Sexually degrading slurs in the Herald-Times

Back in 2011, after two years of lobbying by Tea Party supporters and others, the Herald-Times finally agreed to stop publishing a sexually degrading term for the Tea Party movement. That term (teabag or teabagger) refers to a man putting his testicles in another person’s face or mouth. At the time, Herald-Times editor Bob Zaltsberg said this:

  • “A few online commenters and letter-to-the-editor writers have been known to use a vulgar term to describe members of the Tea Party. We make every effort to remove comments from HeraldTimesOnline.com that use the term, and to edit it from letters sent by readers.”

It was a great disappointment, then, to see a letter to the editor using this sexually degrading slur to refer to Republicans. It was even more egregious last fall, when an “instant message” response published in the newspaper referred to the governor of Indiana with the sexually degrading slur “teabagger.”

This is well below the standards one would expect of a newspaper in a university community, much less one that presents itself as a leader in the field of local journalism. Referring to the governor as a “teabagger” is especially egregious and beyond the pale, and that slur should never have been published.

What’s done is done. The Herald-Times cannot un-publish the sexually degrading slurs it published last week, or the even worse sexually degrading slur it published last fall. What the H-T can do, however, is apologize for their lack of oversight and extremely unprofessional behavior, as well as deleting every single use of the word “teabag” or any variation of it in the comments when that word is used as a sexually degrading slur.

The Bloomington community deserves better than this.

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