From the “..what the hell?” files…

I rarely watch TV, and probably the last time I was a regular viewer of any evening news program was in graduate school, pre-kids. However, I’ve peripherally followed the Katie Couric drama, her move from the Today show to CBS Evening News, and her subsequent disappointing ratings. I’ve had a mixed opinion of her for awhile; I think her work to raise colorectal cancer awareness has been a huge positive, but she screws up my opinion of her with things like her “no atheists in foxholes” comment. So I wasn’t completely surprised, but am still a bit confused, over her new target: sputum.

Saying “sputum” is forbiddden?

There has been tension on the set of the evening newscast.

Couric said she slapped news editor Jerry Cipriano on the arm for using the word “sputum” during a tuberculosis story last month.

“I got mad at him and said, ‘You can’t do this to me. You have to tell me when you’re going to use a word like that,”‘ Couric said. “I was aggravated, there’s no question about that.”

“I sort of slapped him around,” she said.

Sputum, which refers to expectorated matter especially from the air passages in diseases of the lungs, bronchi or upper respiratory tract, was banned from future broadcasts.

But Couric said she has a good relationship with Cipriano.

“It became kind of a joke,” she said.

“You can’t do this to me” ?? As I mentioned, I don’t watch Couric, but I know she can get giggly at times, so I’m hoping “sputum” just caught her off guard and made her laugh or something. The article, however, doesn’t give any context for the exchange beyond what I quoted above. How could someone who aired her own colonoscopy have such a visceral reaction to an ordinary medical term like “sputum?”

14 Replies to “From the “..what the hell?” files…”

  1. Ahem… Katie has never seemed to me to be the brightest candle in the bunch… IMO, she thinks the word means something else than what it really means, if you catch my drift…

    So, I am calling “stupid” on Katie, and I think I am right.
    Or, she could be even more stupider than anyone can imagine!

  2. No atheists in foxholes? Horse pucky.

    In actual battle, the name called out most is Medic! Number two is Mommy. Nobody calls out for Jesus or God or Mother Mary, not when they’re really scared.

  3. That’s probably what it was about. Couric is trying to look all smart and sophisticated in her new hard-core newsie role. She can’t be hearing comical words like ‘sputum’ on ther air which might make her crack up.

  4. I wonder what she does in response to similar-sounding but “less contentious” words, like “Sputnik” or “spittle”? Do those only warrant a harsh noogie, perhaps?

  5. My wife used to watch the Today Show so I watched it for years. (We have children now so there’s no time for morning TV anymore.) And, I truly believe based on watching Today every day that Katie is kinda stupid. It irritated me so much to hear ask REALLY stupid questions, and put on her little giggly cheerleader act while doing serious interviews. Man, it was noxious. She obviously was not promoted based on intelligence. As previously noted, I no longer have time for the evening news either, but from what I’ve seen glancing at the CBS News, they made a huge mistake in hiring her. They should have gone with Bob Schieffer. I’ll bet the execs at CBS are really kicking themselves for hiring Katie Couric.

  6. Sputum, when freshly coughed up from the lungs of a chronic bronchitis/bronchiectasis sufferer and lying in the cup in all its blood-streaked grey-green glory, is one of the most nauseating substances I have ever encountered.

    I know a general pathologist who would not flinch at the most violent dismemberments in the autopsy room, but all I had to do was say “sputum” when I was ringing in sick, and he would go “That’s fine, just come back when you’re well again. Goodbye.” Click!

    (But it does all seem a horrible overreaction – it’s not like he said “haemospermia” or anything…)

  7. I am not sure why an atheist org should get upset over the aphorism “There are no atheists in foxholes”. It is a statement of psychology (not of pre-existing atheists’ willingness to serve) and is actually pretty demeaning of believers. It implies that belief is not a rational thing but a pablum to lessen stress.

    When atheist orgs go after such things they just make themselves look silly – an alienate people such as myself. If you want to go after something look for quotes like the following from George Bush Sr about 17 years ago:

    “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

  8. Clark:

    You sort of miss the point. It does seem that there’s enough soldiers who lose their faith in battle that it is, at the very least, a hollow statement. The power of the statement is in its perceived universality, and it does seem that atheist soldiers would like you to know that it is not, in fact, universal.

  9. Hi,

    I once witnessed a short discource between an atheist Professor of Moral Philosophy and an ethicist who argued from the stance of Christianity about this very conundrum.

    Is it more logical to cry out to the Lord when one is in extremis, even if one is an atheist, or is it more logical to be silent?

    Some people believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and if it is, the better (logical)move would be to make the cry, because it states that life and death is in the power of the tongue, and that all who cry out to Jesus will be saved.

    If the Bible is not the word of God, and even if there is no such thing as God, one loses nothing by making the cry before slipping into the beckoning abyss of nothingness.

    If it is the word of God, and the person concerned knows what to do (to be saved) but resolutely does not do this, they will exist forever in a lost eternity.

    The upshot after a lot of discussion was that it would appear to be more logical to cry out to Jesus (even silently) rather than not do so, because the stakes are so high, and we are possibly dealing with forever and ever.

  10. Ursula: what you have described is simply a rewording of Pascal’s wager and is as full of it now as when he stated it originally. For the problem is which god to cry out to. After all, humanity has invented a myriad along the way, so which one is the right one. For if there are any at all, then calling out to the wrong one could be worse than not calling out to any. Not forgetting, that most of the gods we have invented are supposed to be all knowing, so one would assume that any god would know whether one was sincere or just covering the bases.

    Personally, having actually been in a foxhole, the times it might have been appropriate to make such a cry I have always been too busy staying alive to worry about what comes after. The rest of the time, God/Jesus/whoever, was the last thing likely to come to mind when in a foxhole.

  11. The no-atheists-in-foxholes thing is a simple misunderstanding. I suspect the error arises from mischaracterizing as a religious plea a fairly common exclamation in situations of dire stress, that expression being “jesus-f*****g-christ!”

  12. What Ursula describes is not just Pascal’s Wager, but an omniscient god who nevertheless can be easily fooled by mouthing platitudes. Doesn’t sound like the god that any religion I’ve heard of believes in.

    (And of course that’s just one of the basic crippling problems for Pascal’s Wager, and they’ve all been known from even during his life. What’s bizarre is that apologetics has not really gotten any new arguments for hundreds of years, despite the arguments all being knocked down.)

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