“Career Ending Comments: Don Imus and "The N-Word"...”
By Eric 'Renderking' Fisk - April 10th, 2007
It's some how ironic that my rant before this one was "How Much Freedom Do We Really Need?" I wrote in that rant that I'm just one comment away from losing my audience, and maybe we really don't believe in Free Speech that's completely free. That was the whole theme of the rant - how "free" is free.
Currently there's an explosion about this same topic all over the media - how one comment can ruin a career... Last week when Don Imus was talking about Woman's Basketball, he called the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Now, people every where are either asking for MSNBC and Westwood One to fire him, or lambasting his employers asking why did it take something like this for them to see Imus for what he really is.
Of course, I have an opinion... it's not an unbiased one for sure. I listen to a lot of Talk Radio. Not just one station, such as 96.9FM talk here in the Boston area or KSFO in The Bay Area in California. I listen to both Conservative and Liberal Talk Radio, NPR, any church chat channels. I listen to get a pulse of the national and international opinion. What are people saying, what's the controversy of the day... what makes some shows work and others fail.
One of the shows I listen to regularly is Don Imus's show because of his guests. In the 7:00 hour, Imus has some of the best guests on the radio. He's able to get the guests on his show because he's able to ask hard hitting questions and wrap them in sarcastic humor. A good example to cite is the 2004 Presidential Campaign - Imus was able to get John Kerry on his show and discuss the controversy surrounding the men who were under his command during the Viet Nam war who then campaigned against him through the website "Swift Vets and POW's For Truth." Imus made headlines with that interview when nobody else could. Don Imus has a broad spectrum of regular high profile callers, politicians, publishers, business leaders and the occasional entertainer. Often you can hear news being made on his show.
Don Imus seemed invincible as his popularity has grown, and then above reproach with the work he does out side of the broadcasting studio. He has several charities he's funded or founded, such as The Imus Ranch. Don Imus came under scrutiny when someone did the math one year - Imus raised 2.6 Million Dollars for his ranch, and only hosted 100 kids that year. (From CHARITY GOVERNANCE: "What we find amazing about the story is the apparent inefficiency of Imus Ranch, the charity. No doubt it does help the kids that participate in its program. But only 100 kids at a cost of $2.6 million a year? That works out to somewhere around $26,000 per kid. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, that translated into a cost of $3,000 per day, per kid. The article notes that the typical kid stays nine days...") Don Imus and his wife were cleared of all charges after they disclosed all of their financial records and those who were investigating him found now wrong-doing. It seems that their charities popularity has only grown in a world where the mere accusations of impropriety would be enough to cause a mere mortal's down fall. (My wife and I use his chemical free cleaning products... environmentally friendly and they do a better job then the other stuff we used to use...)
Usually when someone becomes popular, they seem to get too full of themselves and take their popularity for granted. God knows that I've done that too many times. But with Don Imus, the more popular he became, the more arrogant and full of himself he became - and he used that to his advantage in his show, an abrasive mix of mock-self deprecating humor and arrogance to entertain his listeners. The greater his popularity, the further he was able to push the envelope and so far... that envelope hasn't broken yet.
Imus has made a career out of making fun of everybody, either by using satirical bits or working rude comments into interviews and commentary. Imus has made fun of people's faith and religion, political affiliation, private lives and sexuality. Nobody was too sacred, nobody was out of bounds, nobody was immune from Imus's sharp witted tongue. The only one who does this shtick better then Imus is Mike Barnacle (Columnist and host of his own radio show on the aforementioned WTKK.) Mr. Barnacle's difference is that his use of the lambasting method to bring everyone down a few pegs, we're all stooges and fools to some extent according to Mr. Barnacle. We're all equals, we all have a streak of loser with in all of us. Mike Barnacle is also far better at self-deprecating humor then Imus... Mr. Barnacle is also a regular guest on Imus's show, and one of the few people who have been able to give it back to Imus better then he gets. (The reason why I bring up Mr. Barnacle up will become obvious and apparent later in this rant...)
With a few other exceptions nobody is immune to Imus's wrath and satire. As David Carr wrote in his piece "With Imus, They Keep Coming Back, "...Mr. Imus’s defenders like to point out that he is an equal-opportunity misanthrope whose show displays 360-degree offensiveness toward all sorts of ethnicities, sexual orientations and religious affiliations." There isn't anyone who he hasn't offended - but this is the hardest hit he's ever been.
Touching The Third Rail Of Social Politics Too Many Times
Don Imus has been able to get away with what he's done for a long time. He's had other run-ins with the media due to something that's come out of his mouth, he's lost jobs in the past because of his actions - only to show up somewhere else and eventually stronger and better then before. (Who else can be fired from one job because of not showing up 100 days out of the year and for using Cocaine and Vodka on the job when he actually was there? Not too many people...) He does his show on the cheap and his radio show that's simulcasted on MSNBC, his daily endeavors is highly profitable (again, because he pulls in the ratings and his show is inexpensive to produce...) and for those reasons he seems bullet and controversy proof.
That was until now. This time it seems pretty clear that the ride is over for Imus. Why is this time any different? Times have changed rapidly, and the Politically Correct double standard has become more intense. Blacks/African American's can make fun of other blacks/African Americans. Blacks can use the dreaded "N-Word" towards each other, Whites can't even say the N-Word when talking about The N-Word.
Here's what I mean. Last night on Bravo TV (which airs the unintentionally funny "Project Runway," "Top Chef" and "Top Design" which has done more to perpetuate anti-gay stereotypes then The Fedora Chronicles ever could, but we get their share of criticism...) aired the two hour interview of Eddie Murphy on "Inside The Actors Studio." The host James Lipton and the show's staff aired one of the most provocative clips in his first movie, 48 Hours. This is the scene when Eddie Murphy's character Reggie Hammond, a convict masquerading as a police officer shakes down some patrons in a New York city honky-tonk...
Eddie Murphy uses The N-Word, and it's not bleeped out.
In an earlier show, James Lipton asks Chris Rock about "The N-Word" and why it's ok for members of the Black Community to use it, and not whites. Chris Rock's answer was both vague and non-confrontational and didn't do the question justice. James Lipton, one of the most polite people on television is unable to bring himself to use the word when talking about it's use and meaning, while Chris Rock and other black actors and actresses use it with reckless abandon. (I won't even post it here, knowing how it could cause a fire-storm we don't want. Yea... we want firestorms, just want to rise above the senseless ones.)
Whites/Anglo-Americans are not allowed to make remarks about how black people dress, how they wear their hair and behave in relation to their heritage or race (you can say - "that person is a jerk," but not "that person's a jerk like every other one of his kind...) I'll make this observation that this double standard is actually causing race-relations between Blacks/African Americans and Whites/Anglo-Americans worse, not better. This double standard is causing animosity between the races in The United States, the most current proof is Don Imus' comment that was random and off the cuff.
Al Sharpton is allowed to make racist comments against white and Jewish people (as illustrated inAl Sharpton: The Democrat's David Duke.") - yet is allowed to maintain his "Leader Of The Black Community" status and is allowed to take Don Imus to task for his stupid remarks? Like I wrote, The Politically Correct Double Standard has become deplorable and ridiculous - going beyond hypocrisy.
Don Imus made simple, stupid comments. Seriously, I don't believe Imus is a racist after everything I've read and seen during the past few years and observing the controversy this comment has created. Is Imus a racist? If you were as familiar with his work you would have know the answer, he hates everyone and made a point to share his disgust about everyone who cheeses him off in such an entertaining way. He's made a career and fortune out of this act and has managed to fund his charities in the process.
This isn't the first time he's made rude comments about race. He should have learned by now that there's something's you can't get away with saying anymore. The comment about Rutgers University women's basketball team being a bunch of "nappy-headed hos" would be a career ending event for most other broadcasters, and it should be for Don Imus. Doesn't matter if he really didn't mean it, doesn't matter if he "hates everyone" and he uses that to is advantage while entertaining the listeners. Doesn't matter that he has used his celebrity in the past for charitable causes. The only thing that matters now is that there's the perception of racism and he embarrassed his employers and his sponsors.
If the broadcasters were smart, they would replace Don Imus with someone who's just as intelligent and witty. Replace someone who has a talent for writing and has the capacity to ask politicians and members of the media through provoking, tough questions. This is where my earlier comments about Mike Barnacle come in. Mike Barnacle often fills in for Chris Mathews on MSNBC, he has his own radio show and is able to make a fresh start with a new show.
I'm not trying to reverse or take back what I said about Age Discrimination here or on The Forum. Those who do a job well should be allowed to do that job until they are ready to retire and not leave because they've reached a particular date on a calendar. Regardless of age, qualified people should hold on to their jobs until they prove they can't do it any more. Don Imus would have been able to continue with his job on the radio/TV gig until he was ready to leave on his own and only until he proved that he couldn't do it anymore as well.
He's proved that.
Since he doesn't have his faculties about him enough to know that in the age of Politically Correct Double Standards there are something's you can't say any more, it's time to bring in someone else. I run a website that's formatted to look the way a political website would look if the Internet existed during The Golden Era. I love old things, I love vintage style and I appreciate the contributions from people who are older and much wiser then I am. Even I can look at this and say it's time for a fresh start.
It's time for his employers to give Don Imus his hat, and ask him to leave. Now's the time for him to ride off into the sunset and retire at his ranch. Adios, I-Man...
Capitalism Magazine: "Al Sharpton: The Democrat's David Duke," by Jeff Jacoby --
Charity Governance: IMUS IN THE MORNING: NOT WITH MY MONEY YOU DON’T.
MSNBC's Don Imus Home Page
New York Times Topic Search - Don Imus
Washington Times: "Slap! Bad Imus! Ok, Now Everybody Back to Your Raunchy Radio." by Marc Fisher.
Washington Post: Lisa de Moraes - Sorry Excuses: MSNBC's Form Apology
SwiftVets.com - The Real Story on John Kerry's Military Service.