An Over-reaction To Imus Blunder

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - April 18, 2007

Don Imus is an idiot, but I do not think he is a racist. We are all too familiar with the story of his landmark utterance that has jeopardized his future career. The affront to the Rutgers women’s basketball team, to African-Americans and women, at large, is understandable. I am not sure there is anybody who would agree with Imus’ choice of language in any arena.

But the evisceration of Imus is at the hands of the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. If these men are the arbiters of decency of speech, then we are all damned.

Who in the world does not see the hypocrisy of this paradigm? The racially inappropriate statements from both men over the years would have incited riots if white men uttered them. Where were the demands for the ouster of Jackson with his “Hymie-town” comments, and Sharpton with the Tawana Brawley case? Now we are told that their indignation should be the standard for what any American can or cannot say in public. This is hypocrisy of Biblical proportion.

Do not misconstrue what I am saying. I maintain what Imus said was derogatory and absolutely uncalled for. However, I will tell you this. I don’t believe it came from a malicious man who was hellbent on destroying the psyche of African-American women, especially those of the Rutgers basketball team. Imus is a shock jock. He is expected to be out-spoken, provocative and “on the edge.” That is the primary reason for his success. As fellow talk show host Larry Elder said, “In the department store of what we do, Don Imus plays in the toy section.”

For years, Imus has capitalized on assaulting our sensibilities about our society, including celebrity and politics. I am surprised at MSNBC, which has booted his radio simulcast from their anemic channel, and CBS Radio (the distributor of Imus’ syndicated program) at its, uh, surprise. Imus was doing exactly what is expected of him. He was shocking his listeners.

Don Imus screwed up. It’s completely his fault for where he is today. Although I think agents such as Sharpton and Jackson are self-serving opportunists, they are not the ones to blame. Imus should know this. He should not be shocked that Sharpton swooped in as soon as he heard Imus fumble. The plain truth is that Sharpton, Jackson et al. would not be in business if racism in America were eliminated. They need these fires fanned to perpetuate their own existence. Again, this is something Imus should know.

Here is the bottom line. The retreat by MSNBC and CBS Radio is not in the interest of upholding the standards and morals each company represents. Of course not. It’s all about the dollars, baby. MSNBC does not necessarily sell the Imus show directly to sponsors. Because of the time of day and the broadcast clock, MSNBC will air spots in Imus to meet contractual obligations with their overall sponsors. Once the controversy went into overdrive, sponsors on MSNBC were not only saying they didn’t want their spots appearing on Imus, but now they didn’t want to be anywhere on the network. That is the death knell for Imus on MSNBC.

Imus knows he blew it. But he has been forthcoming in apologizing, and his contrition is genuine. He generates millions of dollars in charitable contributions and continues to support several worthy organizations. I don’t believe he should be fired, and I really don’t think Al Sharpton should be the one to determine what can and cannot be said on the air.

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