Canadian commentators fail to cool it with Johnny Weir jokes

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Neate Sager
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If Scotty Lago has to excuse himself from the Olympic scene for buffoonish behavior, maybe broadcasters should have to, too.

The Canadian Press reports that the Quebec Council of Gays and Lesbians is going to make a complaint about French-language RDS, whose commentators Alain Goldberg and Claude Mailhot decided to go for the gold for trading in stale Johnny Weir jokes.

The pair called Weir "a bad example" and suggested he go through gender testing, like the runner Caster Semenya. After all, in no way is the latter a touchy subject.

RDS's apology addressed "tactless comments on the appearance and manner of a figure skater." The crux of the grievance, though, was the comparison to Semenya, the Canadian Press says:

[T]he mea culpas are insufficient, according to council president Steve Foster.

"They only apologized for the comments they made on his outfit," he said Saturday. "We hadn't even asked for an apology for those remarks. It's the rest of the comments: on his masculinity, his femininity, the fact he should skate as a woman."

Who knows what makes professional broadcasters think racial or sexual humor is acceptable? Being able to read off a teleprompter doesn't make you Russell Peters, pal. For the record, here is how the wire service reported it:

"This may not be politically correct," Mailhot said during the segment, in which Weir ... was shown sporting a semi-sheer, pink-and-black costume he designed himself.

"But do you think he lost points due to his costume and his body language?"

Goldberg replied that Weir's feminine style may reflect badly on other male figure skaters.

"They'll think all the boys who skate will end up like him," he said. "It sets a bad example."

Well, at least Mailhot qualified it may be inappropriate.

"In the earlier RDS coverage of Weir, Goldberg and Mailhot also brought up South African runner Caster Semenya, who was forced to undergo gender testing following her 2009 win at the world track and field championships in Germany.

"We should make him pass a gender test at this point," Goldberg said, and Mailhot then jokingly suggested Weir should compete in the women's competition.

Brutal. The point is that broadcasters don't have the right to assume everyone watching agrees with their own strict definition of manhood. Stick to sports.

"Hockey Night in Canada" had a representative of EGALE come on the show last year for a discussion after Mike Milbury made his "pansification" remarks. Perhaps RDS should think about granting equal time.

Meantime, let's have a call for a total Johnny Weir joke moratorium. Not because the jokes are politically incorrect, but because they're stunningly unoriginal. Move on.

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