NO OFFENSE FOLKS, BUT IMUS HAS NEVER MADE A SECRET OF WHO HE IS
As a young man growing up in New York in the 1960s, I woke up every morning to the sounds of the Good Guys on WMCA radio. The morning man was Joe O’Brien, a guy who made you feel like you knew him, even though you had never met. When I went into the Army in 1968, O’Brien was still doing his morning show. When I returned two years later, his show and the entire music format on WMCA were gone. I searched the dial, and only a few clicks away, I found O’Brien on WNBC, which had become a top 40 station.
Then, one Monday morning in 1971, I turned on my radio on the way to work, and there was no Joe O’Brien. Instead, a sarcastic man called Imus was bleating out an obnoxious comedic patter. Initially, I wanted nothing to do with the guy, but, eventually, I started laughing at his stuff. The Reverend Billy Saul Hargus was probably my favorite character on the show, allegedly broadcasting from the First Church of the Gooey Death and Discount House of Worship in beautiful Del Rio Texas. Right then and there, anyone with a modicum of sense had to realize that Don Imus was an equal opportunity bigot. He said whatever came to his mind, and he took no prisoners.
This was during the time of George Carlin’s hysterical routine outlining the seven words you couldn’t say on television. It was the time of the FCC’s strangle hold on what we could hear on the public airways, most defined by Carlin’s seven words. If you don’t know those words, sorry I won’t print them here. They show up in practically every Carlin book and on the web, and you can find them yourself.
Imus wanted to get away with something, but couldn’t risk the ire of the FCC. He wanted to call people with no spines pussies, but he knew that he could be thrown off the air for using that word. As a result, he invented a word that has become part of the American lexicon, wussy. When it caught on, he came up with another one, one that surprisingly did not create much of an uproar. The word was Wigger, which Imus used to describe Black people. It was offensive, but no one stopped him, and so it continued. Women, Jews, African Americans, Hispanics and countless others have been his targets, and nobody in management cared.
Remember, this was long before the advent of The Reverend Al Sharpton. Folks of my generation, of all races, were marching for equality. A dumb racist remark by a local shock jock didn’t seem all that important then. There were bigger fish to fry than Imus. However, that time, and that word, defined Imus for the ages.
Today, the world is different. Today, when insults are lobbed at African Americans, Sharpton and others stand up and demonstrate. Today, demands are made, and often major corporations give in to those demands.
A few days back, Imus, still the loose cannon, referred to the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Team as “nappy haired hos” after they came in second in the National Women’s Basketball Championships.
Demonstrations against Imus began, and right out there in front of those demonstrations was Al Sharpton demanding that CBS and MSNBC fire Imus from his top rated national radio and cable TV program. Imus was initially suspended for two weeks and after major advertisers, like Proctor and Gamble, caved in to Sharpton’s demands and withdrew their sponsorship of the program, it was cancelled by MSNBC. The President of the Urban League will be meeting with the top honchos at CBS later today, asking that the radio broadcast of the show be cancelled too.
Donny Deutsch of CNBC made an important point on the Today Show. Imus was not cancelled because of viewer or listener outrage. He was cancelled because sponsors feared a national boycott that would impact their bottom lines. No offense folks, but Imus has never made a secret of who he is, and the uproar, while justifiable, should have happened 35 years ago. If the sponsors really cared about Imus’ racism, he would have been gone a long time ago.
Like any story of this sort, there are other facets that must be examined in order to fully understand its impact.
Imus has grown to the point that his estimated annual income exceeds $30,000,000. That income, of course, has given him many of the world’s greatest pleasures, but he has also used it to do profound good. His Imus Ranch offers comfort to kids with often fatal diseases. He has raised over $100,000,000 for countless charities, most notably, Sickle Cell Anemia, a disease that almost exclusively attacks Black kids. That does not provide an excuse for his on air racism. It just shows another side of this very complex man.
Meanwhile, the question must arise as to whether the criticism of Imus by The Reverend Al Sharpton isn’t the pot calling the kettle, well, black. I received the following list of questions from a friend when Sharpton began his demonstrations, and I have to say, that there are some solid points about him that really need to be addressed if he is to be taken seriously when he complains about the racism of others. Here they are:
When Sister Souljah said to take a week and kill all white people - where was Al Sharpton then?
When Jessie Jackson referred to a Jewish neighborhood as “Hymie-Town”, where was Al Sharpton then?
When Louis Farrakhan called Jews the “Blood-suckers of society” where was Al Sharpton then?
When Lennard Jeffries called for the extinction of Jews, where was Al Sharpton then?
When Kaleem Abdul Mohammad called the police “mother-fucking pigs” where was Al Sharpton then?
When Sharpton, Mannix. et al, called the prosecutor in the “Tawana Brawley” case horrendous names and made a mockery of our system and falsely accused the D.A. of rape, where was Al Sharpton then?
When Black rappers and teens began referring to each other - slinging around the “N” word, Ho this, Ho that, bitches, nappy-heads, etc. etc, where was Al Sharpton then?
Again, none of these things excuse Imus’ behavior, but they do blunt the value of Sharpton’s otherwise justifiable claims against the shock jock. Imus may be a racist, but Sharpton’s absence from the protests when Black people are the agressors instead of the victims certainly mitigates his effectiveness as a leader. He is an expert at getting press, but, like Imus, he is a very complex man who needs a much larger spotlight shone on his activities.
Finally, one has to wonder why this, and why now?
It all comes during a time when entertainment news seems to be replacing hard news.
Many of in the blogosphere are questioning why this is happening, and why more and more people are going to the web to find out what’s happening in the world rather than to newspapers or the broadcast media?
Some folks have speculated that the Administration has been demanding that the media run these types of stories instead of hard news detailing their high crimes and misdemeanors.
Could it be that the conservative Imus’ rant about the Rutgers women was deliberately planned to increase his access to the White House, or to deflect criticism away from the Administration?
Remember when Dan Rather showed the world that George W. Bush was an AWOL? Remember how his stellar career came to a crashing halt after that? Remember how the media really began kissing Bush’s posterior after that?
Why else would the networks be more concerned about the real father of Anna Nichole Smith’s baby than they are about the crimes of Alberto Gonzales and George W. Bush?
Yes, Don Imus showed us a side of himself that surprised some and made others chortle, but one has to wonder why a man in his position would expose himself in that manner?
There is much more to this story than meets the eye, and maybe someday when this entire Administration is rotting in jail, we will learn all about what’s really been going on in the world and in the media.
Or maybe pigs will fly first.
HENRY HONIG – THE PUNDIT