The ERLC executive committee canceled Richard Land Live! and reprimanded the host for “racially charged words” and “carelessness” with attribution.
By Bob Allen
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is pulling the plug on agency head Richard Land’s radio show over recent controversial remarks about the Trayvon Martin killing.
The ERLC’s trustee executive committee announced June 1 through Baptist Press the decision to cancel Richard Land Live! following an investigation into plagiarism charges. They also reprimanded the 24-year president for “hurtful, irresponsible and racially charged words” during a broadcast about the Feb. 26 shooting of a black Florida teenager widely viewed as a case of racial profiling.
The trustee leaders formally reprimanded Land for not giving proper attribution for comments he read on the air, including statements describing black leaders Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan as “race hustlers” who have “made their careers and lucrative fortunes by fomenting racial grievance and demonizing the ‘white power structure.’”
Those were just some of the words Land quoted verbatim from a Washington Times column without saying so on the air, although the article was posted on the ERLC website as a program note. Trustee leaders assessed that as “unwisely accepting practices that occur in the radio industry,” but said they found no instances of plagiarism in any of Land’s written work.
The executive committee launched a plagiarism investigation after a Baptist blogger who read about Land’s March 31 comments in Associated Baptist Press listened to an Internet archive of the broadcast and discovered that many of Land’s comments were quoted from other sources without on-air attribution.
Aaron Weaver, a Baylor doctoral student who blogs at The Big Daddy Weave, said trustees appeared to give Land “a pass” by describing “clear efforts to make someone else’s words his own” as carelessness.
While admitting he isn’t a big fan of talk radio, Weaver said he has “serious doubts that what Land did is a common practice in the radio industry among hosts with his level of name-recognition,” but that either way, “It’s a dishonest practice and blatantly unethical.”
The executive committee also determined the content and purpose of Richard Land Live! “are not congruent” with the mission of the SBC agency assigned to address social, moral and ethical concerns, and that controversy over the March 31 broadcast “requires the termination” of the program as soon as possible within the bounds of contracts with the Salem Radio Network.
Land, 65, said in a statement passed on through Baptist Press that he believes in “trustee oversight and governance” and looks forward to working with ERLC trustees.