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MSNBC Cans Imus as Debate on Hate Speech Rages

After several advertisers (General Motors, American Express, Sprint Nextel, GlaxoSmithKline, TD Ameritrade and said they were pulling ads from MSNBC due to Don Imus' racist remarks, the network announced that it would no longer be airing Imus' talk show (see video). CBS radio, another of the show's broadcasters, announced they would monitor the situation closely but stick to the two-week suspension they had put in place. Imus' comments, that memebers of the Rutger's women's basketball team were "nappy-headed hos", has set off a national debate on racism, political correctness, freedom of speech, and tangentially, homophobia and sexism.

Al Sharpton, who has been a vocal leader in efforts to get Imus off the air, said, "This has never been about Don Imus. I have no idea whether his is a good man or not. This is about the use of public airwaves for bigoted, racist speech."

Imus appeared on Al Sharpton's radio show earlier this week and apologized for the comments.

Don_imusImus' comments inspired statements from many of the presidential candidates as well.

Barack Obama, who said he would never again appear on Imus' show, told ABC News: "I understand MSNBC has suspended Mr. Imus, but I would also say that there's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody of any ethnic group. And I would hope that NBC ends up having that same attitude...He didn’t just cross the line. He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America."

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said, "I've never wanted to go on his show and I certainly don't ever intend to go on his show, and I felt that way before his latest outrageous, hateful, hurtful comments."

John Edwards made his intentions less specific: "I believe in redemption, I believe in forgiveness...What he said is wrong because it's wrong. It has to be condemned, we have to speak out when people use this kind of language. This is a very serious matter, it should be taken very seriously."

According to CBS, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have both said they would continue to appear on Imus' show.

In Pennsylvania, a radio DJ was fired for sponsoring a contest in which viewers called in to repeat Imus' poisonous phrase: "I'm a nappy-headed ho."

And at Rutgers, students rallied to protest Imus' remarks, and Mary S. Hartman, university professor and director of the Institute for Women's Leadership, explained to the Home News Tribune why she thought Imus' remarks had touched a national nerve: "I think what (Imus') remark did was to expose the latent anger that we all feel. We are awakened anew to things that we just never paid attention to. I think people are just saying, 'Enough! We're not going to take it anymore!' There is a lot of hope here. Today is the beginning. A celebration of these young women was critically important for us, and to tell the world that this kind of trash radio needs to stop."

Imus on Al Sharpton's Radio show - transcript [nyt]
NBC Drops Imus Show From Its Cable Network [nyt]
Edwards On Imus Spat: 'I Believe In Forgiveness' [cbs]
Obama: Fire Imus [abc]

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  1. Thank you for your respectful and generous reply, Derrick, and, for the record, I definitely do not think Washington's remark/behavior was/is "in the same league as violent gay bashing." In fact, I actually liked him before the incident and his subsequent "I didn't do it. I did do it. I didn't do it. I did do it." song and dance. I found him physically hot and was extremely happy to see a black man portrayed as a gifted surgeon without the ancient insistence to make him a "soul brother," too. I wish the show didn't fail to also represent the disproportion of gay/lesbian doctors and nurses, of whatever color, but at least in terms of race it's far better than most shows. Unfortunately, card carrying liberals like David E. Kelly, with an excellent history of positive mixed-race casting, has returned, with "Boston Legal," to making people of color primarily the "perps" prosecuted or defended by whites. "Clarice/Clarence/Clevant" might be applauded by the Association of Black Straight Transvestites With Conscious Multiple Personalities," but ...

    But whatever the merits or demerits of Isaiah Washington, I am greatly saddened by three things. 1. The racism which drives so many posters to focus more on some of Imus'es critics than on him, his behavior, and what he and it represents. 2. The number of posters, as well as public figures high and low, who buy into/defend Imus'es own excuse/"defense." I don't give a flying fuck whether he is actually a racist, homohater, sexist, antiSemitic pig or not. He talks like one and that tells those who ARE all of those things to believe that their bigotry, their hatred, and the deadly violence that it spawns is okay. Does anyone seriously think that people like those who attacked the gay kid in Colorado last week nor those who murdered Matthew Shepard or transgender Gwen Araujo or those cretinous racists who chained a still-alive James Byrd, Jr., to the back of their truck and dragged his body a mile past the point where his head came off—does anyone seriously believe they hear people like Imus, the darling of all kinds of celebrities and pundits and politicians, say such things and think, "Shucks, he don't really mean it. In his heart he's a good man."? A "good man" had this exchange with Mike Wallace years ago on "60 Minutes":

    MIKE WALLACE: You told Tom Anderson, (our)producer, in your car coming home that Bernard McGuirk is there to do "nigger" jokes.
    DON IMUS: Well I've n-- I never use that word.
    TOM ANDERSON: I'm right here.
    DON IMUS: Did I use that word?
    TOM ANDERSON: I recall you using that word.
    DON IMUS: Oh, okay, well then I used that word, but I mean-- of course that was an off the record conversation-- [LAUGHTER]

    So he has a history [ignored by his bosses and defenders] not just of such behavior, but of lying about it, of trying to dismiss it with any kind of excuse he can think of. As if referring to "nigger jokes" "off the record" made it any more acceptable than his "good heart."

    3. Finally, while happy than some have developed a skin thick enough to repel any verbal assault, may I respectfully point out that that is neither the experience of most people, particularly those youngest [see the research some years ago of Black children who were asked to draw pictures of themselves], and, further, even if it were, it does not mean we shouldn't still fight hate speech because it often leads to hate action. "Thick skins" would not have saved Matthew Shepard nor James Byrd, Jr.

    In addition to the persistence of HIV/AIDS and Meth addiction, we have an ongoing epidemic of unrecognized self-loathing, and many of the comments about Imus are among its symptoms.

    Posted by: Leland | Apr 12, 2007 1:46:05 PM

  2. Isaiah Washington's miscondust has been linked to one isolated incident behind the scenes thus far. Imus has gotten away with vile speech against others on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation for many years, using publicly accessible media to do so. But let's piss all over those facts and whine about who the NAACP gives awards to. Didn't Roman Polanski, a child molester, get an Oscar 5 years ago?

    Posted by: 000000 | Apr 12, 2007 2:04:31 PM

  3. If only Hillary and Barack had shown such disgust over Ann Coulter's "faggot" remark. Or General Whatshisname's "immoral" remark.

    Both remarks were made in the context of politics and the very job Hillary and Barack seek to be elected to. Which would make their immediate condemnation almost essential.

    And yet they waited to consult their advisors first.

    Posted by: Jake | Apr 12, 2007 2:57:27 PM

  4. So, Don Imus is not a racist--he just plays one on television.

    Posted by: Daniel | Apr 12, 2007 3:56:15 PM

  5. Scribe62 | Apr 12, 2007 11:24:35 AM

    and where are the gay leaders tight now, to condemn imus?

    Posted by: johnosahon | Apr 12, 2007 4:21:40 PM

  6. JOHNOSAHON, If you don't know then you're not paying attention.

    I've heard a number of "gay leaders" condemning Imus for his latest racist rant.

    Have you tried visiting any of their websites or are you expecting them to send you a personal email?

    Posted by: Zeke | Apr 12, 2007 4:38:30 PM

  7. Update: HRC has yet to comment at all, and GLAAD and NGLTF have not updated their flaccid Imus condemnations to include his homohate speech though one or both does mention his racist, sexist, and antiSemitic history. I guess we poor fags will have to turn to the NAACP, NOW, and B'nai Brith to speak for us.

    Posted by: Leland | Apr 12, 2007 5:14:15 PM

  8. UPDATE: CBS has fired Imus.

    Posted by: A.J. | Apr 12, 2007 5:57:52 PM

  9. egad ! i am soooo sick of everyone being so damned offended by every little thing someone happened to say. we are whittling away at our free speech rights (which btw were put in place to protect 'offensive speech') by proclaiming what p.c. speech is to be allowed in 'civilized' society and going apeshit trying to cast the offenders out... and now we have certain words that some people can say but other people cannot .. absurd. if somebody says something racist or homophobic how about saying 'wow.. that's guy's a racist, a homophobe, an asshole, whatever.." and just moving on ? this bloodthirst we're witnessing is scarier to me than anybody's words.

    Posted by: el polacko | Apr 12, 2007 6:15:57 PM

  10. And your ignorance and naivete are scarier still, El Polacko. File that under "free speech."

    Posted by: Leland | Apr 12, 2007 7:16:16 PM

  11. El Polacko, please try to understand what free speech is before you claim it's being damaged.

    Free speech is the right to say things without *legal* reprecussions. There's no such thing as the right to say things without *social* reprecussions. What Imus is expreriencing are the social and professional reprecussions of his speech acts.

    Now, perhaps you think there should be no social or professional reprecussions to using hate speech; you're welcome to that belief, and please, feel free to express it. That's free speech. I, in turn, will feel free to call you out for your ignorance-- also an act of free speech-- and I'll continue to be happy that, increasingly, there are ever greater social and professional reprecussions to hate speech.

    So, one last time for anyone who doesn't get it, free speech DOES NOT promise there will be no reprecussions for what we say. Free speech DOES mean there will be no LEGAL reprecussions for what we say.

    Posted by: Dan E | Apr 12, 2007 9:29:28 PM

  12. The song "I Wish" on the Happy Feet soundtrack contains the lyric, "when I was a nappy-headed boy..." This movie won an Academy Award. This needs to be publicized.

    Posted by: David | Apr 16, 2007 2:32:24 PM

  13. You guys and girls are brainwashed. I must respond to the Imus stories on the net posted from the start of this case up to today. I want give this real thought and reason, both of which no one used when this story broke and the days after. This is not about hip-hop music. Don Imus listened to and had as guests on his show everything but hip hop. I recall many black and white performers-- some country, some rock, some old, some young. We all never would have listened to the show if he played and talked like those black and white trash mouthed people he is being compared to. No, it's not the music--just a slip of the tongue. We have all done it. What happened next is the story. One person involved with MSNBC conspired with TWO other black political activists/preachers and decided this was a race issue. From there my guess is GM and the other advertisers were pressured to pull adds from the show. This brought others into the mix to further the race based agenda. The reason for all of this was to use 3 words that should not have been said; but they were. Don Imus took the high road and met with the team and said he was sorry. But for the 3 men intent on bringing a powerful white man down, this would have all been over. The racist are the black men that pushed this to a level of almost blackmail. MSNBC was forced to make a decision that they were apparently not predisposed to make. Of course NBC has a duty to its shareholders to protect the interest of the company and not to advance a board member and a few employees personal political/raciest cause to the detrement of the company. We have missed the real story here. Don Imus was paid to shock and to say and do outlandish things. MSNBC knew what was on the show every day. Why did MSNBC not intervene on day 1 if they thought this was such a critical matter? The management of MSNBC could have issued a formal statement and had Don Imus make a formal apology. Another agenda was in play by this time. Sharpton, Jackson and the board member were making the plan to use force, blackmail, extortion or what ever you want to call it to make Don Imus an example of what can happen to you if you say anything that even has the slightest bit of racial overtone. Well, I think this has backfired just as it did to the DA in the Duke rape. Well, I guess we need to call it the Duke slander/defamation case because there was no rape. Dear Mr. DA, Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Sharpton helped you on that case. How's that working out for you? That's another situation where good people have been hurt because the media follows these two, and from there all hell breaks loose! If either of the cases were mine I WOULD SUE THEM ALL. I also would try for a personal judgment because in the Imus case it sounds like MSNBC AND IT'S BOARD MEMBER were acting on their personal political/racial interest and not acting within the scope of their employment. Their duty to was to protect shareholder value. Don Imus is a good person and deserves much more than this. If he wants to go back on the air I am sure he could get a group of fans to finance it. Thank you. Glenn Brandon

    Posted by: GLENN E BRANDON | Apr 29, 2007 8:36:48 PM

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