Lots of reaction to Saturday’s post about Don Imus. It attracted more comments than any other post. Thank you all for participating.
Like all of you who left comments, I am (was?) also a huge Imus fan, and have been for over 20 years. So let me start by pointing out that the quote about Imus going “off the deep end” was said by an Emory University business professor, not me. Unfortunately, I neglected to include the link, so I’ll add it here.
I saw the “nappy headed ho” comment live as it happened, and it didn’t even register a blip in my Outrage Meter. It was obviously just an offhand comment, a spontaneous ad lib, not meant maliciously. It was just part of the Imus in the Morning routine. Regular (and even irregular) viewers knew he didn’t mean it.
However, it was probably a mistake to direct a comment like that toward young college athletes like that. So-called “public figures” (like Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Al Roker) are fair game, but not young kids.
Another point: When you look at Imus’s words in print, they look hateful, racist and indefensible. But seen/heard in the context of his show, they were actually pretty tame. But Sharpton, Roker et al pounced on it and made them seem far more hateful and incendiary.
Imus’s ranting — about autism, Thimerosal, Greening the Cleaning, Auto Body Express, even Whittaker Chambers — has long been an integral part of his act. But I don’t think it’s an “act” at all — just part of his personality. He routinely rails against the foibles of many ethnic and demographic groups, religions, stereotypes of all sorts.
I certainly do not believe Imus is a racist. If anything, he’s a curmudgeon, a cranky old grouch. I’ve never met him, but people who know him personally have told me that that’s who he is, that’s his authentic self. He isn’t afraid to be unlikable. He’s real — no wonder he was such an effective communicator. Name one other person in the blow-dried media who reveals their authentic self…
Of course, Imus is also a performer who put on a great show. He brought in terrific guests, asked good questions, then actually gave them the time to answer, instead of constantly interrupting and badgering them like most Talking TV Heads. (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Bill O’Reilly.) His in-depth interviews and live musical performances by often-ignored talents were a delight and a rarity in today’s ratings-obsessed media.
He was also rich enough that he didn’t care if anyone listened/watched or not. Imus did what HE wanted to do, and screw anyone who didn’t like it. That authenticity attracted millions of listeners and viewers, which in turn attracted sponsors and big bucks. Both have now left MSNBC and CBS radio once they booted Imus.
With his telethons and other campaigns, he did a lot of good. Like NPR pledge breaks, I personally couldn’t listen to them, but I applaud his efforts to use his fame to do good. I admire him for that.
And like many of you commenters, I haven’t watched MSNBC since. It’s part protest, but mostly because there is virtually nothing worth watching on that channel or any other. I’m on a media fast of sorts. Clears the mind. It’s good for you.
BTW, many commenters mentioned they’re boycotting Procter & Gamble. Good for you. Personally, my family hasn’t bought their products in years. Not because of Imus, but because they test their products on live animals, often blinding and maiming them in the process. An inexcusable and barbaric practice.
Finally, it’s interesting that all this reaction came just as The Sopranos was ending its long run on HBO. Like Imus, Tony Soprano is one misunderstood guy. Like Imus, the Sopranos is seen as profane, casting negative stereotypes, etc.
Most of all, what Sopranos executive producer Terence Winter said about networks applies equally to Imus:
“They live in fear of offending anybody. If one guy writes in and says, ‘I’m never going to buy Ivory soap again because you had a joke in your show about albinos and I’m an albino,’ you will get a memo the next day: ‘No more albino jokes.’ They don’t have the courage of their convictions.”
And so it goes…