So I wound up discussing this Don Imus controversy with two of my good friends here in Miami, both of whom are well-respected journalists and all around brilliant dudes: Forrest Norman and Francisco “Frank” Alvarado.
They brought Imus’s history of racist remarks to my attention. I knew the guy had a reputation as a prick — in the Seventies he released a “comedy” album called This Honky’s Nuts, which says it all. But Miami area DJ Sid Rosenberg (790 AM) was on the air with Imus when he spewed his racist remarks about the Rutgers girls. Here’s the video of the whole disgusting exchange.
Rosenberg works in Miami after being kicked off the Imus show for making racist comments in the past.
According to his own Wikipedia page: “Rosenberg was no stranger to controversy on the Imus show, which was also simulcast on MSNBC cable television, therein increasing his remarks’ visibility. Among other things, he would say on-air that Venus and Serena Williams would be better suited for National Geographic Magazine than for Playboy, that “faggots play tennis” and that the United States women’s national soccer team were “a bunch of juiced up dykes.” He referred to Palestinians as “stinking animals” and suggested that “They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill ‘em all right now” during the November 12, 2004 funeral of deceased Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. Rosenberg would eventually be removed from the Imus show in May 2005, after saying in regard to Kylie Minogue’s battle with breast cancer, that ” … ain’t gonna be so beautiful when the bitch got bald head and one titty.”
Oh, he sounds like a thinking man. A real scholar.
And as for Mr. Imus, he had this to say about noted, respected black journalist Gwen Ifill: “Isn’t The Times wonderful. It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.” In case you don’t know who Gwen Ifill is, she’s written for the Washington Post, New York Times, she’s a journalist for PBS, and she moderated the vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards in 2004. I have infinite respect for the woman.
Ifill addressed the comments herself in this opinion piece.
Her final comments really struck me. “Why do my journalistic colleagues appear on Mr. Imusâ€™s program? Thatâ€™s for them to defend, and others to argue about. I certainly donâ€™t know any black journalists who will. To his credit, Mr. Imus told the Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday he realizes that, this time, he went way too far. Yes, he did.
Every time a young black girl shyly approaches me for an autograph or writes or calls or stops me on the street to ask how she can become a journalist, I feel an enormous responsibility. Itâ€™s more than simply being a role model. I know I have to be a voice for them as well. So hereâ€™s what this voice has to say for people who cannot grasp the notion of picking on people their own size: This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field.
Letâ€™s see if we can manage to build them up and reward them, rather than opting for the cheapest, easiest, most despicable shots.”
Imus’s remarks seem to be part of a bigger recent trend — celebrities reveal themselves to be prejudiced idiots, they get the public smackdown. They apologize profusely. They lose advertising revenue, they might lose their agents, a few newspapers might drop their column — but that news won’t make the Drudge Report. If they’re caught on video, their friends might distance themselves from them for a while (cough * Perez * cough). Or they might be entered into rehab, ala Mel Gibson, Kramer, and Isaiah Washington. But then what? And is this the right way to deal with publicized prejudice in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech?
Frank had a wise point to make, which might not be popular: “I kind of feel it’s unfair to go out and destroy someone’s livelihood because they exercised their right to free speech in a very stupid manner. Maybe I’m getting soft, but sugar-coated politically correctness just doesn’t work on radio. Just look at all the successful radio shows in syndication. Whether you think a guy is a scumbag, people want to hear controversy. I just think it is a scarier thought that we as a society have grown so intolerant of anything that would offend others that we’re falling into a facist trap of choosing who deserves and who doesn’t deserve to make a living in media and entertainment. If something on the air offends you, just change the dial.” He’s definitely right — my dial was never on Don Imus’s show to begin with. He’s definitely not the only racist idiot with a morning radio show, and most of ‘em are still on the air every day.
To which Forrest responded: “I don’t think he belongs in jail or anything. But people have a right to get pissed and try to get him fired, which is all that’s going on.” And that’s true, too.
Personally, I’m exercising my right to be pissed off. But I want to hear what you smart, thinking bellas and fellas think about this. Many of us feel close to this story, as proud wearers of nappy hair ourselves.
What do you think should happen to Don Imus? What do you think WILL happen to Don Imus? And what does this whole debacle say about the state of race relations today?