The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

08 April 2007

Don Imus, Racist Comments Controversy, "Nappy-Headed Hos"


With Walls Closing In On Imus, A Clintonian Defense Arises

*** See New Posts: MSNBC CANCELS IMUS, Advertisers Begin Pullout, Why Don Imus Is Toast, Sharpton Plays Us All For Fools ***
*** NBC, CBS: Two Week Suspension For Imus -- Boston Fallout Analyzed here ***

Remember the "everybody's doing it" defense utilized whenever Bill Clinton was caught in a particularly troubling ethical fix?

Now, with the walls closing in around him, fossil- talker Don Imus is finding this very excuse used to explain away his bizarre on- air antics (update: here's another piece improperly tying Imus to other talk hosts).

It may be too little, too late, however. Since Friday, when it appeared Imus might survive his ill- considered "nappy- headed hos" comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team, there is finally enough anger from activist groups to generate a firestorm.

With nervous affiliates and sponsors hanging in the balance, his show may very well be winding down for good. In Boston, for example, there are calls for his removal. And it may not look any better in New York, either.

Your Radio Equalizer's position is this: it's hard to understand how Imus has consistently been able to deliver the kind of extremist rhetoric that would easily sink the careers of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and others. As a mainstream media darling, Imus has long been issued a free pass.

Given the I-Man's recent track record, which could lend itself more to senility or drug use than political incorrectness, it's hard to believe he would still have defenders. In the mainstream media, however, the same environment that skewered Rush Limbaugh for taking on Michael J Fox over his political campaigning is desperate to provide cover for the John Kerry- supporting Imus.

Here, interestingly enough, one New York Daily News writer tries to tie this flap to Limbaugh's past controversies. Does anything really compare to this, however?

For example, in the talk fossil's darkest hour, riding to the rescue is Newsweek's Mark Starr, in this piece seen at MSNBC's (!!) website:

What pretty much anyone watching could see in that women’s final was that Rutgers was overmatched in almost every facet of the game, except possibly grit. And it quickly became clear that the team’s frantic effort—it seemed to be trying too hard—wouldn’t be enough even to keep it close.

But Don Imus apparently saw something else. On his nationally syndicated radio show, “Imus in the Morning” (simulcast on MSNBC TV), the reigning king of the radio talk show empire revealed that instead of game upstarts, he saw in the Rutgers team a bunch of “nappy-haired hos.” Imus, much like the Rutgers team he defamed, was probably just overreaching, trying a little too hard to score with the irreverent and edgy humor that is his trademark. He may even have known, as he continued his tasteless riff, that he had crossed the line; that what he said was inexcusable, shameless, racist claptrap.

But just because it’s inexcusable doesn’t mean it’s inexplicable. And while Imus should not be spared any blame, we are undoubtedly complicit. It is our dubious taste that has spawned America's prevailing entertainment culture. We have countenanced the insult industry into which talk radio has devolved.

We have allowed humiliation to become a centerpiece of network TV programming. And we encourage cutting-edge humor, without much concern that women and minorities endure most of those cuts. These dubious entertainments all share one currency: unabashed delight in cruelty and debasement. And we the audience laugh and laugh and laugh until somebody hits us over the head and we realize—or somebody tell us that we should realize—that this time it was way out of line and actually not all that funny.

Then, of course, we get all huffy playing “gotcha”. We encourage these “entertainers” to walk a tightrope along the limits of good taste and then, with unrestrained glee, pounce when they, inevitably, fall off. Gotcha Imus, gonna make you squirm.

Of course, not all are “gotchas” are quite as righteous as that one. Indeed “gotcha” can be a rather cynical game. Earlier this week CBS basketball announcer's Billy Packer was targeted, much like Imus, for comments he made in a TV interview with Charlie Rose. After Rose joked about wanting to carry Packer's bags at the Final Four, Packer retorted that he had heard it before from Rose, adding “You always fag out on that one for me.”


Since that is the sketchy territory where Imus has always operated with great success, he will almost certainly survive this blunder. On Friday morning he got around to the business of a carefully, crafted apology. “It was completely inappropriate, and we can understand why people were offended,” Imus said on his morning show. “Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid, and we are sorry." Imus is savvy enough to offer no excuses where none would wash. But what’s our excuse? Please someone explain to me our insatiable appetite for the tasteless and the mean-spirited that assaults us every day in the guise of entertainment.

Yes, according to Starr, we are to blame for Don's overt racism, in a culture that encourages it. Is this really common language on talk radio, however? No doubt this Newsweek scribe doesn't spend much time listening to the medium.

Sorry, pal, there's simply no way to use the "everybody's doing it" excuse here.

Had this been an isolated incident for Imus, who turns 67 this year, he might have a chance at salvaging his career. With one recent flap after another, however, it's time for this over- the- hill talker to hang up his headphones.

UPDATE: Imus to appear on Al Sharpton's radio show Monday. Now, he wants to apologize to the team in person!

NEW: the New York Daily News ponders the I-Man's fate.

at the New York Radio Message Board, Imus defenders are engaging in a spin campaign, one that characterizes him as merely "edgy" in nature. During past controversies (none of which involved overtly racist language, by the way), were they just as inclined to defend Rush, Hannity, Dr Laura or Bill O'Reilly? Of course not!

AND: comment found on another radio discussion page:

I didn't hear anyone complain when Imus was talking about different methods of capital punishment that could be used on Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney et al.

UPDATE: Imus: "I said a bad thing."

NYT DEFENDS, but also makes a good point about his establishment ties:

Although the Web has been alive with calls for sanctions against Mr. Imus — the clip is available for all to see on YouTube — mainstream media have remained relatively silent. He is, after all, popular, good at his job and, perhaps more important, he generously provides oxygen — and an audience — to the kind of journalistic and political elites who would be expected to demand his head on a pike.

He is, to borrow one of the show’s metaphors, a lawn jockey to the establishment. Few politicians, big or small, pass up a chance to bump knees with Mr. Imus, in part because his show is one of the few places where they can talk seriously and at length about public issues. Senator John Kerry has stopped by. Senator John McCain is on frequently. And Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Joseph R. Biden are part of a legion eager to sit in the guest chair.

NBC News uses “Imus in the Morning” to promote the brands of Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory. Tom Brokaw was a frequent guest, and his replacement, Brian Williams, has been sanctified by the I-man, as they call him. Chris Matthews from MSNBC has appeared, as have anchors and journalists from CNN and CBS and, on the print side, by reporters and editors from Newsweek and popular opinion columnists from The New York Times.

Popular? With long- declining ratings, he hasn't been a major radio player for years. Good at his job? Who can even understand what he's saying? Despite that, this piece is dead- on when it points out just how Imus became a mainstream media darling.

BOSTON HERALD: flap not going away, Imus and co- hosts have past history of racist remarks.

THE RADIO EQUALIZER: this site is currently ranked #1 at Google under the search term "don imus" "nappy-headed hos".

NEW: at OlbermannWatch, Olby exposed as a hypocrite on the Imus issue. Anti- Imus protest in Chicago.

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Imus images: AP, Boston Herald library, MSNBS: David A Lunde


  • What sniffling old school marm wrote this and the previous post about Imus' horrors? Sour, puritans, the sour whole lot of you.

    By Blogger JT in NYC, at 08 April, 2007 13:53  

  • Imus is a fu*king moron, and guess what Brian, he is one of yours, a hack constantly defending GOP flunkies such as Rudy Giuliani....

    as far as right wing hosts, Michael Savage condoned the murder o a transexual in San Fransicso, he basically said, he does not feel bad when a freak gets killed!!! he condones murder, not a peep from the media about him??????

    The only double standard is how the media and activist groups ignore hated against gays and transgendered. Race issuses are rightfully attacked by activists such as Sharpton, who did the right thing regarding Imus, but when gays and transgendered are attacked on the radio, I hear a deafening silence. Where was the media when Savage condoned a murder?? Same thig with Muslim hatred, everybody is silent when filthy like Savage attack Muslims.

    I guess it is ok to hate Muslims and gays and transgendered on the radio, just don't display insensitivty towards Jews and minorities??????? How about NO TOLERANCE FOR HATE ON OUR AIRWAVES.
    PERIOD. Why is the MSN ignoraing Savage's condoning of murder???

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 08 April, 2007 15:02  

  • What's shameful is the reaction of MSNBC and WFAN to this whole contrived outrage ; and then Imus acceding to it. He should have told them to f* off and let him do his show, or fire him, their choice.

    For those unfamiliar with Imus, when he's on (which is not much of the time, sadly, these days ; he's been emasculated for a decade by his Yoko Ono, Dierdre, but that's another story) when he's on, he's mocking the MEDIA.

    One of the media fictions is that sports is important. It's important because here are the scores, and we bring it to you, and so you are interested in it, even though we think you're morons.

    When Imus gives the scores, he gives rodeo scores, he gives NASCAR scores, anything he can think of that you're not interested, so he can mime the motions of presentation of important information.

    Here, in this case, the score he gives is ugly points. The Rutgers team is ugly. That wobbles the story line, just as it's meant to.

    Now : (1) since when can't you say women are ugly? Are they fragile flowers again, and if so what happened to received feminism? And (2) the women's proper response is to say that they're not trying to be pretty, they're trying to be good at basketball.

    Then (3) Imus's response is that that's fine but don't expect people to have to be interested in your hobby.

    College basketball trades on media hype and so is a fair target for ridicule, along with everybody else.

    If you want to say that women can't take it, or even worse that Black women can't take it, that's your racism, not Imus's. He thinks they can take it.

    Imus is entirely too timid these days about the media and their wall-to-wall soap opera news for the audience of infants and morons who watch it.

    As I say, he should tell his management to f* off, if he's half the man he used to be.

    By Blogger rhhardin, at 08 April, 2007 19:34  

  • so do as you animals always do
    have him fired
    make him disappear

    i'm sure some genius
    like steve malzberg
    will be glad to take his place

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 08 April, 2007 23:42  

  • The defenders who say "Everybody feels the way Imus does about race and appearance and ..." are the biggest argument for Imus's removal. Not because we're against free speech, but because giving the imprimatur of CBS (radio) and NBC (TV) to these casual racist comments means to his listeners that it's OK to use the same terms with friends and around the kitchen table with the kids. CBS & NBC should be RACING to fire Imus to prove which one is the better defender of the sanctity of the public airwaves.
    Now we get the "We're to Blame because we're listening" defense??
    When I'm listening to anything, I'm listening to Morning Edition, so I really had no idea this filth was on the radio until I read it on Media Matters. If Imus has been this bad all along, then he should have been gone long before he had a chance to attack my fellow Scarlet Knights!

    By Blogger True Blue Liberal, at 09 April, 2007 00:20  

  • Maloney thinks people who have dedicated their careers to espousing a mix of politics and morality should be held to the same standards as a pseudo shock jock who has made a career out of being a wise-ass.

    I have news for you Maloney. Self-righteous, sermonizing dicks like Hannity and yourself who continually speak as authorities on societal values do not deserve to be judged by the same standards as those who don't.

    While Imus may have ran out of second chances with his employer, he has had a hell of radio career and will exit with no regrets.

    As for you Maloney, It is more likely you will get a job as a door greeter for Walmart than a job in radio again.

    By Blogger elmonica, at 09 April, 2007 02:31  

  • At least nobody died after what Imus said. Al Sharpton can't make that claim.

    By Blogger Lone Ranger, at 09 April, 2007 07:17  

  • oh, imus is so over

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 09 April, 2007 09:37  

  • guess what Brian, he is one of yours, a hack constantly defending GOP flunkies such as Rudy Giuliani

    MOP, are you serious?!?

    Let it not be said that we don't know where Imus's politics lie.

    By Blogger BF, at 09 April, 2007 14:43  

  • Imus and Al, two opposing butt cheeks on the jackass of stupid idiots. Who cares what either says? Fools and media personalities take note.

    By Blogger Schratboy, at 09 April, 2007 17:11  

  • he'll get two weeks off
    and then be released
    into the gentle arms
    of his handlers

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 09 April, 2007 20:11  

  • First Imus, now Barrett

    By Blogger b. j. edwards, at 09 April, 2007 21:33  

  • Imus will be retired to his ranch in New Mexico where he can deal with Illegal Aliens.

    By Blogger PCD, at 09 April, 2007 23:57  

  • What kind of world do we live in when Don Imus thinks he will find redemption for appearing on the radio show of a "Snake Oil" salesman like Al Sharpton!

    By Blogger HuskerKing, at 10 April, 2007 07:22  

  • I can't believe we have come to the point where someone is trying to redeem themselves by going on the radio show of a "snake oil" salesman like Al Sharpton! The guy is probably twice as racist as Imus!

    By Blogger HuskerKing, at 10 April, 2007 07:24  

  • Al Sharpton race-baiting poverty pimp, the arbitor of honesty and political correctness chides Imus? Indeed, the earth is now spinning in retrograde, up is down and down is up. Daylight has become darkness and all things holy in the Christian sense are trashed by the media....wait. That last bit has been a reality for quite some time. All the rest are true though.

    By Blogger Schratboy, at 10 April, 2007 08:45  

  • Segue from Sharpton to the minister of propaganda and remarks about Michael Savage. Savage was fired from his TV gig for a so-called insensitive remark about gays getting aids.

    I find Savage to be very engaging notwithstanding a browbeating or two to a deserving moron. All this political correctness and righteous indignation over what people say? There is no civil right protecting us against being offended for crying out loud. Grow some balls people.

    By Blogger Schratboy, at 10 April, 2007 08:49  

  • Am I one of the few people who wasn't aware that Don Imus was still alive? Even after seeing him on all these stations, I still have my doubts...

    By Blogger Michael, at 11 April, 2007 00:33  

  • To Rhhardin's question: "since when can't you say women are ugly?"

    You can't say it if:

    1) You use slander the moral character of young student-athlete women....."Hos"

    2) You refer to their appearance using an racially demeaning and insulting term...."Nappy-headed"

    3) You demean their racial heritage by using a incendiary and humiliating term...."Jigaboo"

    4) You have a nationally syndicated radio and TV show and desire to stay on the air....."Stupid"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11 April, 2007 01:49  

  • To Rhhardin's question: "since when can't you say women are ugly?"

    You can't say it if, in addition:

    1) You refer to their moral character by using a racially incendiary, demeaning and insulting term....."Ho"

    2) You refer to their appearance using a racially incendiary, demeaning and insulting term...."Nappy-headed"

    3) You refer to their heritage by using a racially incendiary, demeaning and insulting term...."Jigaboo"

    4) You have a nationally syndicated radio and TV show, make lots of money and desire to stay on the air....."Stupid"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11 April, 2007 02:03  

  • A letter to Don Imus

    Imus don't sweat this thing. I and many others are on your side. What harm can a few ho words do? You didn't say anything that's not standard vocab.

    Those words have made millionaires of many Black entertainers and fattened the pockets of their white collaborators. It's all good for Wall Street and no body loses sleep. Won't you call that hypocrisy? Well, I do.

    My friend Imus, please don't lose your dignity with endless apologies about something you meant to say and said it. I will respect you more if you stood your ground. Please don’t pull a Kerry or Makaka George on us.

    Frankly, you did the right thing by citing examples of the use of those words by black performers. This being an equal opportunity country, I don't see why you should be condemned for partaking in a perfectly acceptable form of cultural expression.

    I think the rev Sharpton, Jackson et all are overreacting here. They are picking on you a small fly instead of going after the dragons. I will respect their effort the day they can successfully shut down the money machine of all those who promote vulgarity amongst black artist.

    Mr. Imus, you have been in the business for 40 odd years and I imagine you’re soaking wet with dough. That means you should not worry about losing your job or would you? If you do, that's too bad. I hope your ego is not so fat that you can't survive deflation. I don't recommend rehabilitation because that will be a wimpy way out.

    At 67 you’re qualified for social security and can start collecting. Thank your stars since not all of us will be so lucky to collect any thing not when Bush is done devastating our treasury with Axis of evil adventures.

    Imus, a great idea would be for you to retire to your ranch and run a hick studio from there. You could say all the ho things you want and no body can do a thing about it since your audience will consist of a few ranch mammals and undocumentinos. Some of your favorite guests like McCain might still need your help. Again, don't sweat this thing. Go down like a man. It's time to show you got balls.


    By Blogger wordtodawise, at 11 April, 2007 04:04  

  • The market changed. I have done business with P&G, and they do have a highly diverse work environment. They take pride in diversity training. It makes perfect sense that they would pull the plug. Second, MSNBC is also a diverse workplace. Those two components, coupled with Media Matters set the ball in motion. Personally, I liked Imus political interviews, book reviews, c&w recs, but I did not like his anger and attacks against women and the lies to Mike Wallace on 60 minutes turned me off. My suggestion for Imus, "Spend a year working with battered women," and then tell us what you learned.

    By Blogger Wednesday, at 22 April, 2007 11:40  

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