I wanted to know why anyone would tweet the F-word at Sister Jean, so I called the host who did

I called WKGN-AM midday host Cody McClure — the Knoxville, Tenn., sports-talker who tweeted a four-letter insult at Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt — hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

I wanted to at least give a so-called professional a chance to defend an outburst I considered unprofessional, unacceptable and wildly inappropriate.


F--- Sister Jean -everyone,’’ McClure posted (except he didn’t use the dashes) on his Twitter account Saturday night after Loyola beat Tennessee 63-62 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. I still cringe reading that.

I worried about giving a publicity-seeking shock jock the attention many crave. I picked up the phone anyway because I don’t really believe the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I think this example dispels that notion.

I can’t imagine anything good about becoming known nationally as the guy who, in a failed attempt at humor, used profanity to mock a 98-year-old nun revered by college basketball fans around the world.

I asked McClure about his motivation.

“My comments about Sister Jean were meant simply as a joke, nothing more, nothing less,’’ McClure said. “It was not an emotional response over a basketball game, nor was it meant to be a slight toward Catholicism or the elderly in general. The joke value came because of the fact we were dealing with a 98-year-old nun who is deservingly beloved by people for her outstanding service. Anything said that would oppose that would create a little shock value, right? It was meant to be comedic — cheap, maybe — but comedic. A lot of people got a kick out of it, and a lot of people were offended by it.’’

I was offended by it. I thought McClure’s unfunny joke fell flat. I wondered if McClure regretted hitting the send button.

“I don’t regret the joke, no, I don’t, because of the fact it was a joke,’’ McClure said. “For me, I’m wondering when are we as a society going to learn how to take a joke again? Why are we so soft on the internet, yet in real life people are joking around about things that they wouldn’t post online? Pardon my language, but can we stop bull-s******g ourselves for once and have a laugh?’’

Pardon my ignorance, but what makes anybody want to verbally attack a senior citizen for a laugh? I told McClure the counter to his argument is that the language he chose is universally offensive, online or in person.

“I don’t see how you can be offended by language,’’ McClure said. “I always think back to what (comedian) George Carlin said: Words are just words. I don’t know why everyone gets so bent out of shape.’’

I asked McClure if he wanted to apologize to anybody at Loyola.

“I would issue an apology to Sister Jean,’’ McClure said. “If this were to ever get back to Sister Jean, I would hope that she understood that it was meant to be nothing more than a joke. I’m not some kind of monster. I mean, who would in their heart hate an elderly nun? Clearly, I don’t. So I’d be glad to issue an apology to Sister Jean and to anyone who felt that my joke was intended to be anti-Catholic or anti-elderly. It wasn’t. It was an observation of the room I was in at the time and the mood people were in.”

I naturally became curious where he watched the game and how that anti-Sister Jean mob mentality developed.

“I was at a watch party with Tennessee fans who naturally were frustrated, and every time they’d show (Sister Jean) on the screen, it’d get old,’’ McClure said. “People were groaning and moaning. What I said was to capture that feeling. It was a strong way to do that.’’

I speculated that his boss wasn’t happy. I have seen radio hosts fired for less. I can’t imagine tweeting something similarly vile, for instance, and keeping my job.

“My boss sent me a text,’’ McClure said. “Asked me, ‘Are we sure about that tweet?’ I had a phone conversation and apologized to him for rattling everyone on a Saturday night. He told me he wasn’t going to fire me. But if he did I would accept it. My boss is so wonderful that he gives us ultimate freedom to say what we want to say because we can be 100 percent genuine.’’

I believe nobody in front of a microphone has ultimate freedom, which, by the way, also comes with responsibility. I also suspected McClure being “100 percent genuine” had gotten him in trouble in the past.

“Yeah, I’ve said some things that were offensive, but not on this scale,’’ McClure said. “It’s not meant to be taken truthfully. I have nothing against a 98-year-old nun. I would like to make it clear I want to issue an apology but stand by the freedom of speech and the freedom of comedy. It seems like we’ve become very soft as a society. I know it was offensive, inappropriate and vulgar, but it was only language. I apologize to those who took it a way I didn’t mean for it to be taken.’’

I thanked McClure for his time, wished him well and hung up the phone. I literally shook my head and sighed.

Twitter @DavidHaugh

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