Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Imus problem turning into a 'gate'?
Members of the Rutgers women's basketball team at a press conference Tuesday

Late breaking news on Imusgate: Keith Olbermann reported tonight on Countdown that Staples, Bigelow Tea, Procter and Gamble and several unnamed clients of major advertising carrier Carat USA have pulled out of the Imus in the Morning show broadcast on MSNBC...

The worm has turned... I'm ready to admit I was wrong about this thing going away. This guy is in trouble...

More on the backlash here.

I rarely go into the personal on this blog, but I have to admit that I am truly torn on this issue. As I said in my now revised initial post on the issue, my first reaction to the Imus story was that it was another case of an old white geezer trying to be funny by tagging along on what he thought was "cool" Black slang and failing miserably. I have occasionally listened to Imus, and while I don't find him objectionable in the way I do Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Michael Savage, I tend to turn the dial as soon as his executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, or his, in my opinion, viciously racist occasional sports guy Sid Rosenberg (who has his own show here in Miami on 790 The Ticket) gets going. Imus strikes me as a generally harmless old crank, and his comments were offensive, rude, and yeah, racist, but again, my initial reaction was, f^^ him. Why give him more power or influence than his words deserve? He was going after those girls because they are big female basketball players and not "attractive" in his opinion. He should apologize, take his suspension, aand get bent...

And in a way, I guess I'm frustrated that so often, African-Americans get all fired up about issues like this, but can't be brought to life on such weighy issues as the violence in many of our communities (particularly in Miami right now), the degradation of voting rights, not to mention our women, within our own comedy, movies and music, etc. Clearly, there are much bigger fish to fry in this country than one stupid old radio guy.

At the same time ...

Don Imus clearly played the bully here, going after a team full of outstanding young women who were not his typical political or public targets. These girls didn't deserve to be slimed that way, in a way that was clearly meant to be mean, based on their looks. And the basis for his and his co-host's negative assessment of their looks really was, at base, racist -- because they are big, dark skinned and their hair isn't blowing in the wind. Imus touched a racial third rail, and he deserves the opprobrium he's getting. I feel great sympathy for these girls and their families, and I think Imus' back tracking today, and his new sense of self riteousness, makes him look even more like a jerk.

What has really been extraordinary to watch is the vast difference between how white and black people have reacted to this story. Almost to a man, white commentators (with the exception of opportunist hacks like Limbaugh and the people at Fox News) have said that Imus is a "good guy" who made a mistake and we should all move on since he has apologized. That includes people I respect, like Bill Maher and Craig Crawford. And almost to a person, whites have responded to Imus' behavior by lashing out at Al Sharpton and -- surprise -- the Tawanna Brawley incident. Blacks meanwhile, including most of the callers to our radio show, are livid. The disparity says all you need to know about race in America. We live in very different words.

And right now, I am torn between actually feeling guilty about not being personally insulted by his remarks, and wondering if it's because I simply don't care what white people think, or whether I'm just frustrated that we are spending too much time on this issue, when there's a war on that's killing U.S. troops, the Bush administration is running roughshod over the constitution, poverty and violence continue to increase across this country, and only half of Black kids are graduating from high school, and no one seems to care enough to call for a march.

Does Imus deserve to be fired? I guess when you put it in the context of those ten young girls, and how much these comments humiliated them: sure. Especially since so many other radio and television personalities have lost jobs under similar circumstances. I definitely think his producer should be canned. But at the same time, I can only predict that if he were to be fired, Imus would simply wind up on another network or on XM in a blink. And very little would change. White people just don't approach the issue of race in the same way that Black people do. Whites will invariably call this issue overblown, and will continue to fire off these kind of remarks when 'we' are not around. Black people see this as nuclear, whites simply don't. We're so far apart on our conceptions of issues like this that it's almost impossible to have a single conversation with both groups simultaneously on this issue. Hell, it's almost impossible for me to have a conversation with myself about it at this stage...

So again, I'm torn. If I don't give a damn whether Imus stays or goes, does that make me an insensitive person? Or am I just not willing to elevate the guy to such a high status in my life, or the lives of Black people? Damned if I know...

Okay, that's enough emoting. Back to the news:

The presidential candidates are weighing in...

Not surprisingly, the racially divisive Rudy Giuliani says he'll still be a guest on Imus. BTW he also said that flying the confederate flag is a "states rights" issue... nice.

Baghdad John is defending Imus, too and says he'll still appear...

Mike Huckabee says Imus is still OK with him...

This is fascinating. Imus is generally considered not too friendly to Republicans, and now that he's tagged as a racist, the GOPers are rallying around him.

So far, Romney and Obama are non-commital about appearing again (Romney's people used the "he hasn't been invited back' line...) Hillary condems the remarks but hasn't said whether she'll be on the show again, and Edwards, Biden were out of town on Easter holiday.

Meanwhile, Earl Ofari Hutchinson is much more articulate on the subject than I.

And only Fox News would want to know what Ann Coulter thinks...


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posted by JReid @ 9:26 PM  
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