April 9, 2007

Questioning Imus and Us as Listeners

Print More

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.