Sunday, April 15, 2007
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Imus shouldn’t have been fired
BY MONROE ANDERSON
I know I’m plunging into dangerous waters, but I’ve got to go against the raging Don Imus tide. I think he could have been given much more time off for bad behavior but should not have received from MSNBC and CBS Radio what amounts to corporate capital punishment.
Before I go any further, let me confirm what I believe is obvious: Imus is a grumpy-butt, foul mouth, ol’ coot. Pardon the name calling, but I’m just trying to get in the “Imus in the Morning” spirit that spawned the “nappy-headed hos” riffing between Imus and Bernard McGuirk, the show’s on-air executive producer.
Imus has a three-decades-old history of spewing hateful and hurtful remarks on the air. The daddy of all shock jocks hasn’t limited his nasty remarks solely to teenage girls attending Rutgers University. He has intentionally insulted blacks, women, Jews, Arabs, Catholics and gays. A litany of his “errant comments,” as Fox Cable Network’s Neil Cavuto would describe them, is listed on Media Matters for America, the watchdog Web site that first posted Imus’ comments online. He has referred to black athletes as simians and Arabs as “towel heads.”
But there is more than sexist and racist ranting to the man Time magazine once named one of the 25 Most Influential People in America. Sometimes bad Imus lets good Imus out to do good work. For the past nine years, his Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer has brought some measure of comfort and joy to seriously ill children regardless of race, creed or national origin. On his last day on the air, Imus was fund-raising for three charities -- two for children with cancer, one for families who have lost babies to SIDS, bringing in more than $2 million in contributions.
There’s no charitable thinking in my belief that the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Sen. Barack Obama and almost every group and individual who demanded that Imus be canned was wrong. I believe this despite similar demands from NBC heavyweight Al Roker and Bruce Gordon, a CBS director.
Imus would serve us better on the air than off. During his era of contrition last week, when he was broadcasting his mea culpas and heartfelt apologies, Imus pledged to make amends. With his head bowed and his Stetson hat in hand, he promised to trash his sexist and racial incendiary insults. He promised to have a black presence on his show daily. I saw it as a bad old dog ready to learn some new good tricks. The firing converted that opportunity to DOA. After four to six weeks off for moral reflection and rehabilitation, a new, improved “Imus in the Morning” featuring a strong-willed, sharp-tongued black woman would have worked wonders on the strait-jacketed thinking of the show’s mostly white male, mainly conservative network of listeners. Instead of McGuirk and the I-Man one-upping each other’s racist and sexist jokes, imagine “CBS Sunday Morning’s” commentator Nancy Giles, Louisville Courier Journal columnist Betty Baye or Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell present and ready for repartee.
We now may end up with Imus, the devil we don’t know, instead of Imus, the devil we knew. Banished from terrestrial radio, Imus is bound to end up on satellite or off in cyberspace. Like that other race-baiting shock jock, Howard Stern, Imus is a longtime friend to Mel Karmazin, CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio. There are 2.3 million I-Man listeners still out, whose appetite for his shock shtick is undiminished. Imagine what new depths the I-Man and McQuirk duo might go to on pay radio, uncensored and unchecked. Or imagine them on the Internet, where pornography is predatory. Next year, Wi-Max -- wide-area wireless access -- will make the Internet available everywhere, including in automobiles. In a new medium with a possible 100,000 streams, Imus would be a definite destination.
We could have kept an eye on Imus in mainstream media. Out there on the World Wide Web, he’s on his own.