News reports avoiding the word “shithole”: Good taste or censorship?


“Why do we want people from all these shithole countries coming here?”

President Donald Trump, according to numerous press and political sources, said those words in a closed door session with lawmakers in discussion over immigration policies. He was referring to people from Africa, El Salvadaor and Haiti seeking to emigrate to America.

I received a flash alert on my phone seconds after this become public knowledge and immediately scoured the various cable news channels for the story. First one I landed upon was CNN, and did not expect to see and hear this.

What caught me was not the fact Donald Trump used a vulgarity. We’re all adults here, so let’s admit this happens.

What struck me was the historic nature of what had occurred.

It was that for the first time, at least that I can recall or discover, on a major American and legitimate cable news network, the word “shithole” was used without a bleep or a tone. There it was, spoken out loud for all to hear, (following, of course, what has now become part of the broadcast furniture with the “let’s protect the children in the room” warning which is more about a fear of lawsuits, protests, outcry and possible loss of viewers than anything else), presented as it should have been.

A factual part of the story. Without favor. Without blush. And without what could be considered censorship.


The story was reported by every legitimate news outlet, some of whom followed suit and made the conscious decision there would be no censorship of the word. Others deciding there would be no “kids warning”, but a factual and “to the point” reporting.

The obvious and predictable denials were not as swift in coming as the should have been with a proper crisis strategy in place. However, after the initial furor wore off at some outlets, there was the expected bleeping and “softening” of the word by using graphic “stars”.

The partisan media, also of course, went into their spin cycle.

International reaction was swift and expected, many also using the word without alteration.

Late night comics had their go, all with the word censored as the shows are recorded earlier and, as entertainment vehicles, are not subject to standards of journalism.


I come from a broadcast era where use of the word “damn” was frowned upon by proper broadcasters. I recall working at WIOD-AM in Miami about a billion years ago and doing sportstalk where the board operator on the other side of the glass invoked the dreaded “six second delay” for offensive words such as “crap” and, yes, even “underwear”.

That one has always mystified me.

The media has grown, not always in a good way, thanks in large part to 24/7 cable news networks, a softening of morality in what is considered passable in a broadcast sense, the rise of Howard Stern and what was once considered verbal porn, and a general if not always positive growth of what is allowed to be said in both polite and impolite conversation.

Face it, America. Verbally, we’ve become a trashier Nation over the years. The line of what is and is not acceptable have become the figurative size of the Grand Canyon’s width, (18 miles at several different points for those counting), and growing a little wider every day.

But this is about news value. This is about what was said by a President of the United States, and what has been confirmed by more than a few reliable sources. Specifically, those who were in the room at the time.***hole-remark-says-language-was-hate-filled-vile-and-racist/2934255/

The news value here is that it was said by the President. In the White House. In front of lawmakers. Sourced and triple sourced. And in the minutes after it was reportedly said, the White House itself did not deny it when given opportunities.

So then, report it. As said. As stated.

Without bleep graphics, silly attempts at spelling it out, (my favorite being Friday morning when a news anchor twisted herself in knots reading the quote, getting to the word and saying, “the use of an offensive word that should never be repeated in polite company and we will respect our viewers by not using it here”, then proceeded to tack the word “hole” onto the statement), or any action which, in effect, can certainly be viewed as censorship of the news.

Is that not what The 5th Estate should pride itself on? News without favor or censorship? Reporting the facts as they are presented???


Here. Allow me to help.

Wow. Actually, somewhat cathartic.

Yes, it’s crude, Yes, it’s rude. 

It’s also a word used by the President of the United States. One that has enraged many, viewed as “no big deal” by others, and needs to be part of the discussion.

The time has come for the legitimate press to stop being the morality police. Use the word. Report it because it is the news. Real news. Factual news.

President Donald Trump called Haiti, El Salvador and the continent of Africa a “shithole”. Some say he’s correct, and that is their right. But this is once again about news value.

To not use the word in context of real news would be to take an unfortunate step toward dropping real news credibility right where some critics want everyone to believe it’s gone.

Right in the shithole.