April 9, 2007

Questioning Imus and Us as Listeners

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WFAN and MSNBC radio host Don Imus crossed the line on his April 4th broadcast of “Imus in the Morning,” … again. Imus, a member of the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame, has made a living out of making derogatory comments about blacks, jews, and women amongst many other things. Wednesday’s verbal assault against the Rutgers’ women’s basketball team referring to them as “nappy headed ho’s” was just another episode of Imus’ ignorance towards minority groups.

Imus has an extensive history of insensitive comments, and yet, he still remains employed.

In the past, Imus referred to PBS journalist Gwen Ifill, a black woman, as a cleaning lady. It was also reported that Imus referred to Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz as a “boner-nosed, beanie wearing Jew boy.” Imus even went as far as to say that Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton “will have cornrows and gold teeth before this fight” with Sen. Barack Obama is over.
And it’s obvious to us all why he still remains employed, his show — thanks to its shock value — attracts a large number of listeners. But when do we, as ethical beings, begin to jettison those shows that simply say things to earn viewers, and therefore earn dollars.
On Friday, the National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ) called for Imus’ removal by Monday morning.
The NABJ released this statement, “What he has said has deeply hurt too many people — black and white, male and female,” said NABJ President Bryan Monroe. “His so-called apology comes two days after the fact, and it is too little, too late.”

“Imus in the Morning” sponsors New York Stock Exchange, New York Times, Random House and Newsday have also been under speculation, questioned for the support of the host who has spewed so many insensitive remarks over the course of his career.

On August 17th 2001, during the “All Things Considered,” broadcast on National Public Radio, Imus pledged to cease from some of his insensitive remarks.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: “Back in May of last year, something remarkable happened on ‘Imus in the Morning.’ Clarence Page, the Washington columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a regular guest on the classy part of the show, asked Imus to take a pledge.”
(Soundbite of programming)
“Page: Are you raising your hand?
“IMUS: I have it up.
“PAGE: OK. Number one. I, Don Imus…
“IMUS: I, Don Imus…
“PAGE: . . . do solemnly swear . . .
“IMUS: . . . do solemnly swear . . .
“PAGE: . . . that I will promise to cease all simian references to black athletes. . .
“IMUS: . . . that I will promise to cease all simian references to black athletes. . .
“PAGE: . . . abandon all references to non-criminal blacks as thugs, pimps, muggers and Colt 45 drinkers.
“IMUS: I promise to do that.
Obviously that pledge, just like his apology on Friday, was falsely uttered with no real intent to change.
Will Imus remain employed by WFAN? Probably, the ratings boost — thanks to this controversy — is probably too good for the network to turn down, despite his unconsciousness behind the microphone. And if he does get fired, I wouldn’t be too surprised if another station picks him up, hoping to get the shock-reliant audience to listen. In today’s world — sadly enough — when it comes to money, ethics gets thrown out the door.
Invited to Monday’s show are NBC’s Tim Russert, former Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant and Newsweek’s Evan Thomas. Unfortunately their presence, along with Imus’ growing negative publicity will probably contribute to one of his better radio shows, numbers-wise, in months. I doubt he gets fired, that is, unless he miraculously loses his viewers. Unfortunately, in today’s state of radio – especially morning radio – it is the DJ’s that pollute their broadcasts with unethical topics and insensitive jokes that grab our attention instead of the ones who can bring the same content without having to degrade a group of people. There is no doubt in my mind that Imus should be fired.
The question remains, we will as listeners, revert from our habits of reluctantly listening to these “shock” disk jockeys?
It is the only way to make sure people like Imus don’t make the air.
We must, as listeners, look for substance and dismiss the shock DJs that grab our attention for all the wrong reasons.

Note: Imus will appear on Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show today at 1:05 p.m.
Harrison D. Sanford is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. He can be contacted at hdsanford@cornellsun.com.

  • Ross Parsons

    What else can we expect from this self-important disc-jerky whose only defense is that he runs a cattle ranch for kids with cancer…a cattle ranch where he lives, all expenses paid by corporate contributors seeking tax relief, while we suffer his continuous self-promotion of all things Imus. Imus foods, Imus cleaning products, with all proceeds shamelessly hustled for the charitable benefit of his cattle ranch where he and his child-bride can dress up like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and play cowboy. Quite the scheme…I think I’ll invite some sick kids to my “condo for kids with cancer” this summer and see if General Motors will donate a half-million dollars worth of vehicles so I can drive them to the pool.

  • Burt Lancaster

    Here’s another part of the problem: along with Russert, Imus counts NBC White House Correspondent David Gregory, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell (who’s married to Alan Greenspan) and Senators John Kerry, John McCain and Joe Biden among his legions of prominent regular guests. These guests not only lend credibility to Imus but also make him something of a must-listen among certain circles of media and Washington insiders. It’s not just the listeners or the advertisers, but these folks too (and especially, since they draw listeners and advertisers) who ought to be blamed for continuing to support him.

  • bitmuch

    I rarely watch Imus because I get tired of the immature name calling that some fans consider to be humorous. I watched two mornings last week, but I missed his remarks about Rutgers on the morning he let it fly. (I think calling these women jigaboos is just as outrageous.) Picking on people and calling them names isn’t funny.
    But, I do not think he should be fired. I don’t want him to become a martyr, and I think that is a risky possibility if Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, et al continue to beat this dead horse. In the midst of all the rhetoric, I have heard a genuine call for dialog about the pernicious effects of racism in our society. Let’s not waste this opportunity to address the pain and shame we live with.

  • gus

    I used to watch the Imus Program on MSNBC while getting ready for work in the morning. I find some of the content quite funny, but he often crosses the line in what he classifies as comedy. I recently made the decision to stop watching the program, because making fun of people for their beliefs, their looks, or their ethnicity IS NOT FUNNY. Period…. Just because he is an equal opportunity insult specialist, does not make it acceptable. People of decency need to just stop listening and watching such garbage. I am.