    How does Uday grow a beard and still have no chin?

  2. Darla says:

    When I was a young working girl, Stern was routinely played in the offices I worked. In two of them. One was a little s-hole, and the service manager was in early mornings, and he played it. He also stared at me constantly, and once brought it another man to stare at me, I swear to god. Then when he left, I changed it. The office manager was an older lady and she would change it immediately when she arrived even if he was still there. Then, a couple of years later, I had what really was my favorite office job in my youth, and the place I met my (now ex) husband. In the back, was the drafting room, literally a room with two guys who drafted blueprints. And sometimes I had to be back there to pull plans, and I would get so embarrassed my face would turn red. Stern was literally doing a show about women’s discharge on their underwear, and talking about his wife’s underwear and how they disgusted him, and he was certain that Heather Locklear’s underwear had no discharge. I mean, I remember so much of it because it was so bad, for a young girl in front of men. It was sexual harassment that they were even permitted to have it on at all. This was the 90’s.

    So I have always despised Stern, truly and fully. He’s a disgusting pig. I did watch his entire recent interview with Hillary Clinton and I was shocked. He is a very good interviewer, and he does seem to have changed…but I’ll never forget who he was. I can’t. Too many men used him as a tool to degrade me when I was young and powerless.

    • Chaine says:

      I so agree with you, absolutely. He championed the most egregiously misogynist attitudes and behavior and while it’s nice that he thinks better if it now, as a woman who had to suffer through the absolute misery of his era, I can’t get past that.

    • KellyRyan says:

      I agree. Stearn may be doing some light picking at Dumpty but in interviews he continues to praise him. Apparently the therapist did not have his complete attention.

    • KL says:

      “Too many men used him as a tool to degrade me when I was young and powerless.”

      This. This is what people — especially white men — like Stern don’t understand about their racist and misogynistic pasts. Yes, if they were individuals operating in a vacuum, it would only be a matter of their personal change and amends. But he was not just an individual, he was a cultural force. He might have seen himself as just a shock jock mouthing off in a sound booth. But him and others like him who are given platforms to make bigotry of any kind into popular entertainment were complicit in a much larger game of humiliation and degradation — and maybe he was too privileged to be aware of it, but it still put money in his pocket. And he was aware of THAT. He encouraged THAT. He was happy about the financial and cultural power he had.

      I don’t think he’s necessarily a bad guy, either (although I’m not a fan of him characterizing it as getting “soft”), but I still don’t think he or others like him understand their full culpability of their participation.

      • Darla says:

        Yes, well said KL.

      • Otaku fairy says:

        Adding to that much larger game of humiliation and degradation is the inequality in how those of us in marginalized communities are allowed, or not allowed, to move on when it comes to problematic pasts. We get to let go of the actions of men like him and some of the other problematic men who have been discussed recently, and are even encouraged to. Even with someone like Kevin Spacey, we get to stay against what he did AND against homophobia. But nothing even close to that is allowed with problematic people who experience misogynoir or misogyny, unless she’s someone useful/ nonthreatening to the powers that be. It’s an abusive double standard that’s definitely worth looking at when problematic male allies come up.
        That said, the Trumps pretending to care about racism is obviously bullshit.

  3. sa says:

    I don’t know Howard Stern’s show well enough to know what he did in the 80s and 90s, but if it was racist, then calling it “crazy” doesn’t really seem like owning it or taking responsibility for it.

    Not really relevant, but my little furball is sitting next to me, and I wouldn’t have her if not Howard Stern’s wife’s work rescuing cats. I think I’ve extended my appreciation to include him, which I probably shouldn’t.

  4. Some chick says:

    Hmm. It’s sort of a new take on “unfiltered” but he did get therapy and change. And he’s right about, why are they bringing him up now? To embiggen their neonazi media?

    I remember the previous Howard all too well. I don’t see him apologizing for the misogyny. It’s great that he’s changed. But I’m not going to start listening to him now.

    That last photo is really something.

  5. grabbyhands says:

    I mean, I don’t completely hate this.

    It’s a little “well, those were the times”, but he also looks at it reflectively too and admits that it was stupid.

    And he makes an excellent point of showing their hypocrisy and pettiness that in the midst of everything this planet is dealing with right now, they still have time to whine about Howard Stern.

  6. Sayrah says:

    I’ve listened to Howard since 1995. He’s definitely changed over the years. And if you’re old enough to remember that black face he did was making fun of Ted Danson doing so during the Whoopi Goldberg roast in the early 1990s. Still, I’m glad to hear that he’s able to be reflective on things he shouldn’t have done in his past. Let’s hear Trump do the same… crickets??

  7. Nev says:

    Ok. He can go now.

  8. Renee says:

    I’m not buying that all he keeps saying is his show was “crazy” or he said the “craziest” things on radio…uhm no! He said vile racist things on radio. He wasn’t crazy. I don’t feel like he owns it here. He doesn’t call it what it was, which was vile. He soft sells it like he was just outlandish or something. Sorry but I will take a hard pass on Stern.

  9. BearcatLawyer says:

    I forgive Howard Stern for who he was and what he did, but I will never forget it nor fully trust him. However, I will give him credit where it is due: he realized how harmful his speech and behaviour were not just to the people he attacked but to his family and especially himself and made the conscious effort to change. Not many people have the guts to even admit they need to drastically change, much less do it. If his transformation and willingness to speak out about it inspires others to change, then his career and life were not total wastes.

  10. Faye G says:

    I despise him. How is any of this an apology for racism? He doesn’t even say it was wrong, just that he wouldn’t do it the same way. Disgusting.

  11. AppleTartin says:

    All this came about because Howard has been unloading on Trump about how badly he has handled the pandemic. This was Donny Jr. shot at him for being mean to Daddy. Howard has never hid from his history and how he has evolved from it.

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Absolutely co-sign what has been said in previous comments — racism and sexism aren’t just being crazy or insane. He was deliberately being offensive. Using the N-word. He was part and parcel of making Donald Trump a celebrity (or returning him to a form of celebrity). He is exactly the person who’d joke about grabbing women like Trump got caught saying.

    And now he offers a MILD critique … I’m not buying it. He doesn’t care.

  13. Eenie Googles says:

    I’m here for the message that people can change.

    If people and society can’t learn and change, then what is this all for?

  14. LittyKitty says:

    Yeah. No thanks. He does a lot of fast talking and I don’t trust him or like him. I never have.