Here’s my biggest problem with the Don Imus story: there’s no good guy to root for.
Let’s start with Imus, since it did start with him, after all. Imus is an asshole. Always has been. Given that, did he have the right to call the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed ho’s”? Yes. Should he have called them that? No. It was nasty and mean-spirited to direct that insult at young women who haven’t done anything to earn anyone’s insults.
Now, let’s move on to Al Sharpton. Sharpton is a well-documented media whore who is running a radio show (that has an extremely small audience) which makes him Imus’ competitor, so he is not without a conflict of interest here. As far as Sharpton’s “integrity” goes, anyone remember Tawana Brawley and Al’s involvement in that sordid affair?
Imus had the right to say what he did but the people who were offended by it (leaving Sharpton out of this for the moment) also had the right to react negatively to it. They had the right to call for his head and boycott his advertisers.
Imus has been down this road several times in the past. He called former New York Times White House reporter Gwen Ifill a “cleaning lady” (need I tell you she’s black?). He got sandbagged by 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace who asked him to his face about his use of the word “nigger” (Imus had told one of Wallace’s producers that his sidekick and producer Bernard McGuirk’s job was to “do nigger jokes”). He avoided being suspended or canned several times in the past, but he had no guarantee that he wouldn’t create a fuss that would cause people to agitate for his ouster the next time he got all racist.
Imus’ bosses, his guests and his advertisers all knew what kind of show Imus ran. They all had the perfect right to support him over the years, but they, too, should have realized that there was no reason that Imus and they would never be criticized for the content of his show and their involvement in it.
What Imus said about the Rutgers players was hardly the most over-the-top thing he’s said, even recently. While CBS and MSNBC had every right to can him once they felt the heat from critics, it’s the height of hypocrisy for them to pretend that they are “shocked…shocked, I tell you” about what he said this time. His show last week was no different from the show they made millions of dollars from for years while they looked the other way and cashed the checks. CBS and MSNBC suddenly discovered the content of Imus’ show? Give me a HUGE friggin’ break here! He was doing the show they paid him to do.
I was a wacky morning drive radio DJ for several years. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that, if Imus wasn’t a big damn cash cow for those two corporations, his bony ass would have been shown the door years ago. It’s very simple: with big advertisers bailing on Imus’ show, suddenly, keeping him on the air would cost more than canning him would. He moved to the other side of the ledger. Period. CBS and MSNBC didn’t suddenly grow racial consciousness (or any kind of consciousness); they just looked at the numbers. In America, the numbers will bite you on the ass everytime.