Imus initially was given a two-week suspension for calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos” on the air last week, but outrage continued to grow and advertisers bolted from his CBS radio show and its MSNBC simulcast, which was canceled Wednesday.
“There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society,” CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said in announcing the decision. “That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision.”
The cantankerous Imus, once named one of the 25 Most Influential People in America by Time magazine and a member of the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame, issued repeated apologies as protests intensified. But it wasn’t enough as everyone from Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey joined the criticism.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson met with Moonves on Thursday to demand Imus’ removal, promising a rally outside CBS headquarters Saturday and an effort to persuade more advertisers to defect. Jackson called the firing “a victory for public decency. No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation.”
Said Sharpton: “He says he wants to be forgiven. I hope he continues in that process. But we cannot afford a precedent established that the airways can commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism.”
Okay, I am not a fan of Don Imus. To me, he captured his "spotlight" by being cynical and overly critical of all who attain their "15 minutes of fame". I agree that what Imus said on public airways was reprehensible and in very poor taste, but does the punishment fit the crime?
If Jackson and Sharpton are so adamant about freeing the "public airwaves from racial and sexual degradation", why don't they consider these sources:
- Gangster Rap Music
- BET Music Videos
- Black comedians... Chris Rock comes to mind
- Saturday Night Live "spoofs"
- Black TV comedies
Compared to the racial, sexual and violent language that we permit on these sources of "public airwaves", Don Imus looks like a choir boy. Sure, what he said was in bad taste, but "bad taste" entertainment seems to be the trend of the 21st century. Most of popular TV and movies are in bad taste. Much of what we consider "funny" is degrading to someone or some group.
Chris Rock currently has a 30 minute stand-up comedy routine on video in which he rants and raves about every stereotypical "black" trait ever conceived. In the course of this "routine", he uses the "N" word 96 times! This live performance was videoed in front of a majority black audience, who not only paid money to see his performance, but appeared quite amused and entertained.
So, have we lost a great talent with the firing of Don Imus? No.
Has his firing made a significant improvement in race relations in the U.S. No.
Are we a bit hypocritical as a society in our interpretation of free speech? Yes.
If Don Imus had made the same derogatory comments on a stage in Las Vegas, would he have been banned from the "airwaves" or been promoted to the status of star performer? The "line" at which Mr. Imus crossed over seems movable at best and one that appears drawn by promoters, sponsors and politicians!