University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta asked WHO-TV to apologize for Chris Hassel's controversial John Lickliter spoof Sunday Night on SoundOFF. I respect Mr. Barta's decision to stand up for one of his, just as we stand by one of ours. Hawkeye fans should think more of Barta for doing this, not less.
I've received passionate e-mails and phone calls all week, including a few tonight. Most of the negative letters ask for my take on Chris' segment. Here is one of my recent responses:
I appreciate you taking the time to write and ask for my opinion on Chris Hassel's spoof Sunday night. I take your constructive criticism seriously.
I will tell you that the Lickliter piece also made me uncomfortable. Had I seen it before it aired, I would have asked for changes. (Chris likes his taped pieces to air as we see them for the first time, so that our on-air reaction is honest. In retrospect, this is flawed idea, and we will no longer do this.) Like you, I thought the Lickliter spoof crossed the line. I chuckled early and cringed late.
However, the segment should not be confused with journalism, or a report in one of our Emmy award-winning newscasts. It's SoundOFF, a sports and entertainment show featuring strong opinions, passionate viewer feedback, and hopefully, a few laughs. It's closer in tone to the Daily Show or SNL than it is to NBC Nightly News.
Again, let me be clear, I did not care for the target of the spoof, but I'm glad we have such a popular forum for dissenting views and opinions. I have been stunned how many people loved it the video. I'm also aware of the many people who did not care for it. Satire is highly subjective. What's over the line for someone often depends on their biases and views going in. Humor, as you no doubt know, also often takes on a slight tone of mean-spiritedness. The line to not cross mostly depends whom you ask.
When Chris told me the general idea of his latest spoof, my advice was to "make sure it's not mean toward John. He's doing his best, and just wants to play for his dad." Chris honestly didn't think it was mean. I know he feels bad that he offended (some) people. He was trying to show what the movie Rudy would be like if Rudy had to play a lot more, and there was no happy ending. It was intended as a commentary on the state of the Iowa basketball program, not John Lickliter.
I don't agree with the content of "What's Bugging Andy?" each week, and I don't agree with everything Chris Hassel does or says, but I stand by their right to say it. (We're fortunate we have bosses who feel the same way, which is nothing to take for granted these days.)
If Chris wants to sincerely apologize, either publicly or privately, we certainly support that. We will not force him to do it, for that would accomplish little.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I appreciate your feedback.