Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Niggers of 940
How many times can you say "nigger" on talk radio without attracting the attention of the FCC? That was the question Don Imus tackled this morning on his resuscitated program, broadcast from WABC in New York to affiliates far and wide, including 940 WINZ, the "progressive talk" (cough)/Fox News radio station here in South Florida. Imus had as his guest (and still does, I think, as of this posting,) fellow domestic dinosaur Dick Cavett, who has a new post up at the New York Times website called "The Wild Wordsmith of Wasila," which, as it should, disses poor, chatty Sarah Palin.

During what seemed like an hour long conversation (though I was only in my car listening for a few minutes as I pulled into my driveway...) Cavett managed to somehow steer poor Don from a perfectly benighn chat about the Times column, into a rather uncomfortable sidebar about the n-word; why there are "words we're not allowed to say," reminiscences on the aides who tried to teach Lyndon Johnson to say "Negro" instead of "niggra," George Wallace telling Cavett at some point in history that he "gave niggras jobs," Cavett's posession of a Nixon tape in which an aide, presumably Patrick Buchanan, asks Nixon aide Dan Ehrlichman, "this Cavett... how can we screw him?" ... and in Cavet's words, "why if your grandfather is Chinese, you're a white man, and if your grandfather is black, you're a Negro," to which he added, "I don't get it. When Barack Obama says he's a black man I say, yeah but you're a white man too, fifty percent. On some deeper level, I suppose I get it."

And our boy Dick didn't stop there. He then launched into a dissertation on the book that Hemingway called the book from which all other modern American literature sprang: "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and the book's "heart and soul," Nigger Jim. After Cavett had said "Nigger Jim" about three times, and opined on some modern day "Negro" who wanted the book banned, and who just didn't understand that Nigger Jim was "the goodest character in the book," Imus, who has developed a psychiatric condition that falls somewhere between a needy fixation on race and a massive martyr complex over his firing by CBS Radio and MSNBC, promptly changed the subject. Promptly.

You could almost see poor old Don melting like warm jello in his WABC-issue chair.

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posted by JReid @ 8:50 AM  
Friday, May 04, 2007
Imus' lawsuit: $120 million
ABC News has gotten hold of a copy of Don Imus' lawsuit against CBS. He is seeking three times his $40 million contract, and back-handing the organization that once considered him a golden boy. Imus' key points?

If CBS considered his "nappy headed ho" comments so offensive, why didn't they use the "dump button" (a device that takes advantage of the delay we have in talk radio, usually several seconds between what we say and what listeners hear) to delete them?

If CBS didn't want him to be irreverent and controversial, why did they put in his contract language that stipulated that his program would be irreverent and controversial?

If CBS was so outraged by his comments, why did they wait two weeks to fire him?

If what Imus said was so far beyond the pale (and worse than things he's said before), where is the FCC? ABC reports the following:
Meanwhile, four former FCC commissioners contacted by ABC News say they do not believe that the speech was actionable under current federal guidelines that prohibit profanity or indecency on public airwaves.

And of course, there's that clause that says he had to be warned before being terminated. He wasn't.

I've already gone over my feelings on the whole Imus affair, which I considered to have been overblown. And I'll predict now that CBS Radio is going to end up paying him big bucks in a major settlement. They don't want to see this go to trial, and have their scads of dirty laundry put out on show (i.e., by the Imus side expurgating every conceivably offensive piece of content produced for CBS television and radio, not to mention their associated record labels...)

In the end, what's important for CBS' bottom line is this:
The network is expected to rely on a clause in the radio talk show host's contract that says he can be terminated for 'just cause' if CBS determines that he used "distasteful or offensive words or phrases, the broadcast of which [CBS] believes would not be in the public interest or may jeopardize [the networks's] Federal license to operate..."
One former FCC commissioner who spoke to ABC News suggested that CBS had gotten exactly what it had bargained for.

"The issue is one more of extremely poor judgement than it is an FCC issue," said ex-commissioner Harold Furtchgott-Roth. "That's what Imus' schtick has been for years."
Prediction: CBS will wind up paying the craggy old bastard.


posted by JReid @ 8:54 PM  
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The Imus effect: the stupefying magic of appearing to do something Big
CBS Radio will soon have no talent on its network that have any edge to them at all. The network is all radio hosts who insist on doing racial jokes. Good thing Jackie Mason isn't still around. Clearly, we've entered a new era, which is probably a good thing, although you've got to know that blue language isn't going away, it will just go to satellite radio, underground radio, and the comedy clubs.

Meanwhile, Russell Simmons calls a meeting with record execs, to propose that they do ... what radio already ... does... ban three little words from the clean versions of hip-hop songs.

Wow. Now that's exactly on the scale of the jihad to get Don Imus canned...

By the way, a word to the wise: don't ever call anybody a ho, ever ... again... if you want to remain employed.

Meanwhile, will someone please fire Rosie O'Donnell ... from public life?

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posted by JReid @ 9:44 AM  
Monday, April 23, 2007
McGuirk fired, too
CBS fires Don Imus' perennially offensive longtime producer and sidekick, Bernard McGuirk, more than a week after Imus got the boot. McGuirk, who started the whole "ho" diatribe, will have to do his Ray Nagin and Cardinal O'Connor impressions elsewhere. Meanwhile, Jason Whitlock is publicly cool to the idea of replacing Imus at the FAN. ... the operative word being publicly. I know how hard it is to get a radio job, let alone a nationally syndicated show. If Whitlock has half a brain, he's seriously considering. ...


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posted by JReid @ 8:12 AM  
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Now wouldn't THAT be ironic...
CBS Radio is reportedly interviewing Jason Whitlock, an African-American sports columnist for AOL Sports and the Kansas City Star, to take Don Imus' old spot on WFAN as a syndicated national radio host. Conventional African-American Wisdom: That's great!

Um. .... you DO know I mean this Jason Whitlock:
Jason Whitlock, the columnist for the Kansas City Star and AOL Sports, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the effort to get Don Imus taken off the air for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos." Whitlock isn't defending what Imus said, but he is saying that in many respects, Imus's critics are worse than Imus.

And in an appearance on Tucker Carlson's show on MSNBC, Whitlock lashed out at Imus's two harshest critics, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Whitlock said, "I would say to CBS, don't negotiate with terrorists...
Conventional African-American Wisdom: damn ...

Meanwhile, the KC Star has Whitlock playing it coy. And CBS Radio sues an L.A. radio station for its defiant airing of Imus reruns.


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posted by JReid @ 9:20 PM  
Monday, April 16, 2007
Hypocrizzles on the dizzle
Two people who should never, ever, ever, ever say another word about Imusgate: Snoop d-o-double-jizzle and Bob "BET" Jizzle. Read on, if you have a strong stomach...

Fresh from his plea of no contest to gun charges, Snoop Dogg has added his two cents to the Imus debate, stating that the broadcasting legend should indeed have his job yanked for calling the Rutgers University basketball team “nappy headed hoes.”

The rapper has referred to women as “b**ches” and “hoes” in his music since his first album, “Doggystyle,” in 1993. But the Long Beach MC says there’s a difference between the sexist terms used in hip hop and the way Imus said it last Wednesday during his broadcast.

"It's a completely different scenario. (Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports,” said Snoop, according to the Web site Female First. "We're talking about hoes that's in the 'hood that ain't doing s**t, that's trying to get a n**ga for his money. These are two separate things.”

"First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls,” he continued. "We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them muthaf**kas say we are in the same league as him. Kick him off the air forever."

Ugh ... wait, wait, there's more...

Meanwhile, BET has been accused of perpetuating the use of “ho” by airing rap videos that contain lyrics and images that are brutally misogynistic. The network’s founder, Robert Johnson, was a guest on MSNBC Thursday in the space that had been occupied by “Imus in the Morning” just 24 hours earlier - before the cable channel canceled the radio simulcast late Wednesday.

David Gregory asked Johnson via phone: “You are the founder of Black Entertainment Television, which over the years, has been a platform for hip hop artists and videos – particularly late at night, which are graphic, which feature this kind of language – the word ho, the b-word, the n-word – that sexualize women, black women, white women. You provided that platform. Do you think there’s something different about that in this case?

Johnson responded: “I absolutely do. As I said David, when you look at artistic expression, you look at creative freedom, it’s coming from artists who are expressing their particular content. …And for the record, I think if you call anybody in the record industry, they will tell you that as the founder of BET and the person responsible for putting on music videos, I absolutely encouraged every artist and every record label to tone down the sexuality, tone down the misogynistic lyrics, to provide content that was appealing to everybody. But as I said earlier, in this kind of debate, if it’s going to have any traction in all, we’ve got to recognize artistic freedom. We’ve got to recognize creative expression. …I make a clear distinction between a comedian saying something in a comedy platform, an artist saying something in an artistic platform, versus a political commentator talking to the power elite of this nation and feeling because he engages with the power elite, he can say things against a disadvantaged class with impunity.”

Here's a thought. Why don't the both of you go away, and never speak publicly about this subject again.

Meanwhile, Rev. Jesse Jackson has been high fiving all over the place about having ousted Imus. He and Reverend Al Sharpton have also been fielding death threats. Sharpton was supposed to be here in South Florida over the weekend to lead a march by groundskeepers and janitors at Nova Southeastern University, who have been the victims of what looks like a major league case of union busting. He was a no-show, and we heard that death threats may have played a part (although the official reason for the cancellation was scheduling conflicts.)

Gwen Ifill is taking a bit of the school marm route, appearing on the Sunday chat shows to tisk tisk her fellow reporters for not committing to never, ever speak to Don Imus on the air again. This story is thick with hypocrisy, and the moralizing and high horsedness on the part of some, by no means all, African-American pundits is starting to become grating.

And then there is the potential for Imusgate snowballing into the tit-for-tat silencing of voices that cause discomfort. From Frank Rich's recent NYT column:

What Imus said about the Rutgers team landed differently, not least because his slur was aimed at young women who had no standing in the world of celebrity, and who had done nothing in public except behave as exemplary student athletes. The spectacle of a media star verbally assaulting them, and with a creepy, dismissive laugh, as if the whole thing were merely a disposable joke, was ugly. You couldn’t watch it without feeling that some kind of crime had been committed. That was true even before the world met his victims. So while I still don’t know whether Imus is a bigot, there was an inhuman contempt in the moment that sounded like hate to me. You can see it and hear it in the video clip in a way that isn’t conveyed by his words alone.

Does that mean he should be silenced? The Rutgers team pointedly never asked for that, and I don’t think the punishment fits the crime. First, as a longtime Imus listener rather than someone who tuned in for the first time last week, I heard not only hate in his wisecrack but also honesty in his repeated vows to learn from it. Second, as a free-speech near-absolutist, I don’t believe that even Mel Gibson, to me an unambiguous anti-Semite, should be deprived of his right to say whatever the hell he wants to say. The answer to his free speech is more free speech - mine and yours. Let Bill O’Reilly talk about “wetbacks” or Rush Limbaugh accuse Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s symptoms, and let the rest of us answer back.

Liberals are kidding themselves if they think the Imus firing won’t have a potentially chilling effect on comics who push the line. Let’s not forget that Bill Maher, an Imus defender last week, was dropped by FedEx, Sears, ABC affiliates and eventually ABC itself after he broke the P.C. code of 9/11. Conservatives are kidding themselves if they think the Imus execution won’t impede Ann Coulter’s nasty invective on the public airwaves. As Al Franken pointed out to Larry King on Wednesday night, CNN harbors Glenn Beck, who has insinuated that the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, is a terrorist (and who has also declared that “faggot” is nothing more than “a naughty name“). Will Time Warner and its advertisers be called to account? Already in the Imus aftermath, the born-again blogger Tom DeLay has called for the firing of Rosie O’Donnell because of her “hateful” views on Chinese-Americans, conservative Christians and President Bush.

If that happens, then Don Imus, who is already rich, near retirement age, and thus set for life, won't be the only loser.

Rich makes another great point about the "free speech" argument, the "let's talk about race" platitudes, and about the perennially identity challenged MSNBC:

corporations, whether television or radio networks or movie studios or commercial sponsors, are free to edit or cancel any content. No one has an inalienable right to be broadcast or published or given a movie or music contract. Whether MSNBC and CBS acted out of genuine principle or economic necessity is a debate already raging. Just as Imus’s show defied easy political definition - he has both kissed up to Dick Cheney as a guest and called him a war criminal - so does the chatter about what happened over the past week. MSNBC, forever unsure of its identity, seems to have found a new calling by turning that debate into a running series, and I say, go for it.

The biggest cliché of the debate so far is the constant reiteration that this will be a moment for a national “conversation” about race and sex and culture. Do people really want to have this conversation, or just talk about having it? If they really want to, it means we have to ask ourselves why this debacle has given permission to talking heads on television to repeat Imus’s offensive words so insistently that cable news could hardly take time out to note the shocking bombing in the Baghdad Green Zone. Some even upped the ante: Donna Brazile managed to drag “jigaboo” into Wolf Blitzer’s sedate “Situation Room” on CNN.

If we really want to have this conversation, it also means we have to have a nonposturing talk about hip-hop lyrics, “Borat,” “South Park” and maybe Larry David, too. As James Poniewozik pointed out in his smart cover article for Time last week, an important question emerged from an Imus on-air soliloquy as he tried to defend himself: “This phrase that I use, it originated in the black community. That didn’t give me a right to use it, but that’s where it originated. Who calls who that and why? We need to know that. I need to know that.”

My 22-year-old son, a humor writer who finds Imus an anachronistic and unfunny throwback to the racial-insult humor of the Frank Sinatra-Sammy Davis Jr. Rat Pack ilk, raises a complementary issue. He argues that when Sacha Baron Cohen makes fun of Jews and gays, he can do so because he’s not doing it as himself but as a fictional character. But try telling that to the Anti-Defamation League, which criticized Mr. Baron Cohen, an observant Jew, for making sport of a real country (Kazakhstan) and worried that the “Borat” audience “may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry.”

So if we really want to have this national “conversation” about race and culture and all the rest of it that everyone keeps telling us that this incident has prompted, let’s get it on, no holds barred. And the fewer moralizing pundits and politicians, the better. ...

Great points.

At the end of the day, I remain a libertarian when it comes to speech. As Rich said, there's no constitutional right to have a radio show, and Imus suffered the vicissitudes of advertisers and shareholders, even if that meant that his considerable audience didn't have their views taken into account. But if there is a demand for what he does, he'll come back. And if not, some other peddler of vulgarity will take his place. And that's the way it's supposed to work. The last thing we need is some team of reverendly and media schoolmarms becoming the gate keepers of what can and connot be on the air. Because believe me, if the right has its way, it won't just be racially offensive speech that goes down the chute, it will be inconvenient political speech too. As Scott Long at the Juice Blog puts it:

Those that are joyous of [Imus'] downfall should be really careful about thinking that the next few targets will be as quick and easy, as the backlash will get stronger when they go after the next groups on their list.
Like, maybe, the violent, misogynistic strains of hip-hop, perhaps?

Don Imus is a dinosaur, who apprently didn't see the ice age coming. But he has spawned a generation of foul talking smart mouths who are now the core of talk radio. The only difference with Imus is that he became politically important and he sold tons of books for people, sort of like a demonic version of Oprah.

I would love to see the hip-hop community, the comedy community, et. al. clean up their act and lay off the Black jokes. But I want to seem them do it because they get that the world has changed, rather than because they're being forced to do it.

And by the way, questions over whether the Imus death penalty was, in fact, overkill, aren't just being asked by white people:

I know that I personally don't carry the weight of black America on my shoulders, since every racist comment (vs. blacks) is not directed at me - similar to the way white citizens don't carry the burden of history on their shoulders and an insurmountable sense of guilt.

The Imus situation would be very different if he blatantly said "black women are nappy-headed hos who deserve to die" (sounds remotely Chappelle-esque), and in that instance of course Sharpton would be warranted in attacking Imus. The Rutgers incident is solely between the women of the Rutgers basketball team and Imus - he apologized and they accepted. Granted, he only apologized once the media firestorm began, but at least he apologized to whom he insulted.

In order to be successful in life, you have to be comfortable with yourself. I know that people's racist comments have only hurt me when clearly directed at me (far beyond stereotypes and generalizations), and the Imus situation seems like another case of an individual's commentary affecting more than his intended "target" thanks to the media exacerbating commentary that I never would have even heard in the first place.
Well... she does have a point...


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posted by JReid @ 7:32 AM  
Friday, April 13, 2007
My troublesome doubts
The "I'm sick of the Imus story rant" Part One:

The question of whether hip-hop culture, and its characterization of women, is as damaging -- if not more so -- than Don Imus' petty tirade against the Rutgers womens' basketball team, is now center stage. With Imus gone, the white folks whom Blacks would like to see finally "get it" on the subject of why racial insults are so hurtful, are in reality saying "are you freaking KIDDING me??? The guy gets fired for some stupid comment??? Give me a break!" Many are also crying hypocrisy, since the Black community that has declared itself so mortally wounded by a geriatric misanthrope with a microphone and a really poor imitation of "cool", routinely tolerates the debasement of African-American women in music, films, comedy, magazines, and on and on.

I am among a very small minority of Black folk who are not interested in doing a victory dance over Imus' ouster. I'm not exactly crying over his firing, either, mind you. People get fired in talk radio all the time for saying or doing stupid things that get their stations or networks in hot water. Imus must live by the same rules. I also think the National Association of Black Journalists, and its vocal membership, including people like Gwen Ifill and Al Roker, had every right to press their case with NBC and CBS News. If I were still working at NBC, I would have been in those meetings saying exactly the same thing -- namely, that as a journalist, I had no interest in working under the same roof with a non-journalist shock jock who feels free to spew that kind of vitriol against a bunch of college girls. I would have wanted MSNBC to do something, quickly! ... before we turn into Fox News! I in fact, am fully in support of the NBC cable network's cancellation of his simulcast. What was good for Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh, who were canned by, or resigned from, respectively, MSNBC and ESPN after going over the line of taste, is certainly good for Imus. Hell, I'm for pulling the equally race-baiting Glenn Beck off of CNN Headline News, after his slaps at Keith Ellison and others. But the yanking of Imus' show from CBS is, in my opinion, another matter. That was not about punishing him for crossing the line. That was about shutting him up entirely, or proving that "we" could "get him." Somehow, I'm just feeling kind of queasy about that.

I know I'm going to get slammed for saying this, but I think the vehemence of many in my community to "get Imus" lacked a certain, how shall I say, sense of the larger picture. Okay, so Imus is gone. Now what? Do we debate the cultural setting that made him feel comfortable aping what he clearly thought was hip, Black slang as a way of denegrating the looks of a bunch of girl athletes? Do we ask where a geriatric white man gets the term "nappy headed ho," if not from Black slang? Do we ask whether BET is broadcasting far worse denigrations of Black women every freaking day? While we're at it, should we seek the firing of Bob Johnson, for abusing our sensibilities with "butt naked" videos for 20 years? What about the other shock jocks? Do we fire them too? Do Asians get pumped up to fire Rosie O'Donnell for disparaging them on the public airwaves? Will there be anybody left to fire when we're through? Would Imus, thoroughly cowed, have been more useful on the air, forced to confront the issue of race seriously, rather than as a punchline? Like the question about the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, the world will never know.

And I'm really growing weary of watching television personalities of the Caucasian persuasion doing the obligatory hang-dog look and "Imus' comments were racist and wrong" tagger before launching into whatever it is they really want to say. I just don't buy that most white people really "get" what it is Black folks are so riled up about. Some do, and are equally riled (Keith Olbermann comes to mind...) but most of them are uber-liberal and reacting to a very general sence of outrage over everything that smacks of an 'ism. More generally, I happen to believe that most white people are embarassed and disgusted by the idea of racism and don't want to be associatd with it, and thus, don't want Imus hanging around stinking up the joint. That said, I think that if you promised never to tell the P.C. police on them, most white people also think Imus was the victim of a bunch of high horse Christians who don't happen to quite believe in forgiveness, and the mob that followed them to church...

I think the more sincere white talking heads on the tubie are those like Craig Crawford, David Gregory and Joe Scarborough, who, after doing the obligatory "Imus' comments were racist and wrong" mantra, actually admit to being baffled as to why a chastened Imus could not have been allowed to remain in his job after serving his two week banishment and perhaps giving a healthy donation to a Title IX charity, and why there had to be a jihad against his very employment in this world. Or those like Bill Maher and Pat Buchanan who are calling the Imus flap "ridiculous" and overblown and an attack on free speech. Call me cynical, but I suspect that the Imus flap won't bring about better healing and racial understanding. It will touch off a cross current of wars against liberal talkers, conservative talkers, unacceptable white talkers, unacceptable black talkers, and possibly, a renewed sense of terror over the existence of Youtube. At least until some bubbly starlet strokes out in rehab, adopts a Malawian child or wins American Idol...

The "I'm sick of the Imus story rant" Part Two:

My sister and I just had a long telephone conversation about this, which is why I'm riled up enough to blather on about it. After talking with her for nearly an hour, (I feel the need to reveal that she's an actress, and wears her hair natural, which makes for a double dose of adventure in her life...) I finally hit on what's really bugging me about this whole exercise. I keep wondering if it's at all helpful to see those Rutgers girls paraded across the national consciousness as victims, so delicate in constitution that they were ready to crumble upon hearing, second hand, that some old geezer called them a name? (What ever happened to "your MAMAs a nappy headed ho!?" Okay, maybe that wouldn't have sounded as good in that one hour presser...) And then, to have those same, "pretend outraged-but not quite getting why they're supposed to be" white commentators, not to mention Mrs. Imus, declare breathlessly -- and daily -- that after all, the girls really, really ARE pretty, aren't they? Just look at their perms! Sorry, but somebody please pass the air sickness bag. These girls are powerful, tough athletic and academic stars. They don't need a weeping nation to approve of their fresh new perms, and white people to tell them they're really so very beautiful, do they? Have we gotten that soft? Is this the same community that survived slavery, lynching and Jim Crow? (Okay, sorry, I guess that was the savvy P.R. way to handle the situation, and I applaud Rutgers for their strategery ... oh, and Oprah was a nice touch -- beyond that, the girls have been hermetically sealed from media...) To illustrate my point, Condi Rice has said she's glad Imus was fired for his "disgusting" remarks. But then she said this:

Asked how she handled racist, sexist comments directed her way, Rice laughed and
replied: "I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself. And I really don't care because, you know, I'm a mature woman."

Exactly, Condi. Shouldn't we be encouraging these girls to be as tough as you are?

If we're going to have a conversation about assaults on the femininity of Black women -- something which goes back, not to Don Imus, but to the very formation of this country -- let's have that conversation. Don Imus was taunting those girls because in his mind (just like his buddy Stu's reduction of the Williams sisters to "animals") tall, athletic, dark skinned women aren't really women, and definitely aren't feminine or attractive. You really need to look as much like a white woman as possible if you want to make it around here, dear... We could have had that conversation with Imus in his chair. I really woudn't have cared. But that conversation would have had to include a whole lot of Black men, too.

Meanwhile, the possibility that the jihad will turn next on the hip-hop nation has riled up the MTV generation. Russell Simmons released this statement today, after Snoop Dogg and other artists started getting calls from media on whether Don Imus was, in fact, pimping their ho's. Said Simmons (and his Hip Hop Summit Action Network partner Dr. Ben Chavis). I've put the glaring ironies in bold italics...:

"Hip-Hop is a worldwide cultural phenomena that transcends race and doesn't engage in racial slurs. Don Imus' racially-motivated diatribe toward the Rutgers' women's basketball team was in no way connected to hip-hop culture. As Chairman and President of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), respectively, we are concerned by the false comparisons some in the media are making between Don Imus and hip-hop. We want to clarify what we feel very strongly is an obvious difference between the two.

"HSAN believes in freedom of artistic expression. We also believe, with that freedom, comes responsibility. Don Imus is not a hip-hop artist or a poet. Hip-hop artists rap about what they see, hear and feel around them, their experience of the world. Like the artists throughout history, their messages are a mirror of what is right and wrong with society. Sometimes their observations or the way in which they choose to express their art may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but our job is not to silence or censor that expression. Our job is to be an inclusive voice for the hip-hop community and to help create an environment that encourages the positive growth of hip-hop. Language can be a powerful tool. That is why one's intention, when using the power of language, should be made clear. Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mindset that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship."
Pardon? Are these artists seeing THAT many bitches, tricks and ho's around them?

Damn, the streets are tough! And how's this for poetic expression (editorial on: the pic above is of Snoop, and please don't post a comment pointing out that the lyrics below are not his... they're from Ludacris, and I know he has a song out about runaways, k? editorial off.):

Shake your money maker
Like somebody's bout to pay ya
Don't worry about them haters
Keep your nose up in the air

You know I got it
If you wanna come get it
Stand next to this money
Like - ey ey

[Verse 1]
Shake, shake, shake your money maker
Like you were shaking it for some paper
It took your momma 9 months to make ya
Might as well shake what your momma gave ya
You, you lookin good in them jeans
I bet you'd look even beter with me in between
I keep my mind on my money - money on my mind
But you's a hell of a distraction when you shake your behind
I got *** on my right side pourin' some cups
My whole hood is to my left and they ain't givin a fuck
So feel free to get loose and get carried away
So by tomorrow you forgot what you where saying today
But don't forget about this feeling that I am making you get
And all the calories you burn from me making you sweat
The mile highpoints you earn when we taking my jet and
How everywhere you turn I'll be making you wet

... [Verse 2]
Switch, switch, switch it from right to left
And switch it till you running right out of breath
And take a break until you ready again
And you can invite over as many friends as
You want to but I really want you and just
[ these lyrics found on ]
Be thankfull that Pharrel gave you something to bump to
Luda - I'm at the top of my game
You want my hands from your bottom to the top of your frame
And I - just wanna take a little right on your curves
And get erotic giving your body just what it deserves and
Let me give you some swimming lessons on the penis
Backstroke, breaststroke, stroke of a genius
Yepp call me the renissance man get up and
I stay harder then a cinderblock man
Hey I;m just a bedroom gangster
And I've been meaning to tell that I really mus thank ya when you

Shake your money maker
Like somebody's bout to pay ya
I see you on my radar
Don't you act like you're a faker


You know I got it
If you wanna come get it
Stand next to this money
Like - ey ey

Yep. Pure poetry, bitches. And now that CBS has purged itself of Donald Imus, they can get back to squeezing big bucks out of their Viacom unit's hit VH1 spin-offs of "The Flavor of Love"...

Now, keeping it real, I blame myself along with everyone else. I happen to like the above song. Great track. And I love and listen to hip-hop -- have done for most of my life at this point. And I know that there are still great artists out there putting out music with real lyrics, and no bullshit. But there's also a pervasive culture of degradation, and we can't run away from it, just as the majority culture has to deal with its drunk and disorderly starlets, Girls Gone Wild sluttiness and promiscuity cults, and various other cultural ills we all share. But denying that there's any connection between the culture we create and the culture others absorb, when we share this county in increasingly close quarters, is just damned disengenuous.

How much hypocrisy can you fit into one story???

Related: The Times Alan Davieson has some 'advice for whitey...'

Also related: The Hatemongers over at Wizbang ... no, that's really their name ... also are tired of the hang dog cable news white people ... and they remember the forgotten victims on the Tennessee women's basketball team (talk about having your 15 minutes stolen...)

The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers ... the ones who actually won the tournament...

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posted by JReid @ 7:52 PM  
Anatomy of a takedown
The Wall Street Journal gives all the gory details of the step by step disintegration of the Imus franchise.

Meanwhile, Pat Buchanan assails what he calls the hypocrites and charlatans who orchestrated the take-down.

Tom Delay (who has about zero credibility and really shouldn't be talking in public anymore) says they got Imus, now, let's get Rosie. Now, I can't stand Rosie, let's stipulate to that. If the righties are successful on this one. That said, the Imus take-down might be this year's impeachment, starting a never ending war of political tit for tat. Here we go!

The girls, by the way, have accepted the Imus apology, which came in person in a meeting just after he learned of his firing by CBS. What the statement that they're "working on forgiving him" means, is puzzling, and a little saccharine. I blame the university and their spokespeople for that one, not the girls.

Oh, and wanna buy a "nappy headed ho" T-shirt, teddy bear or infant bodysuit for your baby? No, seriously...


Update: Condoleezza Rice weighs in.

And next stop, hip-hop? The debate begins, Snoop plays the ass, and after demanding the head of Don Imus, Reverend Al will settle for dialogue with hip-hop MCs...

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posted by JReid @ 5:41 PM  
The curse of Don Imus
New Jersey Governor John Corzine was seriously injured in a car accident on the way to the meeting between the unemployed Don Imus and the Rutgers girls.

But on the up-side, looks like Imus' wife has a brand new bag...


posted by JReid @ 9:55 AM  
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Shocker jock

How many times can I be wrong on one story? CBS has fired Don Imus. Wow. You can look at this one of two ways: either its a victory for decency, or an example of extreme corporate quizzling. It could also be proof that the broadcast networks, both on television and radio, as well as their free cable incarnations, are far too timid to play the game the way a coarsening society has configured it. That could mean big bucks for paid media, which could mean XM will be to radio what HBO and Showtime are to television.

(Or it could mean far less: one old misanthropic bully (and goes down, heads back to ranch, curses the world...) I assume he'll be taking his even more racist executive producer with him...

At the end of the day, it's clear that a right to free speech is not an entitlement to a seven figure job on the radio. Imus can still exercise his rights, wherever he's able to find employment (I'm still betting on XM, but then again, I'm not a good predictor on this story...) but I do think that the result of his firing won't be a giant Kum-ba-ya over the American airwaves, with decency reigning over rancor. It will be a "they got Imus, now we'll get them" game of gotcha that could reignite the red-blue culture wars. From now on, I'm going to operate on the assumption that Radio One is being watched closely, with some angry I-man fans just waiting for somebody to slip up... That, and a couple of Black folk will get temporary pundit gigs on MSNBC. ... hey, that reminds me, I need to get my bio package updated...

One question does still hang out there: will there still be a meeting between Imus and the Rutgers girls? And will he take the road of conciliation, or revenge? We shall see...

Update: Question answered. Imus is reportedly meeting with the Rutgers girls at the governor's mansion in New Jersey. That according to NBC News. Classy move, Imus. And I don't think anyone disagrees that these young women have come out of this tragedy as role models of the first order. Great group of young women. We should all be proud of them.

Meanwhile, as we begin choosing winners and losers here, count Rutgers women's basketball, and the university itself, among the winners. They'll be getting a Hillary audience on Monday. Can a Barack visitation be far behind.

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posted by JReid @ 5:50 PM  
Imus falling
So his MSNBC simulcast is gone, his CBS show is hanging by a thread, but hey, Imus still has his charities. The annual telethon went on as planned today, sans TV. And from what Drudge is reporting (though his reporting is a bit dubious these days,) he's getting on with some attitude on the air, saying "the bastards" got him, but they "didn't catch him asleep," whatever that means... Imus is said to be very upset about the goings on, particularly the fact that NBC didn't give him a chance to have his meeting with the Rutgers girls. That's the market, Don. They lose money, you lose gig... Here's the transcript, according to Drudge:
Patrick Gavin with FISHBOWLDC reports on Imus's radio show this am...

Barely 12 hours after being fired from MSNBC...

6:12 AM: On Imus' radio program (no longer simulcast on MSNBC) this morning, Chris Carlin, who covers sports for the program, discussed yesterday's dismissal of charges against the Duke lacrosse players.

(rough transcript)

DON IMUS: When will Al Sharpton be apologizing to them?


CARLIN: I'm unaware of such a press conference.

IMUS: I'll be darned...

UPDATE 6:28 AM: After a station break, Imus came back to discuss MSNBC's decision. He said he was recently chatted with "another big time broadcasting executive" who was "complaining that [MSNBC] had cancelled the simulcast twelve hours before we were getting ready to conduct this radio-thon for these three charities."

Imus: "My position on all of this is not whining about the hideously hypocritical coverage from the newspapers -- from everybody -- or the lack of support, say, from people like Harold Ford, Jr. who I had my life threatened over supporting and all these kind of things. It all began, and it doesn't make any difference -- like [James] Carville said -- stop talking about the context, it doesn't make any difference. If I hadn't have said it I wouldn't be here. So let's stop whining about it...You gotta stop complaining. I said a stupid, idiotic thing that desperately hurt these kids. I'm going to apologize but we gotta move on."

UPDATE 7:37 am. IMUS: "The hypocrisy is absurd...Everybody knows what the deal is. And this is not over. This story does not end here."

Meanwhile, the Rutgers girls are Oprah bound today, and 37 percent of nearly 180,000 respondents to an MSNBC online poll say the I-man shouldn't have been fired -- he's a shock jock, after all.

Rosie O'Donnell is looking over her shoulder for the thought police.

In the public debate, I think that today, the question now officially turns from racial insensitivity to the policing of thought vs. free speech. Time asks the question this way: "who can say what?"

Drudge claims Sharpton puts it this way:
'It is our feeling that this is only the beginning. We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves'...
More from the TIME article:
our culture has experienced an almost psychotic outburst of -isms in the past year. Michael Richards and "nigger." Isaiah Washington and "faggot." Senator George Allen and "macaca." Mel Gibson and "f__ing Jews."

But we also live in a culture in which racially and sexually edgy material is often—legitimately—considered brilliant comment, even art. Last year's most critically praised comedy, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, won Sacha Baron Cohen a Golden Globe for playing a Kazakh journalist who calls Alan Keyes a "genuine chocolate face" and asks a gun-shop owner to suggest a good piece for killing a Jew. Quentin Tarantino has made a career borrowing tropes from blaxploitation movies. In the critics-favorite sitcom The Sarah Silverman Program, the star sleeps with God, who is African American and who she assumes is "God's black friend." And the current season of South Park opened with an episode about a Michael Richards-esque controversy erupting when a character blurts the word niggers on Wheel of Fortune. (He answers a puzzle—N-GGERS—for which the clue is "People who annoy you"; the correct answer is "naggers.") ...

...Imus crossed a line, boorishly, creepily, paleolithically. But where is that line nowadays? In a way, the question is an outgrowth of something healthy in our society: the assumption that there is a diverse audience that is willing to talk about previously taboo social distinctions more openly, frankly and daringly than before. It used to be assumed that people were free to joke about their own kind (with some license for black comedians to talk about how white people dance). Crossing those lines was the province of the occasional "socially conscious artist," like Dick Gregory or Lenny Bruce, who was explicit about his goals: in Bruce's words, to repeat "'niggerniggernigger' until the word [didn't] mean anything anymore."

Now, however, we live in a mash-up world, where people—especially young people—feel free to borrow one another's cultural signifiers. In a now classic episode of Chappelle's Show, comic Dave Chappelle plays a blind, black white supremacist who inadvertently calls a carload of rap-listening white boys "niggers." The kids' reaction: "Did he just call us niggers? Awesome!" The country is, at least, more pop-culturally integrated—one nation under Jessica Alba, J. Lo and Harold & Kumar—and with that comes greater comfort in talking about differences.

But that's a harder attitude for older people—who grew up with more cultural and actual segregation—to accept or to mimic. Part of the problem with Imus' joke was that it was so tone-deaf. "That's some rough girls from Rutgers," he said. "Man, they got tattoos ... That's some nappy-headed hos there." The joke played badly in every community, raising memories of beauty bias (against darker skin and kinkier hair) that dates back to slavery. Tracy Riley, 37, of Des Moines, Iowa, who is of mixed race, said the incident was among her four kids' first exposures to overt racism. "Our kids don't see color the way we do," she said. "They don't see it as much. 'You're my friend or not, but it's not about race.'"
And then there's this idiot from Pennsylvania. How stupid do you have to be to get yourself fired from your radio show for mimicking Imus AFTER he got canned?

And should Imus lose his job at CBS, something I still doubt will happen -- I guess I'm just an iconoclast -- and he doesn't choose to take $100 million to go to satellite radio, I'm thinking his next gig might be prime minister of England...

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posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Imus circling the drain?
The Don Imus horror show continues to escalate in drama, with MSNBC making the decision to drop the shock jock's simulcast today. Imus reportedly saw it coming. Having worked for an NBC affiliate, I can't say I'm surprised that the company whose execs throw around the phrase "six sigma" brought the hammer down hard. NBC doesn't play with its corporate image (remember the time they hired that psycho Michael Savage to host a show? No, you probably don't. It didn't last long ...)

It seems that the final straw for NBC management was when employees, Black and white (including Keith Olbermann) voiced loud objections to sharing the network, and their credibility, with the "I-man." But I would think the advertisers jumping ship had something to do with it, too.

NBC News President Steve Capus said he made the decision after reading thousands of e-mails and having countless discussions with NBC workers and the public, but he denied the potential loss of advertising dollars had anything to do with it.
Capus has been all over T.V. talking about the decision, and he looks more pained each time... After all that has gone on, I have to say that at this point I think MSNBC did the right thing. They couldn't force their news staff to share the stage with that program any longer. I haven't been on the "fire Imus" band wagon, but from NBC's perspective, his show probably wasn't worth the trouble. They're supposed to be a news outfit, after all.

Meanwhile, Imus has been shedding advertisers, and friends (I actually called in to the Sid Rosenberg show today, after listening to as much of it as I could stomach. He was distancing himself from the Imus comments, and I felt compelled to remind him that he was very much a part of the parade. He brushed off my reminder of his Venus and Serena "National Geographic" slurs, which he said forced his firing and "public humiliation" six years ago, before adding, "so what?") with even white commentators who you can tell really think this is overblown take pains to separate themselves from the remarks. Even Craig Crawford has capitulated, though Joe Scarborough is refusing to back down, along with resident iconoclast Bill Maher.

Meanwhile, righties are having a field day reprinting the lyrics of popular songs that use the n-word, and that liberally use the terms "bitches" and "hos" -- not to mention promoting violence.

It seems that Imus will continue to be roasted on a spit. But if you think this will somehow heal the country or the world, don't count on it. This will polarize us even more, as many whites foam at the very sight or mention of Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, who will be accused of hounding an old geezer out of his gainful employment, if it goes that far for Imus with CBS radio, and Blacks continue to seethe with rage over the comments, that apparently were simply the last straw from a show that had numerous violations in the past. One wonders whether anyone will take up my question (shared by Keith Olbermann) of when it will be Neil Boortz, Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, John Gibson or Glenn Beck's turn on the spit. If they are given a free pass, what, then, has been the piont? Likewise with the hip hop nation, which can continue to fulminate about bitches and ho's with impunity, right?

If we're looking at the culture, shouldn't we actually look at the culture? Or are we just sating ourselves with Don Imus this week, only to move on to somethng else the next? I think we all agree that Don Imus is a bully and an ass.

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posted by JReid @ 11:04 PM  
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  
When you've lost Al Roker...
NBC's goofball weather man brings down the hammer on Don Imus for picking on those Rutgers girls.

I, for one, am really tired of the diatribes, the “humor” at others’ expense, the cruelty that passes for “funny”. Don Imus isn’t the only one doing this, but today he’s the one in the hot seat.

What he said was vile and disgusting. It denigrated an entire team and by extension, a community and its pride in a group that had excelled.

...The “I’m a good person who said a bad thing” apology doesn’t cut it. At least he didn’t try to weasel out of this by hiding behind alcohol or drug abuse. Still, he said it and a two-week suspension doesn’t cut it. It is, at best, a slap on the wrist. A vacation. Nothing.

The general manager of Cartoon Network resigned after a publicity stunt went wrong and caused a panic in Boston. He did the right thing. Don Imus should do the right thing and resign. Not talk about taking a two-week suspension with dignity. I don’t think Don Imus gets it.
Roker makes the very valid point that if Imus must go, so should the continually offensive Bernard McGuirk, his executive producer and sidekick, who egged Imus on and participated in the conversation. In fact, a transcript of the now infamous broadcast makes it clear that there were three -- not one -- people involved in insulting the Rutgers women (in my opinion, as a slap against their looks with clarly racial undertones):
IMUS: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and --

McGUIRK: Some hard-core hos.

IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm gonna tell you that now, man, that's some -- woo. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute, you know, so, like -- kinda like -- I don't know.

McGUIRK: A Spike Lee thing.

IMUS: Yeah.

McGUIRK: The Jigaboos vs. the Wannabes -- that movie that he had.

IMUS: Yeah, it was a tough --

McCORD: Do The Right Thing.

McGUIRK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

IMUS: I don't know if I'd have wanted to beat Rutgers or not, but they did, right?

ROSENBERG: It was a tough watch. The more I look at Rutgers, they look exactly like the Toronto Raptors.

IMUS: Well, I guess, yeah.

RUFFINO: Only tougher.

McGUIRK: The [Memphis] Grizzlies would be more appropriate.
McGuirk was the instigator of the "hos" line, and Rosenberg, true to form, took it to new depths. So where are the calls for McGuirk's job, and for the head of the eternally racist Rosenberg (famous for calling the tennis phenom Williams sisters "animals," who would stand a better chance of posing on the cover of National Geographic than Playboy, and then joking about his past slurs when Serena was called a nigger at a recent match in Florida) to be thrown off his show on South Florida's 790 The Ticket?) Fair is fair. If Imus should be canned, so should they.

That said, let me go on record as saying that I agree with all of those who are calling Imus' comments stupid and offensive. This was a crochety old geezer and serial bully attempting, and failing, to be funny by picking on a bunch of young girls who are doing what we, as a society, have admonished them to do: go to school, get good grades, and pursue positive activites. It was also symptomatic of the out of control insult culture we have developed in the popular media. Not to mention the equally out of control vogue of degrading women and demeaning Blacks as so many niggers, hos and gangstas... (a vogue Black folk created ourselves...) We should take steps to change those things if we don't like them, but I seriously doubt Imus will get the axe. Getting driven onto XM? Perhaps. Marginalized by some mainstream pols? Very likely. But finished as a radio host? I doubt it.

What is clear is that Imus owes those young woman a serious apology. They should get it, and then we should move on. There are bigger battles to fight...

Meanwhile, the Rutgers team got their chance to speak out today, for about an hour long presser. They've also agreed to meet with Imus and consider accepting his apology, although some of them are preemptively raising doubts that such acceptance is at hand. And, probably to Imus' chagrin, the story has gone global.

Sidebar: I think that while folks are on a roll, they should also demand the resignations of other racist radio and television personalities, including Bill "kill all the Black babies" Bennett, Rush the "ho" Limbaugh, Neil "ghetto slut" Boortz, Glenn "prove to me you're not a terrorist" Beck, psychotic Michael Savage and others... why stop with Imus?

Update: Gwen Ifill weighs in and slams the I-man.
Update: Imus slaps back...

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posted by JReid @ 3:15 PM  
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