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David Sirota apologizes to Mike Rosen -- but not for attacking comments about NY Islamic center

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KOA's Mike Rosen unloaded on AM 760's David Sirota earlier today, arguing that Sirota's claims about Rosen's comment regarding an Islamic Center near Ground Zero, which got Rosen branded the worst person in the world by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, twisted what was obviously a satirical remark.

Sirota disagrees -- although he does express regret for attacking Rosen personally.

According to Rosen, the audience attending a debate involving him, Sirota and KHOW's Peter Boyles at Comedy Works South earlier this month understood he was being ironic when he said, "I think they should be allowed to build it, following the hijacking of an Iranian plane right into that building and blow it to smithereens" in part because the crowd was dominated by his fans rather than Sirota's "left-wing minions." He also said he didn't hear Sirota call the remark "sick shit" because they were on opposite sides of the stage -- but he believes his progressive rival's "humorless" and "programmed" approach caused him to get crushed in the face-off.

Even so, Rosen was upset at Sirota for implying the remark represented his legitimate position in a Huffington Post piece that sparked MSNBC's Olbermann incendiary take-down. Moreover, he says Sirota was "grossly unprofessional" because "he attacked me on his radio show personally. He wasn't talking about the merits of any disagreements. He talked about my divorces, my financial losses, my plastic surgery. It was so obviously a petulant, sore-loser, childish rant on his part, no doubt because everyone in the room knew that I made him look like a monkey that night."

What's Sirota got to say about that?

"I think if you listen to the reaction on the tape" -- listen to the complete recording here -- "you'll hear that there was a fist-pumping cheer. There wasn't laughter. And I said what I said afterward right into the mic -- so I think him saying he couldn't hear it because I was on the other side of the stage is ridiculous."

As for Rosen's assertions about the comment being clearly ironic, Sirota says, "I think if you were someone in the audience who was Muslim, it probably wasn't funny. And if you were someone who wasn't Muslim, but who felt that violent and hateful rhetoric in our society is a problem, it wasn't funny, either. Mike made a statement, trying to get a rise out of the conservative listeners in the crowd, and I think he went many steps too far. He made quite an offensive statement, and afterward, all he really would have to say is, 'I went too far. I'm sorry about that.' But instead, he's trying to manufacture an explanation that absolves him, instead of admitting, 'I was wrong to say it.'"

Sirota acknowledges that Rosen probably didn't literally want someone to hijack a plane and crash it into the Islamic center at some point in the future (like after it's actually built), but he thinks "he meant it somewhat seriously in an overstated way that we hear on his side of the political aisle. And for him to say, 'I was being satirical' doesn't make any sense. This wasn't like Stephen Colbert, because conservative hosts don't satirize conservative hosts. And if I'd said something of a similar ilk about bombing another religious site -- which I never would -- nobody would say to me, 'Oh, I get it. It was a joke.' People would be similarly outraged. I want to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but it's sad to me that he can't just say, 'I made a mistake. I made a stupid comment, and I'm really sorry.'"

When it comes to talking about divorces and so on, however, Sirota concedes that Rosen has a point, albeit one that's expressed a bit hypocritically.

"I think a lot of personal things have been said between him and me, and I think that's lamentful," he says. "He said a lot of personal things about me in the aftermath of what happened, and the things that I said weren't endorsing violence. I was saying I feel bad for this guy who sat on the stage and made comments offensive to black people, gay people, even a weird joke about Nancy Pelosi being on a desert island and putting a gag in her mouth and a bag over her head. He strikes me as a pretty sad person."

Even so, he goes on, "if the back and forth involved personal stuff, I'm sorry to have been a part of that. I apologize -- but I don't apologize for saying what I said about his comment and pointing out what I think is the offensive nature of his remarks. That's really what's at issue here."

As a side note, he contends that "I think I've got a pretty decent sense of humor. This morning, we had the director and writer of Anchorman on, and on Friday, I spent an hour with Richard Lewis. But nobody's been able to explain to me how what [Rosen] said was funny, and that's because it wasn't funny. It's just not funny.

"This comment needs to be seen in the context of mosque desecrations and Arab-Americans being attacked for their beliefs," he goes on. "Words that public figures say in public forums matter, and the reason I pointed them out is not because I have some personal desire to embarrass Mike, as he suggests, but that I fundamentally believe that silence in the face of violent and hateful remarks equals complicity. And I'm not going to be complicit."

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