In Defense of Bitch Slapping

ProgressNow has successfully embarrassed KOA talk-show hosts for unwise statements in the past. Remember that in May 2007, the left-leaning organization made headlines for whipping up an advertiser boycott aimed at rabble-rouser Bob Newman, who'd declared, "I want every Muslim immigrant to America who holds a green card, a visa, or who is a naturalized citizen to be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times." (See this More Messages blog for details.) But its latest attempt to raise a ruckus over a KOA yakker -- in this case, gleeful loudmouth Jon Caldara -- seems to have boomeranged, and rightly so.

Granted, I don't come to this controversy with a clean slate. Googling the search terms "bitch-slapped" and "Westword" promptly brings up a 2006 review I wrote about Colorado hip-hop artist Black Pegasus; I referenced "Club Killah," which I described as "a song that bitch-slapped DJs for turning a deaf ear to his rhymes." But if that makes me a brother in blather with Big Jon, so be it, because ProgressNow is clearly overreaching. In this case, its slap leaves no sting.

At present, ProgressNow is incensed over a statement made by Caldara during a January 21 conversation with guest Ann Coulter; after citing a snappy remark made by Barack Obama about Hillary Clinton during a debate, he asked, "Was it fair to say this woman got bitch-slapped tonight?" After another liberal group, Colorado Media Matters, posted an item about this query on January 22, ProgressNow sprang into life, asking the folks on its extensive mailing list to take action, and many did so. In a January 25 Rocky Mountain News article, the group's frontman, Michael Huttner, boasted that approximately 300 people had complained to KOA advertisers. Moreover, a Rocky piece published the next day noted that one firm, Dun-Rite Kitchens and Baths Inc., had asked the station not to schedule its spots during Caldara's program as a result of the gripes.

Problem is, this last offering also identified some major inconsistencies in ProgressNow's platform. Blogger Ari Armstrong pointed out that three alternative papers in the area -- the Boulder Weekly, the Colorado Springs Independent and Westword -- had used variations on "bitch-slap" a collective twenty times. (The only surprise in this revelation? That the number wasn't higher.) In addition, Westword editor Patricia Calhoun told the Rocky that she had just edited the phrase into a piece due to appear in the January 31 issue, thereby turning the edition into the equivalent of Where's Waldo? for bitch-slapping aficionados. Finally, Armstrong wrote in a January 27 post on one of his websites,, that ProgressNow's own scribblers tossed a "bitch slap" into a September 2007 rip on George W. Bush.

Forget bitch slap. That's a bitch snap!

Clearly, Caldara's decision to lob "bitch-slapped" at Hillary Clinton was a loaded one, since so many right-wingers call her the b-word in the privacy of their own words and thoughts. Then again, the term is in extremely common usage society-wide and has ceased to offend the vast majority of the populace. The Rocky is so cautious about using profanity that in a Mark Brown feature about Caribou Ranch that ran on January 26, "pissed" was changed to "(urinated)" in a quote by bassist/producer Kenny Passarelli -- yet the paper printed "bitch-slapped" that same day, as well as the previous one, without causing incensed subscribers to descend on its offices with pitchforks and flaming torches.

For better or worse, Caldara's comments reflect the way a lot of Americans speak -- and if we're going to excoriate him, then we'd better censor every person who calls someone a "pussy" or a "prick" as a virulent sexist or attack sports fans who talk about games in which one team got "killed" or "slaughtered" for advocating violence.

And wouldn't that be a bitch? -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts