The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

07 January 2006

Don Imus Hits New Low


Will Vanity Fair Interview Be Host's Undoing?

Could February's Vanity Fair interview finally result in crusty curmudgeon Don Imus's undoing?

Just days after the New York Post revealed he spent a chunk of it trashing his fellow MSNBC hosts, other excerpts emerging today paint an even uglier picture of radio and cable's most notorious rambling weirdo.

To top it off, the AP reports today that Imus kicked his cocaine habit not due to the horrible damage it inflicts on addicts and their loved ones, but because drug dealers were too slow to show up with more junk!

If in the same circumstances, would you take the opportunity to make a real point about drug abuse, or choose these irresponsible, asinine remarks? It's a true measure of a person's character.

From the AP story:

Reflecting on his past vices, Imus says he was "not a good drunk." The 65-year-old also claims he first chose to break his cocaine habit because it became "too big a hassle."

"Cocaine was fun for the first couple lines," he says. "Then you run out. You never plan ahead. You always run out.

Cocaine dealers are the second-most irresponsible people on the planet. Really. You can't get hold of them. The guy says he will be here with the coke in an hour. And it's three hours."

It's not clear who Imus thinks is even more irresponsible than coke dealers. With this kind of commentary, perhaps the I-Man himself?

What kind of message is he sending to young people about drug use? Kids, drugs are fine until the dealer's a no-show, then, it's a real bummer.

For the last year,
we've been tracking his most moronic outbursts, but this one clearly takes the cake. We've previously reported on his sagging ratings, mean-spirited attacks against innocent people and nearly incomprehensible speech.

Earlier in the week, it was Imus attacking his fellow MSNBC hosts, including Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews and (now-departed) Ron Reagan:

Annoyed that the cable channel, which simulcasts "Imus in the Morning," cut away from his show to provide live coverage of Hurricane Wilma, Imus trashes conservative pundit Tucker Carlson as a "twit," refers to "Hardball" host Chris Matthews as "that idiot" and says MSNBC makes "idiotic decisions" like hiring Carlson and commentator Ron Reagan.

Imus - a political pied piper whose regular guests include Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell and Senators John McCain, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd - also seemed to rub VF writer Buzz Bissinger the wrong way during the week that Bissinger shadowed him for the profile and also appeared on Imus' show several times.

Bissinger writes that during his last appearance on the program, Imus accused him "on the air of misrepresenting who is going to photograph him for the magazine, then [hung] up on me. When I later speak to him on the phone off the air and explain that I did not misrepresent anything, he abruptly hangs up on me again.

He detects "a malevolence in Imus' voice more potent than anything I have ever heard as a journalist." He goes on to describe his subject as "a prima donna puppeteer with an eight-figure salary, a penthouse apartment on Central Park West with a 1,400-square- foot terrace, a $30 million home in Westport, Conn., with an unblemished view of Long Island Sound, and millions of listeners at his fingertips."

Bissinger also lingers on Imus' deteriorating appearance, noting that he "appears pale and frail and sucked dry. At 65, he looks 10 years older."

Later, Bissinger writes, "He looks tired, perhaps from getting up in the morning for nearly 40 years and doing the morning drive time on the radio with energy and focus. The voice, once a manic rat-a-tat as sharp and syncopated as an extended Buddy Rich drum roll, is softer now and sometimes garbled. His eyes seem squeezed, compressed."

While the Radio Equalizer has levelled some of the very same criticism at MSNBC's mess of a television schedule, we don't work there. From Imus, it's simply tacky.

And is there any evidence his cable ratings are higher than Carlson's, or the others he slams here?

It's time to ask this question again: what keeps him on the air? Why does MSNBC put up with this? And why is he still on the radio, between poor ratings, a miserable performance and constant flare-ups of his own making?

Anybody else would long ago have been shown the door.

Want to ask MSNBC's suits about this? Start here.

Side note:
when writing about Imus previously, this site irked some by mentioning his support for John Kerry in the 2004 election.

Why is it relevant? Because Imus is sometimes falsely associated with the conservative movement. In addition, it underscores how despite the cowboy garb and maverick reputation, he's very much a part of the mainstream media's elite.

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Top Imus photo: NY Post, second image: Imus publicity photo, undated


  • Brian,

    I have listened to Imus for much of the 30 years he's been on air (my memories go back to the days of MobyWorm).

    Stating that coke dealers were a hassle to deal with is just part of his schtick; he regrets his drug and alcohol abusive days, and anyone who listens any length of time knows it.

    He has contempt for MSNBC, and they deserve it. This is why their ratings as a news channel are low.

    No one says his show is everyone's favorite, and no one can deny the ebb and flow of his ratings. But to act as if his rants ought to be held as gospel truths is silly.

    Why doesn't MSNBC yank him?? What would they put on in his place that would get any ratings?

    By Blogger Charlie on the PA Turnpike, at 09 January, 2006 10:16  

  • My husband loves Imus and watches him every morning while we are getting ready for work.

    I didn't like him at all when I first started watching him (which I couldn't avoid because my husband had him on).

    But he's grown on me. I actually have found myself watching him when my husband isn't here.????

    I don't like his politics. I was particularly put off by his pontificating about Kerry. I didn't think he really understood the issues. I don't think he's a deep thinker. But like charlie says - I think a lot of that is part of his schtick.

    He showed real compassion for an employee who had a drug or drinking problem recently.

    He's just a grumpy old man - that's his thing.

    I agree with what you say - I just think he kinda grows on people.

    just my opinion :)

    By Blogger Beth, at 11 January, 2006 23:00  

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