Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert McDonnell was explaining his transportation funding plans to WTOP political reporter Mark Plotkin when he suddenly unleashed an f-bomb on an unsuspecting radio audience.
Plotkin had asked, “So no tax will be raised during your four-year term?” His reply: “I’m going to find other ways to be able to fund transportation. I’ve outlined 12 [expletive] funding mechanisms that are creative, that are entrepreneurial.”
The McDonnell campaign claimed the whole thing was an accident, noting the proximity of the f-bomb and the word he was going for, “funding,” saying he simply was tongue-tied and that what came out over the air was very unfortunate.
WTOP-FM is Washington’s All News radio station, and is owned by Bonneville.
This type of incident would have been excused as a fleeting expletive, an incident that is apparently not deliberate or repeated, and is not intended to shock or titillate. All that changed after the close proximity of f-bomb deliveries from Bono during an awards show and the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident. Then FCC-Chairman Michael Powell decided he wanted to be able to punish all f-bomb utterances under any circumstances, a policy carried forward by his successor Kevin Martin.
The Supreme Court addressed the issue this past spring, ruling 5-4 for the FCC over Fox. It said the FCC was within its rights to change its rules and to punish Fox for fleeting “f-“ and “s-bombs,” but set the table for further litigation by leaving underpinning First Amendment questions unresolved.
RBR/TVBR observation: Whether McDonnell delivered the verboten verbiage accidentally or on purpose, it was certainly not the fault of WTOP or its owner, which was in the act of serving the public interest by interviewing a candidate for high state office. In no way does WTOP deserve to be punished. This is exactly the kind of reason there has always been a fleeting expletive exception in the indecency rules, and it’s exactly why the exception should remain in place.
Robert McDonnell f-bomb: