Tony Kornheiser, Hannah Storm and free speech as an endangered species

Posted by andreaitis on February 24, 2010


Hannah Storm in the "horrifying" outfit. PS: I'd wear it.

Hannah Storm’s Wikipedia entry has been updated already:

In February 2010, fellow ESPN colleague Tony Kornheiser harshly criticized her outfit that day on his radio show, and was suspended from ESPN for 2 weeks. He has since apologized to her via a 15 minute phone conversation.

via Wikipedia

What did Kornheiser say that warranted a two-week suspension and a 15-minute apology?  Did he say she stood by and did nothing while videotaping kids bullying an autistic child?  Did he call her a racist?  Did he suggest she repeatedly and casually incorporated the other r-word into her conversations (hint: it rhymes with me-tard)?  Did he call her (gasp!) fat?!?

Nope, none of the above.   Kornheiser’s offense:  He criticized her outfit.

What Kornheiser said, on his weekday local radio show on ESPN’s Washington, D.C. affiliate Friday, was that Storm was on-air in a “horrifying outfit” with “red go-go boots” and a skirt “way too short for somebody her age.” He added the kicker: “She’s what I would call a Holden Caulfield fantasy at this point.”

Kornheiser has apologized on-air and as well as to Storm personally. On the show Tuesday, he noted his suspension and said he wouldn’t talk about it in any interviews.

So, some context. Kornheiser, on that show, occasionally critiques on-air TV fashions —Kathie Lee Gifford, on NBC’s Today show, has been found wanting — which is perfectly fair game given costuming is a big part of TV. He also makes great use of what he finds irritating — Storm’s stylings just seemed like fodder.

via ESPN suspends Kornheiser for comments on Hannah Storm’s attire – USA Today

ESPN executive vice president John Skipper said “Hurtful and personal comments such as these are not acceptable and have significant consequences.”    What he actually meant is that “hurtful and personal comments” about colleagues are not acceptable.

Asked if the key was that Kornheiser was talking about a fellow staffer rather than specifically what he what said, spokesman Mike Soltys said: “Yes. Respect for colleagues is paramount!”

And here is where we slap the WTF?!? label on this little incident.   Have we learned nothing from Jay and Conan?  Perhaps this is some reverse psychology plot by a super-smart TV executive to get some attention for ESPN, a last-ditch effort to get a ratings spike as February sweeps come to a close.  More likely, it’s just another boneheaded bungle.  How does ESPN react?  A wannabe white knight TV exec rushes in to protect and defend the damsel in distress, and the implication is that Hannah Storm went crying to management.

That is offensive — much more offensive than Kornheiser calling her outfit horrifying.  Where is Hannah Storm in all this? Trash talk is part of sports.  Where’s the feisty comeback, the call-him-on-the-carpet confrontation, the self-deprecating sense of humor?  More than anything, I’d like to hear from Hannah Storm, get her reaction and have her stand up to Kornheiser herself rather than standing behind the men of ESPN.

Here’s how this should have gone down:

– Tony Kornheiser does what he always does.  Nothing new, nothing different, and certainly nothing extraordinarily offensive.  He criticizes Hannah Storm’s outfit and her judgment in wearing such an outfit.  File that under “freedom of speech.”

– Let’s imagine Hannah Storm blows a gasket or, at the very least, is annoyed.  She has several options:

1. She calls into (or shows up on) Kornheiser’s  show, Pardon the Interruption, to criticize his tie.

2. She invites Kornheiser onto her show, SportsCenter, to criticize his tie (and talk about trash-talking in sports).

3. She comments on Twitter, Facebook or in a blog post.

4. If ESPN execs release their idiotic statments, she notes the double-standard  idiocy:  It’s okay to make fun of other people but not of one another?   She also notes the ridiculousness of a two-week suspension and her ability to speak for herself.

5. They appear together on The Daily Show, with Dr. Phil and Jon Stewart as mediator.

6. They appear together as surprise judges on Project Runway.

7.  They immediately shoot a series of promos for ESPN that are posted to youtube and predestined to go viral.

8. Hannah Storm makes a video ripping apart Tony Kornheiser’s Penguin Dance.

[youtubevid id=”7RO82Rwdj1o”]

Remember,  Tony Kornheiser likes to have fun.  And Hannah Storm likes to dress up.

[daylifegallery id=1267047120620]

Were Kornheiser’s comments nice?  No.   Does he have a right to his opinion?  Yes.  The reaction by ESPN implies there was a complaint.  Did Hannah Storm have an issue with Kornheiser’s comments?  I’d really like to know (Hannah, you can reach me at

Meanwhile, I just told my T/S colleague Michael Roston that his grey shirt doesn’t go with his brown sweater, and suggested he try Garanimals.   Gee, I hope I don’t get suspended.


7 Responses to “Tony Kornheiser, Hannah Storm and free speech as an endangered species”

  1. Lewis DVorkin said

    You are safe… No suspension!

  2. Susan Toepfer said

    Andrea, I think this is much ado about nothing. I can’t believe they suspended him–Skipper is an idiot. I think the outfit is kinda cute, but hey, Tony has a right to his opinion, and I see nothing particularly sexist in his comments. It’s a joke, folks.

  3. andreaitis said

    Totally agree, Susan. Tony Kornheiser did exactly what ESPN hired him for, and now they’re all shocked and appalled? If the situation was reversed and Hannah Storm called Kornheiser’s outfit “horrifying,” everyone (including Tony) would have laughed. Mountain meet molehill.

  4. Jerry Lanson said

    Man I’m just lucky no one in New York sees my wardrobe. Fun post.

  5. […] it nice?  No.  Does Howard Stern have the right to say it?  Of course.  Just as Tony Kornheiser had the right to say Hannah Storm’s outfit was “horrible.” We have the right to free speech, not nice […]

  6. michaelruark said

    Obviously Hanna was simply going retro to her days as a cage dancer at “Whiskey a Go Go” back in the sixties. I’m not saying she’s to old to wear that outfit but I’m not sure Cher would dare to wear that! I guarantee Hanna could go toe to toe with Cornheiser and it would be a very entertaining PTI if she were to cohost.

  7. artguerrilla said

    1. love kornheiser (only see him on PTI, never listened to his radio schtick), but was thinking the EXACT same thing he said for Quite Some Time before he said it… (ie that she dresses like a cougar on the prowl, AND she IS very flirty in her on-air banter… she simply is… and i love it ! ! !)
    2. here’s the thing: i -like at least 90% of the male audience- would LOVE to see all of espn’s females -including ms storm- dress sexy, or -better yet- wear Nothing at all ! ! ! hell yeah…
    oddly enough, that piggish desire doesn’t make it appropriate for an on-air talkinghead who has a large family/kid audience…
    3. the hypocrisy of espn is astounding: tell me ONE on-air female who is NOT at least a semi-babe… name just one… i’m sure that is all just a coincidence, that it just *happens* that all the female sportscasters they hire are babes… i guess there are no ‘average’ or ‘ugly’ female sportscasters for them to choose from who are competent…
    4. ohlmeyer’s (sp?) ombudsman act (sic) was both stupid AND hypocritical: he ADMITTED in a follow up column that the OVERWHELMING response of MALE espn fans, was that she WAS dressing like she was at a dance club…
    given that, he *still* maintained they ‘did the right thing’ in suspending korny, AND that there was ZERO repercussions for crybaby storm…
    (hmmm, i wonder who *she* is sleeping with ?)
    5. not only that, but when i went to reply to this stupid situation on espn’s site, they had both a shitty reply system (which limited you to a bumpersticker-sized response), AND other ‘registration’ information which was gratuitous and offputting…
    (one of my pet peeves about the inertnet: you have to ‘register’ -with varying levels of personal intrusion- to post a comment virtually ANYWHERE… so much for free speech…)
    6. i *used* to respect espn for their even-handed and fair-minded sports reporting (not homers, and not afraid to criticize sports or their players), but no longer after the completely unnecessary take down of korny (and the other baseball guy who was shitted on for making a spot-on joke about selig’s statue being excellent for pigeon target practice)
    in fact, i have often said that IF our political reporting was on a par with espn’s sports reporting, we WOULD have a super-informed electorate, instead of the massive ignorance we have now…
    yet another korporation jumps the PC shark…
    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

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