Christopher Hitchens, the notoriously hard-drinking, chain-smoking British Vanity Fair contributor, is under fire. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career, marked by altercations (physical and verbal, domestic and international), controversial books (God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything), and run-ins with academics, celebrities and the like. Is it any wonder that he made the following comments about comedienne Wanda Sykes who recently garnered her own controversy for telling what some would call "inappropriate" jokes at the White House: "The president should be squirming in his seat. Not smiling," Hitchens said, according to the Huffington Post. "The black dyke got it wrong. No one told her the rules." (Initially, Rush Limbaugh had been erroneously linked to the comments, when in fact it was this schmuck Hitchens who made the remark.)
My question to Hitchens and all of the other people dogging Wanda Sykes, including President Obama, is: "Have you met her?"
Had they not seen any of her comedy routines, appearances on talk shows or her short-lived sitcom, which was about the political landscape of Washington, D.C., her hometown? If they were looking for safe, clean and sanitized humor, then they should have invited someone else.
To invite someone to your house and then mistreat them is completely rude and unacceptable. It's not like they invited Drew Carey and he started ragging on Rush Limbaugh or former Vice-President Cheney. That would be a shocker. To think that Wanda Sykes, who has built her comedic career on political comedy, was going to come in there and break out into a musical routine is asinine. I'm not even a huge fan, and I don't think she's particularly funny, but I know what to expect when I see her name on the billing.
President Obama and the White House are foul for being disingenuous with the invite. Don't try to act like you're down and cool enough to invite a fireplug like Wanda Sykes to the White House and then try to "distance" yourself from her when she goes where she always goes -- anywhere she damn well pleases.
Which leads me back to Mr. Hitchens, the jerk trying to hide behind what he calls British wit. There is such a thing, but calling a woman a "black dyke" is not it. He acts like she talked about a disabled person. Clearly, Rush is a big boy and can handle himself, spewing venom like only he can -- straight, no chaser. That's why he makes the big bucks while Hitchens chases them by making racist and homophobic remarks for no apparent reason. At least Limbaugh actually believes what he is saying and stands behind his words, as crazy as they sometimes may be.
Hitchens on the other hand is a pansy, hiding behind being an "intellectual" that has been mistaken as a racist and a homophobe, which is exactly what Hitchens is in this instance. He could have actually called her by her name or suggested that she is a terrorist because she terrorized the audience. Anything but "black dyke," neither of which has anything to do with anything. Because she's black and gay, she got it wrong? No, it was because she was in a room full of stuffed shirts, who actually laughed a lot if you watch the video and then feigned offense later.
You may wonder why you haven't heard anything from Sykes as of this printing. Well, she's busy living her life with her wife and newborn twins. She's perfectly capable of dishing it and taking it, just like Limbaugh.
The controversy over Sykes' performance at the White House is ridiculous. She probably thought it was a safe space since she had been invited there and thought quite possibly they had seen her comedy, but I guess not. Sykes is a talent who has built a career on being the ultimate smartass about all things political, social and the like. The White House needs to grow a pair and lighten up.
Hitchens on the other hand, needs to go somewhere, sit down and shut up before he starts something else he cannot finish. Prime example: This is a man who was dumb enough to deface public property in Beirut, no less, and then was upset when he got his ass kicked by what he called "thugs." The thugs, however, were actually police officers and members of the organization whose sign he defaced in front of their headquarters.
As my grandmother would say, "He's got all of that book sense and no common sense." Sort of like the folks at the fancy party and the pundits afterward, including my main man Keith Olbermann, who admonished Sykes. I just shook my head and thought, "These folks are lame." Like a real comedian, Sykes performed as requested and will weather this fabricated storm. On the other hand, folks will make up excuses for Hitchens' continuously bad behavior and attribute it to his being eccentric as opposed to being the obnoxious jerk that he truly is.
To Mr. Hitchens, you're dead wrong and "the black dyke" actually got it right.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College and editorial director for RushmoreDrive.com.