R. Lee Ermey, GEICO and False Equivalency

R. Lee Ermey, GEICO and False Equivalency

Last week (end of 2010) I started receiving tweets mentioning my name and asking GEICO to fire R. Lee Ermey for making inappropriate remarks during a Toys For Tots fundraiser. While representing the charity, Mr. Ermey spoke to a military audience and advocated replacing their Commander-In-Chief.

We should all rise up, and we should stop this administration from what they’re doing because they’re destroying this country. They’re driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialism on us, and that’s exactly what they’re doing, and I’m sick and damn tired of it and I know you are too.

Obviously I don’t agree with his speech, but I feel he has a right to speak his mind. However, he was speaking on behalf of another organization (Toys For Tots) and crossed a line. Whether Toys For Tots decides to do anything about it is (as it should be) solely at their discretion.

Because R. Lee Ermey also appears in a very funny GEICO commercial, people who disagree with his speech are asking GEICO to pull his ad. They refer to my Appletini Incident™ and equate what happened to me with what should happen to Mr. Ermey. I disagree.

First, GEICO should be able to hire or fire whomever they want within the laws of the land and the desires of their stockholders. I didn’t blame GEICO then and I defend GEICO now.

Second, there is a false equivalency happening:

Mr. Ermey made his statement publicly while representing an organization (which was not GEICO). I made my statement on a voicemail system to one particular heinous group while not representing any company (I was not employed by GEICO at the time).

Mr. Ermey was treading dangerously close to sedition (as some folks on Fox News tend to do). I was making a half-hearted sarcastic joke and used an un-PC phrase (one that is heard on “The Daily Show” and in other pop-culture venues frequently).

Mr. Ermey intended for everyone to hear his statement. My voicemail recording was intended to be heard by one group, but was posted on the internet with my phone number and followers of that group (FreedomWorks) were encouraged to harass myself and GEICO.

So, as you can see, the situations are quite different. But even so, GEICO, Toys For Tots and even the company you work for/own/operate should be able to hire and fire based on laws and company policy – not because of political pressure.  GEICO shouldn’t have been put in that position before and it shouldn’t be in that position now.

Now, if he was representing GEICO when he made the statement and I was a GEICO customer, then I have a right to complain.  But he was representing Toys For Tots.  I actually give to Toys For Tots so I have a right to complain to them.  But I also accept that they have a right to keep him or not.  And I have a right to continue donating or not. (I will continue to donate regardless because they are a great organization).

Mr. Ermey has since apologized for his inflammatory words in a written statement, as I did for my un-PC word choice on national television (Fox News and CNN).  That should be enough for everyone.  If it isn’t, though, please don’t use this false equivalency.  It diminishes FreedomWorks’ culpability, which is still a corporate-funded misinformation PAC out to warp the democratic process. Also, keep in mind that getting Mr. Ermey’s GEICO commercial pulled would also take away any residual income the other actor in the spot would get.  That would be unfair.

See also: Aflac & Gottfried.