COMMENTS: Imus in the Evening

Morning radio host Don Imus is syndicated by CBS' radio network and simulcast by NBC's cable news channel. So when he referred to the mostly black female players on Rutgers University's basketball team as "rough girls" and "nappy-headed whores" both CBS and NBC had some in-house reporting to take care of. Imus' apology--on his own airwaves and on those of African-American political leader Al Sharpton--was the Story of the Day and the lead on CBS. Imus called himself "a good person who said a bad thing." CBS officially called the words "completely inappropriate." NBC announced that MSNBC would suspend its simulcast of Imus in the Morning for two weeks.

What elevated a casual, demeaning slur into a major news story was the fact that Imus provides a forum for serious discussion of public policy before a mass audience. CBS' Nancy Cordes (no link) called Imus' guest list "a Who's Who? of politics and media." CBS' Richard Schlesinger characterized Imus as the "thinking man's shock jock, a smart aleck who is actually smart" and NBC's Rehema Ellis explained that Imus is "not just a shock jock" but a "major stop for politicians and journalists" including many leaders of her own news division. Pointedly, she wondered if "that will change."

ABC's Dan Harris dubbed the two hour questioning by Sharpton of Imus a "contrition mission." He saw Imus fume as Sharpton refused to sit in the same room with him whenever the radio show took commercial breaks. Imus explained that his "agenda is to try to be funny." Sharpton told Harris that Imus should be fired for "mainstreaming racism." NBC's Ellis reminded us that back in 2000 Imus had publicly pledged to stop using "racially insensitive language."

As for federal regulators, CBS' Cordes reassured Imus that "he has nothing to fear from the FCC." Only indecency is prohibited. So stations get fined for showing Janet Jackson's nipple but not for airing Imus' slurs.

UPDATE: the relationship between Imus and major leaders of the MainStreamMedia seems to be the unresolved issue in this story. At the liberal Media Matters blogger Kathleen Henehan (text link) takes ABC's Harris to task for implying that Imus' institutional loyalty is to NBC's Tim Russert and overlooking appearances twice in the past two months by ABC's own Charles Gibson. Meanwhile a tipster at TV Newser takes the opposite view, telling Brian Stelter (text link) that there is a "dirty little secret" that Imus' interviewees from NBC News and Newsweek are not guests, but appear under a contractual relationship. "They do not appear at 6:30am in the morning every third week for their health!" Stelter's tipster exclaims.

UPDATE: a reader objects to the spelling used above as an error: "You have Imus' statement as 'nappy-headed whores.' He actually used the word 'hos,' as in 'nappy-headed hos.' In theory they're similar, but as far as slang and social semantics, there actually is a difference."


Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are ambulance chasers who turn any minor incident into one that is racially motivated. They are the true ones who need to be silenced. Look at the history of both and you will find questionable integrity. They perpetuate racism. It has no chance of ending as long as they live and are given a voice.

Imus was being Imus. He quoted a phrase from a black wrapper song, people. He didn't pin the phrase himself. Not all of the ball players were ethnic so if you took him seriously then why arn't the whites every where up in arms as well? Where is the "freedom of speech" issue in this scenerio granted to Rosie O'Donald.
I am not disgusted by Imus's remarks as much as I am the way the media has turned this minor incident into the new "Anna Nicole".

I believe CBS is really using this as an excuse/smoke screen to rid itself of a seasoned broadcaster who probably had a lucrative contract i.e. Dan Rather. I refuse to watch any news channel they sponsor.

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