After Fox broke away from dramatic actress winner Sally Field as she made an antiwar statement punctuated with "goddamn," the blogsphere hummed with outrage. For many in the liberal netroots, the incident confirmed their suspicions about Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
"It's time for Fox to hear it for their blatant Bush cronyism," wrote a poster on Daily Kos, one of many similar comments.
Field was cut off as she concluded a tribute to mothers by saying, "If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place!" Fox dropped the audio during her last phrase and switched to a bird's-eye view of the Shrine Auditorium.
The censorship of Field was one of three such incidents on Sunday. The network also cut away when comedian Ray Romano made a sexually suggestive remark and when Katherine Heigl uttered a profanity in response to her win as supporting actress on a drama series. (Romano had been warned that he would be censored if he used the language, Fox executives said, but did so anyway.)
Fox said Monday that it bleeped out the comments because they could have been considered offensive.
"Some language during the live broadcast may have been considered inappropriate by some viewers," the network said in a statement. "As a result, Fox's broadcast standards executives determined it appropriate to drop sound (and picture) during those portions of the show."
It's not clear whether Field's language would have been considered profane by the Federal Communications Commission. In a 2005 ruling regarding ABC's airing of "Saving Private Ryan," the agency wrote that the phrase was not a violation but ruled the following year that certain expletives were indecent, even in fleeting instances. In June, a federal court ruled that broadcasters couldn't be penalized for impromptu expletives, sending the matter back to the FCC for reconsideration.
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That very murkiness led Fox to err on the side of caution, executives said. But that explanation didn't fly with many critics, who noted that the show was laced with racy innuendo.
"The issue was not the 'obscenity,' " wrote one on Think Progress. "The issue was that Sally almost spoke truth to the American people, which might have actually woken some of them up. Obviously, that had to be stopped at all costs."