Don Imus: Has justice been served?

Don_lAppalling as Don Imus’ "nappy-headed ho’s" comment was, I’m less disappointed in his behavior than in that of his enablers: his sponsors, his high-profile guests (many of them top politicians and journalists), and the broadcasters who carry his show. After all, Imus has a long, well-documented history of such ugly slurs, yet none of these enablers has ever called him on it. CBS (which syndicates his radio show) and NBC (which simulcasts it on MSNBC) have said they’ll start monitoring Imus’ show for content. Thanks, guys, but that herd of horses has been stampeding through the wide-open barn doors for years.

I’m worried that Imus’ two-week suspension will be seen as a complete solution instead of the finger-in-the-dike measure that it is, and that CBS and NBC (and Imus) will pat themselves on the back for having behaved responsibly. During those two weeks, what’s CBS going to air instead — Imus reruns, which may contain equally inflammatory remarks? And what of the rest of talk radio, which crosses the line as routinely as Imus did? Are any of the stations and sponsors going to be paying attention there? Let’s hope so — not just because it would result in less airwave pollution, but also because there needs to be a private-sector solution, lest the FCC take up the suggestion of Imus nemesis Al Sharpton (pictured, left, with Imus, on Sharpton’s radio show yesterday) and get the federal government involved in policing the ideological content of talk radio.

There is one thing about this whole fiasco that made me laugh: nobody with a coiffure like Imus’ has any business making fun of someone else’s hair.

Three Bears time, PopWatchers: Is Imus’ punishment too soft, too hard, or just right? (Please, be civil. Prove that the blogosphere is better than talk radio.)

addCredit(“Al Sharpton and Don Imus: Spencer Platt/Getty Images”)

Comments (156 total) Add your comment
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  • Adam

    Enough of this story already! I’m more disgusted by self-indulgent hypocrites like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Imus’s comment was made in a comedic context, not as hateful. They would never criticize Dave Chapelle or Chris Rock for making jokes about white people, yet it’s ok that there’s a double standard in this country when it comes to race and comedy. Why don’t they start dealing with the real life and death issues that effect their “community” and stop annoying us with their own disgusting brand of hate?

  • mike

    I wonder if this is all a publicity stunt. Does radio have sweeps in May like TV? His two week suspension would get him back on the air just before the end of the month.

  • Evorgleb

    If anyone cares to read it, One of our writers on Highbrid Nation actually worked wit Imus over the last few years and had some really interesting things to say about the whole situation with Imus and he also has some inside info that the media hasn’t mentioned about the whole story.

  • Mystery

    I honestly don’t have an opinion yet about the severity (or lack thereof) regarding Imus’ punishment, but I do want to thank you for taking what can be a pretty trite and unimportant (nevertheless fun and enjoyable) blog and making it into something meaningful, even if for just a moment.

  • Honeybee

    Imus and other so-called shock jocks are cash cows because they attract a massive audience. Massive. That says a whole lot of uncomfortable things about our society. Certainly, his success reminds me that many, many people don’t share my views on pluralism and respect. But I don’t see the point in banning or firing him. Dozens of Imus-wanna-bes rule the airwaves in local markets across the country. If Imus goes, then one of them will step up to take his place. And the local guys are often far worse than Imus.
    Do I wish Imus and his ilk didn’t have an audience? You bet. But they do. And a good portion of Imus’s audience will rally around him as a hero. So all of this ruckus will likely have the opposite of the intended effect.
    I don’t listen to him. That’s the best I can do. If I thought firing him would do any good, I’d call for that. But I don’t.

  • AD

    First off I just want to say that I am sure everyone agrees that what Imus said was wrong, racist, and indefensible. I don’t think there is really a dispute about that. The question is whether he should be fired over it. I’m not so sure, to me it seemed like a bad attempt to be funny that resulted in racially insensitive language. I’m not a regular listener, but it appears Imus does not engage in regular hate speech, has african americans on the show, and does a lot of good through his charities. I don’t know if his whole career should be ruined because of one statement. Also the link is misleading, as he did years ago make the cleaning lady comment, which also was offensive, but that is a far cry from a “long well-documented history of racial slurs.” I think the people leading the fight against him (aka Sharpton) are more interested in their own self-aggrandizement and being on tv more than anything. I say, yes the words were bad, but let the free market sort it out.

  • Brian K

    This incident just makes me angrier about the Isaiah Washington incident. What Imus said was reprehensible. He didn’t lie about it, he apologized, and he is being punished. Isaiah Washington said something at least as hateful and bigoted, lied about it, never took full responsibility, and apparently got a raise. Is Imus’ punishment harsh enough? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s certainly a lot harsher than what Washington got.

  • Ceballos

    As per Gary’s request, I’ll try to remain as civil as I can.
    There’s no question in my mind that Imus should’ve been fired for these comments that were ignorant, racist and sexist.
    I’m a big believer in second chances, but as Susman rightly pointed out, Imus has a long history of using equally ugly slurs to other ethnic groups. In addition, this particular instance wasn’t something that just slipped out. Imus and his boys were joking about it, laughing merrily, and didn’t apologize until the you-know-what storm started descending upon him.
    I realize that talk radio personalities have their schtick, but I don’t subscribe to the idea that you get to make stupid and hateful comments like these, and get to keep your job just because you say you’re sorry. By the way, I don’t REALLY think he’s sorry, I think it’s one of those things where he’s sorry people got offended.
    This fool should’ve been fired a long time ago, and i’m disappointed they didn’t use this chance to do it.

  • Shawn

    Freedom of Speech is dead, I hear hundreds of black people say nappy headed all the time, who can and cant use the N word and use other phrases has become the seperate water fountians of modern times.

  • Stephanie Travitsky

    Adam is right. Look, New York Disc Jockey Jim Kerr who if you are a New Yorker in the eighties was thee supreme NY DJ of the FM dial next to Scott Shannon said it best that there is a difference between making a stupid comment and insighting someone or people to commit a heinous act. Shock Jocks Opie and Anthony dared a couple to get funky at Saint Patricks Cathedral and offered a prize. Imus said something completely off handed and offensive, yes. So has every single rap artist who calls women hoes and b-tches. Secondly, Jessie Jackson should just PLEEEASE shut up. shut up! People who live in glass houses should not throw stones Mr. “Hymie Town!” And btw, I have nappy hair and I am not black. Nappy hair is a general term for kinky or kinky and curly hair. Imus apologized, that should be enough. And I am sure that he is laughing anyway, it is Spring raitings season.

  • fredric

    You would think that after the expanding string of inappropriate commentary from the likes of Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and Isaiah Washington, etc., celebrities would exert more caution when they open their mouths. But they don’t. And they don’t pay the consequences that we would certainly pay were we the offenders. We can ignore it, or we can express our opinions on the matters at hand. I don’t think I have the right to say what price should be paid, but I owe it to myself as a minority to at least tell the powers that be how those words affect me.

  • Chuck

    Ho’s? That’s a bit harsh. Nappy hair? Absolutely. Just look at them. It’s not a race thing, although Imus really shouldn’t talk with that mane he’s got. This is the stupidest non-controversey ever.

  • Isme

    Imus has a right to free speech, that’s all there is to it. As backwards as his comment are, I find myself frustrated at the whole situation. Sharpton and Co. have bigger worries than some idiotic shock jock that not a lot of people listen to anyway.

  • Howard

    If any of you listened to Imus’ program this morning, Jeff Greenfield gave a great insight into this incident. He said that “those of us who grew up with [Imus’] program” (that includes me, as I’ve been a fan for over 20 years) understand the strange balancing act that his program has between intellectual guests and sophomoric humor. So, hearing the comment within the context of Imus’ show and knowing his mindset lessens the damage of the comment considerably. The joke may have been wrong to make, but he and other talk show hosts have said worse with no punishment. I think it’s a little harsh, but it probably right for CBS and MSNBC to suspend him. I only hope that it doesn’t lessen the political incorrectness that permeates his show.
    Hey, here’s a quick question: when was the last time Rev. Al or Je$$e Jack$on did ANYTHING to improve race relations in this country? For Je$$e, I’ll bet it was the 60’s. For Rev. Al, I think the answer is NEVER.

  • Jay

    Why is Al Sharpton a reverend when we only hear him react, attack, and react again–almost always (in my opinion) irrationally? Where is the love and compassion in his message? When have we ever heard him say anything that wasn’t in response to someone else’s words? These reasons make it hard for me to believe that he has that title in the first place.
    This situation is becoming ridiculous. Don Imus is a satirist. He botched a joke. This should not turn into a witch hunt, just like “Rev.” Al Sharpton wants to make it.

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