Longtime Pittsburgh talk show host Lynn Cullen confirmed Tuesday she is quitting as a panelist on WQED-TV’s “4802.”You can watch the last-straw exchange here.
Ms. Cullen echoed her sentiments from a day earlier, when she said on her Pittsburgh City Paper podcast, “I am not again ever going to do that show.” A tense verbal exchange with panelist Heather Heidelbaugh, attorney and Allegheny County councilwoman, was the last straw.
And here's how the P-G characterized it:
The program kicked off with a discussion on recent protests to raise the U.S. minimum wage. Ms. Heidelbaugh, a Republican, said she didn’t believe raising the wage was realistic. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Cullen prefaced remarks saying, “I feel so passionately on this issue that I’m going to try to keep myself in check as I address it.”This starts about 4:25 in. What the P-G gets wrong (or, to be more correct, doesn't address at all) is that Cullen's assertion that capitalism was not "a moral system" was misheard (or perhaps deliberately misinterpreted) by Heidelbaugh as "capitalism is an immoral system."
Some of the others chuckled, as Ms. Cullen is not known for being soft-spoken. She decried large companies’ failure to pay a higher living wage and said that capitalism is an economic but not “moral” or “ethical” system.
Big difference. It wasn't a simple disagreement. Heather Heidelbaugh spent most of the time arguing stuff that Lynn Cullen didn't say and Chris Moore seemed to dump blame on both parties equally.
Here's my transcript:
Cullen: I feel so passionately on this issue that I’m going to try to keep myself in check as I address it.And at that point they more or less changed the subject - but the room continued to be tense for the rest of the half hour.
Moore: That would be a first.
Cullen: Ok, everybody wish me luck. Here we go.
Moore: Good luck.
Cullen: Bruce alluded to it. We have a business model going here now that benefits the wealthiest corporations in the world. And that business model is: You hire people do not pay them a wage that allows tehm to keep a roof over their head, to clothe their children, feed their children and generally just survive. It's not a living wage. And we, the other little guys all over the country, the tax payers, will subsidize. We will give them foodstamps. If you are Walmart, if you are McDonalds and you are employing millions of people who can not make it and the rest is picked up by you, you -
Cullen: - you, me, you, everybody else. This is, if that's not the essence of corporate welfare, what the heck is?
Moore: Ok. Katie, Katie, what do you say about this?
Cullen: There's also a moral issue. I want to, I want to bring up a moral issue. I really do.
Cullen: I really do. Capitalism is the triumphant economic system globally. It is. But it is an economic system. It is not an ethical system. It is not a moral system.
Cullen: It -
Heidelbaugh: That's despicable, but go ahead.
Cullen: No -
Heidelbaugh: Capitalism is not an ethical system?
Cullen: You just said that what I just said was despicable?
Cullen: Tell me why.
Heidelbaugh: Because Capitalism, more than any other form of government on the globe-
Cullen: It's an economic system.
Heidelbaugh: - has raised more people out of poverty.
Cullen: It's a - Heather, is it a moral system or an economic system?
Heidelbaugh: Why don't you go down to Cuba and live in Cuba where there's socialism and everybody lives in poverty?
Moore: Heather, Heather, Heather. Why is it that when someone complains about our system in America -
Heidelbaugh: No, she said capitalism was a dirty word!
Moore: I understand what she said-
Cullen: I did not!
Moore: Excuse, excuse me, excuse me--
Heidelbaugh: You did.
Moore: Excuse me, excuse me, why is it when someone says oh, some criticism about the American system, someone else says, "Why don't you leave? Get out the country." Why is that the only answer?
Heidelbaugh: No, what she, no, that's not what I said -
Cullen: Heather, I sto-
Moore: Yes, you did. You said, "Go to Cuba."
Cullen: - because what I said was -
Heidelbaugh: If she really like socialistic system, she ought to look at Cuba!
Cullen: Did I say socialism? What did I say? I said it was the triumphant -
Heidelbaugh: You said capitalism was horrible.
Kraus: It's an economic system.
Cullen: Excuse me, Heather, Heather. Stop. I did not say capitalism was horrible. Did I? Did I? No. I said Capitalism was an economic system. That is all I said. I said it is not in any way an ethical or moral construct or system.
Jones Goldman: Is there an economic system that's moral?
Cullen: That's what I said. I am saying is that if we agree to throw our lot in with an economic system, of capitalism -
Heidelbaugh: Go head.
Cullen: - then it behooves us to make sure that people are not being run roughshod over those in its employ.
Moore: Alright, let's allow her a chance to respond.
Moore: Hold hold hold it, Lynn.
Cullen: And I can not believe that you're looking at me like that.
Moore: Lynn, Lynn, Lynn.
Heidelbaugh: I think what you're saying is so irresponsible. And if we want to talk about morality I think it is morally incomprehensible because capitalism has, in fact, granted people in this country the opportunity to pull themselves up out of poverty. You look at every socialistic construct, as you call it, and it is morally bankrupt. The people are poor because you know what socialism is? Socialism doesn't understa -
Cullen: You been to Europe lately?
Heidelbaugh: I have been to Europe.
Cullen: The people are poor?
Heidelbaugh: I have been to Europe
Cullen: The people are poor?
Heidelbaugh: They have capitalism there, what are you talking about?
Cullen: What are you talking about?
Moore: Excuse me. There are some European countries, Sweden and others, that have higher tax rates -
Heidelbaugh: But they're capitalistic.
Moore: - that have social programs, they have a lot of socialistic programs that support the community and people enjoy that even with higher taxes.
Jones Goldman: And many are imploding. The National Institute of Health in Great Britain is imploding.
As you can see, Heather spun Lynn's assertion that capitalism is an economic and not a moral system into "She said capitalism was horrible." Something Lynn did not say. Later she accuses Lynn of saying that capitalism is morally bankrupt. Something else Lynn did not say.
It was painful to watch. Painful to transcribe as well.
Another interesting event happens about 12:20 minutes in:
Heidelbaugh: When you talk about "our side" I find it offensive, ok?This is a response this at 11:12:
Cullen: Your side doesn't understand the value of labor.So Heather finds it offensive for someone to lump all conservatives together with a collective criticism. She must've forgotten that in the discussion of unions (at about 9:50), this happened:
Heidelbaugh: You [gesturing to both Cullen and Kraus] never want to talk about union and how they feather their own beds.Looked to me she was saying "your side never wants to talk about..."
That was only about 2 minutes and 30 seconds earlier.
Wanna know what the sad part of the story is?
Lynn's gone from 4802 but (as far as I know) after all this, Heather Heidelbaugh is still there.