On Friday, Paul Finebaum hosted his SEC Network/radio show from the University of Alabama’s Tuscaloosa campus ahead of Saturday’s LSU-Alabama game, and one of the calls he took was from infamous Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr., the man convicted of a Class C felony for poisoning Auburn’s famed Toomer’s Corner trees back in 2010 and revealing it on the air to Finebaum in 2011. Updyke, currently facing further legal trouble for only paying $6,900 of the $800,000 in restitution he was ordered to pay), ranted on the air Friday, saying “Paul, they’re only trees,” and responding to cheers from the crowd with “I didn’t try to kill those crows that fly around. I didn’t try to kill LSU’s tiger,” and while Finebaum criticized Updyke’s comments, he still took a lot of criticism for giving Updyke this platform. Well, on Monday, Finebaum addressed the situation again after caller “Coach from Morristown” brought it up, and said he didn’t know it was Updyke in advance:
The caller starts with “Interesting day you had Friday. Is Mike the Tiger in jeopardy?” Finebaum responds “I just want to address that and then we’ll move on. We take phone calls here, we don’t often know what’s going on. And when the tree poisoner called in, we didn’t know it was him until we were talking to him. I think if we had to do it over again, we probably would have moved on without any rancor. But he was on the air, he said some idiotic things, which I tried to point out, and I personally regret having to subject some of our friends out there to that.”
It’s certainly notable to hear Finebaum saying that, particularly his remark that they didn’t know it was Updyke until they were talking to him. That does seem possible; perhaps Updyke gave some other name when he called in and/or called from a phone or location they didn’t associate with him. At any rate, it’s significant that Finebaum said that they didn’t know it was Updyke, and it’s also significant that he said he regrets people having to hear Updyke’s comments. And that’s the real issue here; Finebaum did push back on Updyke on the air and point out the problems with his comments, but giving someone like Updyke that national platform in the first place isn’t great. It’s interesting to hear Finebaum say he now regrets subjecting listeners to that.