Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don Imus: The Heat is On...

I used to listen to Don Imus occasionally, but even looking around at the various news articles and also the morning programs, I was alarmed and almost sickened to see what he’s said over the years.

His shtick as a DJ, or shock jock is to enflame, create discussion and be entertaining. He’s crossed the line in my mind one too many times, but this time, Imus picked on the wrong group – college woman playing in the NCAA Championship.

Anyhow, Imus believed that these ladies were “nappy headed hos”. After watching the news conference yesterday and seeing the ladies from the Rutgers basketball team handle themselves with grace and dignity, they were anything but what Imus believed they were.

I was listening to the Anita Marks Show on ESPN 1300 yesterday, and one of the members of Anita’s staff said the whole issue of Imus is no big deal.

It is a big deal. Yes, he said a lot of offensive things over and over, but like in anything, it all comes down to timing, and he screwed up in a way that might have caused him irreparable damage.

Some of what he has said in the past:

• Imus is the one who said in 1995 of Gwen Ifill, an accomplished, award-winning black journalist of incredible dignity and grace: "Isn't the [New York] Times wonderful. . . . It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House." (Washington Post)
• It's Imus who called William C. Rhoden, the veteran Times sports columnist, "a quota hire." (New York Times)
• In 1997, during a "60 Minutes" profile, Mike Wallace confronted Imus and a former producer who quoted Imus as saying he'd hired a staffer to "do nigger jokes." (MSNBC)

There’s more, but I’ll move on.

I work for a defense contractor in my every day vocation. If I said even a fraction of what Imus did, I’d be fired and gone in a quick second.

There are quite a few people like Steve Lyons, Jimmy ‘the Greek’ Snyder, John ‘The Greaseman” Tracht who have gotten fired for their comments.

However, Imus is still pretty much on the payroll, and it has nothing to with race. It’s about money and profits.

He makes oodles of money for the network MSNBC and WFAN/CBS radio, so for now he may have a job unless the temperature gets too hot in the kitchen, which very well might happen.

This story is not going away.

Advertisers are leaving him now and he's topic A on every news & radio show, and in the newspapers.

In terms of people trying to justify Imus, they bring up the issue of rap music and hip-hop. Trust me, I am the first critic of that genre, as I think it does a good bit to reinforce stereotypes of African Americans and women (unfair, by the way); however, Imus is in a totally different position.

He’s a newsmaker who’s got politicians and highly regarded media types on his show. Sorry, the standards are a bit different for a morning show host than some music artist.

Again, as I have said, I don’t see this as a joke. I think this is what he really feels and he’s done it over and over.

As an African American, I’m a little disturbed by those who say, “it’s no big deal” in light of these events. Even though things are a lot better than let’s stay in 1960, we still have a lot of work to do in order to move past racism.

Until we can have open and honest dialogue on race relations in the United States and get everyone’s feelings out in the open, you’ll have episodes like this happen again and again and again.


Evorgleb said...

The whole thing with Imus is crazy. I honestly have very mixed feelings on the whole thing. One of the guys over at Highbrid Nation who actually worked with Imus at WFAN for years wrote a good article talking about Imus' views on race from the perspective of a minority that was around him every day. You should check it out if you get a chance.

The Lady said...

I think Vivian Stinger said it all when she said it wasn't only about black and white, it's about green, as well. Imus stays on the air because he makes money for the companies he works for. He'll never be fired, but if his show's advertisers start to back out (as some of them are, apparently) that will go a long way in getting him off the air or, at least, to change his tune.

Signal to Noise said...

Thank you. I've said the same thing about Imus when people keep saying he's an unimportant shock jock that no one paid attention to beforehand.

Senator Joseph Lieberman does. Newsweek writer Howard Fineman does. So do a bunch of other people who regularly went on his show, powerful people, who talked politics and the news of the day.

Imus is part of the political conventional wisdom. For that reason, he deserves the scrutiny he's getting.

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