Craig Carton and Mike Francesa are colleagues on WFAN radio and might soon be colleagues on YES, which has made a bid to simulcast WFAN’s morning show in addition Francesa’s afternoon show. (Incumbent MSG still has the right to match the offer.)
But Carton regularly takes shots at Francesa on the air, never more pointedly than Wednesday morning, when he harshly criticized Francesa for comments he made about former Giants star Lawrence Taylor late Tuesday afternoon.
Carton accused Francesa of excusing Taylor’s behavior in a 2010 incident in which he was charged with felony statutory rape for having sex with a 16-year-old girl whom he knew was a prostitute but said he believed to be of consenting age.
Without actually saying Francesa’s name, Carton accused him of “as offensive as any comment that has ever been uttered on this radio station.’’
Esiason said that based on what Carton conveyed, he considered Francesa’s remarks “asinine.’’ (Esiason, too, never said Francesa’s name.)
But while Francesa did say on the air that Taylor was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,’’ he also made it clear he considered Taylor’s behavior “wrong’’ and “a very bad mistake" and that he did not condone his actions.
Taylor eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors – for soliciting sex from a prostitute and sexual misconduct – and was sentenced to six years’ probation. He also had to register as a sex offender.
Taylor said in court that he thought the girl was 19, not 16.
Late in his Wednesday afternoon show, Franceca fired back, saying that while he usually lets tweaks aimed at him by the morning co-hosts pass without response, he could not do so in this case given what he believed was a gross mischaracterization of his remarks, and given the sensitivity of the topic.
Here is a portion of what he said at the end of a long on-air response:
“The idea that I would in any way condone any of those actions is such an affront to me I was just so annoyed, because really, you say something, I don’t care. You get on me for something I got wrong, well, I’m not perfect. I get some things wrong. Not a lot, but some things. It’s going to happen. When you get on me for the Sweeny [Murti] thing, falling asleep [on the air], fine. I took my medicine for that for months. I didn’t say a word.
“But if you’re going to try to in any way hint or say that I said something offensive or that I in some way protected L.T. against his horrific actions – nonsense. Go back and listen, and then you can apologize. Because I didn’t say anything. That’s already been [confirmed] by everybody who listened to it today. [Mark] Chernoff . . . People in corporate. I didn’t say one thing. I said I don’t condone or defend anything he did.
“All I said was he’s not a pedophile. That’s all. That’s it. Then you judge him for yourself, and that’s what I know from that case to be the truth. If someone can point out errors for me that is in any way different, bring it to me and I will have a different opinion. But the idea that I would condone anything like that is outrageous and it really, really bothered me.
“I didn’t get into it earlier in the show because of the day it is [Sept. 11]. And then we had the Yankee [moving to WFAN] stuff. I didn’t want to get in the way of that. Then we had the Jeter stuff. But I just wanted to point it out, because you know what, I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve always tried to give you a very classy show and I’ve always tried to do things right and with very high priority and that goes for everything I say, too.
“When we’re talking about opinions or getting angry, hey, listen, that’s sports. That’s when we have fun. That’s what we want to do. But about something like this? Not funny. It’s not fun. And I really was taken aback by it. And frankly it was already shown to everybody that I didn’t say it. I don’t think it and I didn’t say it. And I was very offended by it.”
Francesa’s original remarks were in response to a caller who mistakenly thought a roast of Bill Parcells that Taylor will attend Sunday was being sponsored by the Giants. Here is what Francesa said:
“The way it sounds you act like he attacked some young girl. This was someone that I think Lawrence Taylor thought was actually a prostitute but didn’t realize how old she was. It wasn’t like he went to a playground and attacked somebody. He made a very bad mistake. I totally agree. But he went to court. He paid his debt to society. I don’t know if he now should be banned from ever being in Giants Stadium.
“Now, I’m not saying you have to support him or cheer him or anything else. But I don’t know that he’s going to be banned from the stadium from now on. I don’t think he is banned from anything, as far as I know. I really don’t know. This is not at Giants Stadium. This is an event that he is going to appear at.
“My take is Lawrence Taylor is free to go there if he chooses to. Lawrence Taylor hasn’t been in any way now cast out of society. What he did was wrong. I totally agree . . . I really believe that Lawrence Taylor did not have any idea how old this girl was. It turned out she was very young. I don’t think he knew that. I just think he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t think he was out chasing after some young girl. That’s not the case here.
“It doesn’t make what he did right. I’m not trying to condone it. But the point is that if you don’t choose to support him you don’t support him, that’s OK.”
Here is a transcript of Esiason and Carton from Wednesday morning:
Carton: "It was said on this radio station yesterday when talking about Lawrence Taylor that Lawrence Taylor’s latest brush with the law when he had the underage hooker and was going to go to jail for a long time for it and is now on the sex offender list, it was uttered on the radio yesterday that Lawrence didn’t know he was breaking the law, wasn’t looking for an underage girl and quote unquote he was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Memo to those who think that way . . . "
Boomer: "So in other words, if he calls a pimp and asks for a hooker, no matter what age it is, it’s still trafficking in women and sex objects."
Carton: "You’re very much aware you’re breaking the law."
Boomer: "Obviously you’re very much aware of it."
Carton: "I know a lot of people are blind fans of a team. I’m that way with some teams as well. But when a guy who’s already a bad guy calls up a hooker and the hooker turns out to be 14 years old or whatever she was and still forces himself on her sexually, that is not a guy at the wrong place at the wrong time. That is a bad person who is breaking a law and taking advantage of a young girl who’s being forced into what amounts to sexual slavery. Let’s not mistake what that was or what that is, and making excuses for Lawrence Taylor, that he was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, is as offensive as any comment that has ever been uttered on this radio station."
Boomer: "Can I ask you who actually made the statement?"
Carton: "I was taking my kids to school all day yesterday, so I can’t really answer that. I just want to say that I heard it, and the fact that someone could have that mindset . . . "
Boomer: "So you heard it?"
Carton: "I heard it myself."
Boomer: "So you’re accurate in your statement. If in fact you heard it yourself then I’ll take your word for it."
Carton: "I heard it."
Boomer: "It’s asinine."
Carton: "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It ain’t like you walk into a 7 Eleven and something goes down and we had to do something. You waited at the Holiday Inn for the hooker to show up."
Boomer: "You picked up the phone and you called somebody and said, get me something right now."
Boomer: "What a joke."