It's 'idiotic you can't say the N-word,' says radio host Dennis Prager, soon to speak at Calgary conference

An upcoming conference held by the Calgary-based Manning Centre will feature as a keynote speaker American conservative radio host Dennis Prager — a fiery and often controversial figure who recently complained that the left has made it "impossible" to say the N-word.

"It's disgusting, it's a farce. It's the only word that you can't say in the English language," Prager said in a clip that was initially flagged on Twitter by a writer for U.S. progressive nonprofit Media Matters for America.

Prager was responding to a caller on his radio show, The Dennis Prager Show, who asked Prager why he used an anti-Semitic slur on his program but would not use "the N-word."

"The left doesn't give a damn about [anti-Semitic slurs]. That's why," said Prager, who is Jewish and who freely uses words considered anti-Semitic slurs on his program.

"The left runs the country in the culture. The Republicans have the Senate and the presidency, and that's very important. But the culture? And the more the left controls, the more totalitarian it is."

Prager graded his estimation as a "statement of fact, like two plus two equals four."

The host went on to say that it is "idiotic" that you can't use the N-word but added he did not think people should use the slur in reference to any particular individual.

"Of course you should never call anybody the 'N-word,' That's despicable," he said. 

Prager's radio show regularly draws more than two million listeners in the United States but his profile has increased significantly among younger audiences recently with the launch of Prager University (or PragerU), a series of online videos posted on YouTube.

The videos, which have racked up more than 2.5 billion views, package conservative viewpoints into bite-sized content geared largely toward younger audiences who tend to congregate on those platforms.

'Conservatives tend not to be part of the cancel culture movement'

Troy Lanigan, president of the Manning Centre, said he had not heard of Prager's comments before CBC News reached out but he's "OK with some controversy" as "conservatives tend not to be part of the cancel culture movement."

"The quote appears to be part of a broader point. He also says 'you should never call anyone the N-word, that's despicable,'" Lanigan said in an emailed response, but later added that he doesn't entirely understand Prager's point.

Lanigan said Prager was invited to talk about movement building, the success of PragerU, and perhaps the U.S. election, but his thoughts on the "N-word" are "not a subject we've asked him to address."

Lanigan said questions about Prager's comment would be better directed to Prager's office, or at the conference in person.

Prager defends comments in context of that show

In an emailed comment to CBC News, Prager said what he said was not controversial in the context of that day's radio show. 

During the program, Prager was discussing American historian David McCullough's biography of Harry Truman, in which it is noted that Truman used both words in private correspondence and speech.

"But we can only accurately quote McCullough with regard to the word 'k--e,' [a slur on Jewish people]. Even though McCullough used both words, when reading aloud what he wrote, I can only say 'k--e' but not the N-word," Prager said. "I also said that it goes without saying that to call or refer to a black person using the N-word is 'despicable.'"

Prager said he and PragerU have been the subject of recent front page articles in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

"They scoured my life's work and could come up [with] nothing to impugn my commitment to moral decency, whether about race, religion, women, or anything else," he said.

Why some people and groups can use certain words

American author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, writer of Between the World and Me, spoke about why some people and groups can use certain words while others can not during a talk held by Random House in 2017.

"Words don't have meaning without context," Coates said. "My wife refers to me as 'honey.' That's accepted and okay between us. If we were walking down the street together and a strange woman referred to me as 'honey,' that wouldn't be acceptable.

"My wife, with her girlfriends, will use the word 'bitch.' I don't join in. I don't say, 'Hey, I wanna,' I don't do that. And perhaps, more importantly, I don't have the desire to do that."

Similarly, Coates told the story of how a white friend of his used to have a cabin that his friend referred to as a "white trash cabin." Coates said he would never use that language when referring to his friend's cabin.

"The question one must ask is, why so many white people have difficulty extending things that are basic laws of how human beings interact, to black people?" Coates said.

PragerU

The videos posted by Prager University (or PragerU) on YouTube tend to take strong angles on hot-button issues in America, coming out in favour of standing for the national anthem or arguing that humans are not the driving force behind climate change.

The Associated Press

Despite its name, PragerU is not an accredited university and does not hold classes or grant diplomas.

The Manning Centre was launched in 2005 by Reform Party founder Preston Manning.

Its stated mission is to support Canada's conservative movement through networking and supporting ideas related to "limited government, free enterprise, individual responsibility and a more robust civil society."