Newspaper Drops Column After Charges Of Racism
Apr. 17, 1985
DALLAS (AP) _ The Dallas Times Herald is dropping one of its most popular features, a satirical column called ''Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In,'' after a spoof on an African famine relief effort prompted heated charges of racism.
The announcement Tuesday by Times Herald Editor Will D. Jarrett followed a front-page apology for last week's column and a meeting between editors and black community leaders.
The Los Angeles Times Syndicate, which distributes the column to 50 newspapers nationally, followed suit hours later, syndicate spokesman Michael Carmack said.
The column, the creation of Times Herald columnist John Bloom, had for three years enraged and entertained a readership estimated at 4 million.
The fictitious Joe Bob purports to be a Texas redneck who calls women ''bimbos'' and Mexican-Americans ''Meskins.'' One of his favorite exhortations to readers of drive-in movie reviews was, ''Check it out.''
But the Times Herald said on its front page that Friday's column went too far.
''Joe Bob Briggs' column that appeared in Friday's Times Herald offended many readers,'' Tuesaday's notice said. ''The Times Herald deeply regrets that the column was published. It was a misdirected attempt at satire. A great deal of insensitivity was reflected in the column. We apologize.''
The column, written under the headline ''Joe Bob, drive-in artists join forces for minorities with 'We Are The Weird,''' included lyrics spoofing the popular song ''We Are The World.''
Part of one verse read: ''There are Negroes dying; And it's time to make 'em eat.'' The chorus began: ''We are the weird; We are the starvin'; We are the scum of the filthy earth.''
''We Are The World'' was recorded by pop and rock stars to benefit victims of the famine in Africa.
Jarrett said he decided to drop the column because it was being ''misunderstood.''
''The column's main device is satire. It's not hard news, it's not straight news, it's not even a feature and it really lends itself to being misunderstood,'' Jarrett said. ''Rather than running the risk of it being misunderstood, we decided to drop it.''
Bloom will remain with the newspaper and continue to write a weekly sports column under the Joe Bob Briggs name, the editor said.
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said Tuesday's meeting with editors at the Times Herald was constructive.
''I think we got them on the right road to being sensitive,'' Price said. ''Undoubtedly, Joe Bob Briggs has been ongoing, a continuing problem.''
Despite frequent protests, the column was among the most popular fixtures in the newspaper, Times Herald editors have said, and it was promoted by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.
The Plain Dealer of Cleveland dropped it for two weeks last fall, but reinstated it after an avalanche of reader support.
The column in question was distributed by the syndicate last week.