Broadcaster Kelly Tilghman has apologized. Tiger Woods has accepted it. But the Rev. Al Sharpton says it isn't good enough.
In events resembling the prelude to the fall of radio host Don Imus, Sharpton appears to be marshaling his forces for a fight with the Golf Channel, which suspended Tilghman on Wednesday for a racially insensitive statement made last week.
Tilghman uttered the remark during coverage of Hawaii's Mercedes-Benz Championship on Friday, while she and and co-host Nick Faldo were bantering about how young golfers might challenge ever-dominant Woods.
Faldo said, "To take Tiger on, well yeah, they should just gang up for a while until ..."
"Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman interrupted with a chuckle.
Tilghman is a far cry from Imus, the morning show host who was canned after calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Unlike the disc jockey, who is known for his off color humor and outspoken remarks, she has no history of stoking racial tensions.
But Sharpton says it is the word -- not the person or their history -- that matters. In a Wednesday interview, he compared Tilghman's statement to calling for a woman to be raped or for a Jewish-American to be sent to a gas chamber. Video Watch why Sharpton thinks apologies are insufficient »
"Lynching is not murder in general. It is not assault in general. It is a specific racial term that this woman should be held accountable for," the reverend said. "What she said is racist. Whether she's a racist -- whether she runs around at night making racist statements -- is immaterial."
Sharpton said he wants Tilghman fired, period. And if the Golf Channel doesn't comply, the network can expect to see Sharpton and his National Action Network supporters picketing its Orlando, Florida, headquarters.
At first, the channel said it had no plans to discipline Tilghman, who issued a statement saying she had apologized to Woods and wanted to further apologize to offended viewers for "some poorly chosen words."
Woods, who through his agent issued a statement saying he was friends with Tilghman and respected her, said, "We know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments."
A spokesman for IMG World said Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, would not be available for an interview, but it has been widely reported that Steinberg said Tilghman's remark was "a non-issue in our eyes. Case closed."
But as word of Tilghman's remark circulated via the media and video clips made their rounds on the Internet, the Golf Channel reconsidered its stance on Wednesday, suspending Tilghman for two weeks.
"There is simply no place on our network for offensive language like this," the network said in a statement. "While we believe that Kelly's choice of words were inadvertent and that she did not intend them in an offensive manner, the words were hurtful and grossly inappropriate."
Chat rooms and Internet message boards buzzed Thursday with calls for Tilghman's ouster. There were also a fair number of posts calling the remark "stupid" or "insensitive' but adding that Tilghman's intent did not seem racist.
"Though her comments were ridiculously insensitive, they weren't spewed with malicious intent," reads one post on a Black Entertainment Television message board.
"Was it offensive? Yes. However, Tiger does not care, so why should I?" reads another.
Other remarks seemed to back Sharpton's stance. "YOU CANT TAKE IT BACK," reads one. Another says, "Fire her!!! Now!!!!"
Kevin Miller, a newsradio host for KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said he believes Sharpton and his ilk are off base.
"What she said is wrong," Miller said of Tilghman's comment, which he called "flippant, adolescent, unfortunate."
However, he added in Tilghman's defense, "you have to look at the intent." The "politically correct vigilantes" calling for her job are inciting divisiveness in the country when they should be building bridges, he said.
"Lynch" is the offensive word du jour, Miller said. Tomorrow, it could be a different word, he said, suggesting that Sharpton should issue a book of words that Americans can and can't say.
"The word keeps changing all the time," Miller said. "Maybe we should just apologize in advance for everything."
But Sharpton insists it doesn't matter how profusely someone apologizes, no more than it matters who forgives Tilghman for her remark.
"It's not about Tiger Woods. It's about the station. It's about using public airwaves to offend people," Sharpton said. "Some things are beyond the pale of discussion."
Tilghman's comment may have been a mistake, Sharpton said, but he feels it was evident of a deep-seated and well-cloaked racism.
"I don't know why that would pop into her mind, but it popped out of her mouth, and she should be held accountable," the reverend said.
Miller, conversely, feels it was an honest mistake, and she should be afforded a second chance, especially considering it was the first instance of her making insensitive remarks.
"I think it's a sad day in America when words can get people run from their jobs," Miller said. "I'm willing to send her a certificate of atonement."