April 15, 2007

"There was the risqué, sexually offensive, sometimes racially offensive, satire, and then there was this political salon about politics and books."

NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory has good insight into Imus (in this really well-done Newsweek piece by Weston Kosova):
"Imus was living in two worlds. There was the risqué, sexually offensive, sometimes racially offensive, satire, and then there was this political salon about politics and books. Some of us tuned in to one part and tuned out the other ... Whether I was numb to the humor that offended people or in denial, I don't know."
This article seems to be the beginning of the rehabilitation of Don Imus. Consider this, which shows the special power he had to skewer politicians and mainstream journalists, including the ones who couldn't pass up the air time:
Between insults, he gave politicians and journalists... lots of air time to discuss serious issues and plug their books. He asked real questions and then listened to the answers. The show became an influential salon for the politically connected. Powerful people tuned in to hear what other powerful people would say. For a certain segment of status-obsessed journalists, being called names by Imus was better than not being called at all. Imus had a talent for coaxing his guests into saying what they really thought, often in salty language they'd never use on more "respectable" shows....

Imus may have come off as your deranged, half-addled uncle (he kicked booze and drugs years ago), but he also came to the microphone each morning carefully prepared for battle. He read more books and newspapers than most of his guests and was a formidable interrogator who could cut the powerful down to size. On a recent show, Imus badgered Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, a frequent guest, about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed hospital. Schumer tried to go for the high-and-mighty approach, castigating Republicans for failing the troops. Imus pounced. When was the last time Schumer visited the troops at Walter Reed? Deflated, Schumer haltingly admitted he hadn't been there in years.
We need to think about why people were so hot to bring him down. Kosova provides the time line:
[U]nknown to Imus, one of his most loyal listeners in Washington, D.C., was watching, and taping, the show every day.... 26-year-old Ryan Chiachiere wasn't a fan, and he wasn't tuning in to be entertained. Chiachiere is one of a handful of young activists who spend their days wading through hours of radio and cable shows for Media Matters for America, a liberal group whose sole purpose is rooting out and "correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." Wired on coffee, Chiachiere was watching a recording of Imus's show when he noticed the "hos" remark.

It was a big hit at the group's morning meeting....

The group posted a video clip of the exchange on its Web site and put it up on YouTube. It sent e-mails to journalists and civil-rights and women's groups.

The word, and the outrage, spread quickly. A week later, Imus was gone, banished from his multimillion-dollar television and radio show even before he had the chance to complete the all-too-familiar cycle of public penance that high-profile sinners are usually granted.
That is, Media Matters had been lying in wait for a long time, and finally they got exactly the sound bite they needed, and they played it masterfully. Think about why things fell into place so well and why so many people fell in line and took down this idiosyncratic character, who had been talking on the radio four hours a day, five days a week for so long. Who knows what havoc he might have wreaked in the 2008 campaign? Isn't it convenient to have him out of the way?

Or do you support the rehabilitation of Imus?
In an e-mail to NEWSWEEK, Imus said, "I could go to work tomorrow. Bigger deal. More money. TV simulcast ... I've got a summer of kids to cowboy with and then we'll see." He knows what he said was wrong, and that there is much to do. Asked whether his recovery from addiction had given him the strength to cope with the current crisis, he sounded like, well, Imus: "I'm a good and decent person who made a mistake in the context of comedy," he wrote in the e-mail. "My strength comes from not being full of sh— and a coward."
Our political world is full cowards and folks who are full of shit. Is Imus really the one you want gone?


Invisible Man said...

Kevin Drum made a pretty good point yesterday about the number of people who are more loathsome like Nancy Grace as his best example, whose hell I'm sure will be a locked room filled with all of the people that she's wrongly condemned before she's heard a scant bit of evidence. Imus definitely wouldn't have been at the very top of my personal wish list of people to be banished from the airwaves before those statements, but I'm definitely not moved to feel sorry for him. There were probably better scalps to look for but I do think that actions like his deserve consequences even if the punishment was maybe a bit to harsh.

vet66 said...

Imus will be back stronger than ever. The Democrats lost there only penetration of the Imus demographic and will be the less for it.

This is a classic example of short term tactical gains at the expense of long-term strategic loss. But that is what the democrats are so good at. They get their "AHA" moment and gleefully pounce on it without regard to the ramifications of it's being taken out of context.

Inadvertently or not, Imus brought to the forefront of national discussion the hypocrisy of defending racially divisive language delivered as entertainment on the one hand and politically incorrect satire on the other. Apparently the sole difference is the race of the presenter.

This hypocrisy coarsens our culture and needs to be stopped now!

SteveR said...

Although Imus would not hesitate to go after anyone he could, he was more on the side of Media Matters than Media Research Council (or any other right leaning group).

The fact is that most of his guests were critical of the administration and when he would have folks like McCain and Joe Leiberman on, he would not throw softballs at them.

pablo H said...

The good news is that IMUS -when he comes back - won't forgot how his left-wing buddies stabbed him the back.

Or how the conservatives are the ones in favor of free speech.

Curtiss said...

I don't think the world will be set right by Imus' departure. The unintended consequences of this thing will be interesting to watch and may be unpleasant for the people who benefited most from Imus' show.

Wade_Garrett said...

vet66 - If I read you correctly, what you're saying is that you're jealous of the fact that black people get to say some racially insensitive words which, due to your whiteness, you cannot. What does that say about you?

I wasn't a big Imus fan, but I believe he's sincerely sorry for what he said, unlike so many talking heads, whose apologies merely go through the motions.

Not only would I rather have him on the air than Nancy Grace, but I'd rather have him on the air than almost anybody else. He's vital.

dave in boca said...

I agree that Nancy Grace makes Imus look like Cary Grant. The scary part is that the Soros-inspired [and perhaps funded] Media Matters has taken the role of Ministry of Truth right out of Orwell.

Hate to think of a wired-up juvie with a liberal-lobotomy education playing Torquemada. It's called a chilling effect, and it's legal. Someone should investigate Soros' tax situation.

Wade_Garrett said...

Also, for the record, if you don't think that there are half-a-dozen conservative interest groups who are taping and watching every minute of every broadcast looking for liberal screw-ups, you're kidding yourself.

Ann Althouse said...

Wade: Imus is a liberal.

Palladian said...

Ann, not anymore! He's had his liberal license revoked, just like you.

Apology not accepted! Get thee hence to fallen liberal limbo! Soros is watching you!

Omaha1 said...

Already there are some conspiracy theories, regarding Imus' departure:

1. He was critical of the Clintons, and Sharpton & Jackson agreed to support Hillary over Obama, in exchange for Imus' figurative lynching. I think I saw this on Just One Minute.

2. Getting rid of Imus is a first step in purging the airways of so-called "hate speech," i.e. Limbaugh, Hannity, et al (suggestions of this in several places, none very reliable).

Imus reminded me of the South Park guys, it seemed like he was equally abusive to political figures on the left and right. Maybe Matt & Trey will be next!

johnstodder said...

So, "come for the racism, stay for the book chat?" That was his appeal?

I stopped listening to his show on any kind of regular basis years ago, but it was his bullying, not his politics, that finally bored the crap out of me. Darrel Hammond on SNL did a good imitation of Imus -- a string of incoherent insults. This is what you get from a lot of reading and preparing? How much preparation does it take to call everyone a "weasel" and then to plug salsa?

a) he won't be missed and b) he won't go away. What happened to him will have no effect on Limbaugh or anyone else.

If liberals need a conduit to the white male voters, they should be promoting Ed Schultz more. He's pretty good, clever, passionate, funny at times, maybe not as edgy as Imus, but a recognizably normal guy.

downtownlad said...


I think you're misrepresenting what Media Matters does. You make it sound like they've been monitoring Imus for years, waiting for him to have one slipup.
The fact is that Media Matters monitors all of the media. And they present the outrageous, racist, homophobic, and lies that are being told by the media on a daily basis. Imus has had many slipups in the past, and they have all been reported by Media Matters.
Here are few dozen items about Imus:


So if Media Matters reports several items a day, as they have been doing for years, I think we need to dig deeper into why the Imus item blew up - and why he was the one that took the fall.
Why are the thousands of other items that Media Matters reports on across hundreds of journalists - why did none of them bring up the same level of outrage?
Good for Media Matters for reporting these items and trying to counter slander and lies with the truth. People can use that information however they want, but don't blame the messenger.
Hey if Imus wants to refer to Brokeback Mountain as "Fudgepack Mountain", as he has, that's his right to do it. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with Media Matters reporting that (as they have).

Wade_Garrett said...

Ann - I never said that Imus wasn't a liberal.

I said that there are just as many conservative interest groups watching every minute of every day in an attempt to catch screw-ups that would reflect badly upon Democratic figures. There are thought police on both sides of the debate.

Finn Kristiansen said...

The Wall Street Journal on Friday has a column by James Taranto (Best of the Web) that suggests a double standard in Imus getting fired for using language found in rap. Taranto uses lyrics by rapper Ludacris to show that Obama, who vocally denounced Imus and befriended Luda, was somehow a hypocrite.

But I think what also gets lost in this is the actual usage of the word. Most rappers, when calling someone "ho" are talking about a type of woman, not any woman. It's that woman who is taking your money, maybe creeping on you with your friends, mocking you for not driving her in a Benz to pick up the check she did not earn. The woman with three kids with five different fathers (miraculously and impossibly), who has her hand out, and bitching at you for not sharing your loot. She is banging her cousin, disrespecting you, and loudmouthed to boot. In other words, while all whores are women, not all women are whores. But actual "ho" types exist.

Imus, erred in calling a bunch of studious gifted atheletes a name that does not fit with how the term is used by those who have popularized it most. It's the old guy trying to sound young, or trying to appropriate language, and further, extending it from its application as a judge of character to one of racial traits.

Let me make clear I am not condoning anyone's use of such language. In a perfect world, whites and blacks will be able to say exactly the same things, and have exactly the same reactions, in the same manner that in some distant future, a German calling a Jew swine, and a Jew calling a Jew swine, will have the same emotional impact. That day will come about the same day that we treat family and strangers in our homes the same, and when we love our enemies as ourselves, and when we all start to ACT like we believe that that what is true for us in our private heart is true for all men. That will be genius.

Until that genius moment though, who says what to whom does carry some weight, and how words are used matters a great deal. And further, how Imus used the word, and how black rappers used the term, are not nearly the same.

That there were people laying in wait to trip/trap Imus is almost irrelevant and he should have had the balls to tell the world to "fuck off" rather than do the whole safety dance (only to end up getting fired anyway). While I disagree with what he said, and how he said, and understand how some people can be offended, I think there is a ton of hypocrisy going on among those who suckled at his man breasts when the drinking was good, and now pretend they don't like milk.

pablo H said...

First, I don't mind that IMUS did the "safety dance"; he has to think about his staff, not just himself.

Secondly, I think IMUS will get another show, but will his usual guests continue to show up?

Third, I see that Sullivan is written about IMUS in the Times. Its the usual Sullivan crapfest where he "explains" the controversy to the Brits and gets half the facts wrong.

Is there a bigger joke than Andrew Sullivan? Why are Althouse or Kaus writting blogs and Sullivan has an article in the Times?

Robin Goodfellow said...

I predict that after Imus is rehabilitated he'll be a liberal again.

Gerry said...

I doubt Imus will be gone for long.

And I am not sure I like the whole idea of waiting to 'find the one you want gone.' Set a standard, and then play to the standard, regardless of who it is who transgresses.

I very easily could have been on the side defending Imus. I used to like (not love) his show. I did not think the "nappy headed hos" line was as bad as it was made out to be. It was reprehensible, and I think an apology was warranted. Not a scalp.

But it wasn't just that. It was the whole bit. It wasn't just one offensive line. It was an attack on athletes over their looks *during an athletic event.* It would be like writing an article after Florida won the men's basketball title, focusing in on how ugly Joakim Noah is, exaggerating his black and jewish features. And doing the same for the rest of the team. Mean spirited, and not at all funny.

And it leaves off the worst part. Bernard (I think it was) throwing out the jigaboo line. I find that word to be every bit as bad as the n-word. The only people I have ever heard use the jigaboo word are the same ones who frequently use the n-word. They use the j-word for more effect, not less.

As long as it is not the government coming down on them, but just people in the form of customers, audiences, and company management with fingers on the pulse of customers and audiences, then I am fine with the whole thing. We should be a more respectful, dignified, and nicer people. Even if some find intentional instigation to be a desirable thing.

Omaha1 said...

If you watched SNL last night, you know that Imus will be checking in to Al & Jesse's "Wings Of Hope" rehabilitation center. Once he completes their program I'm sure that his mind will be cleansed of racist, misogynistic thoughts. If he does ever get another show it will be predictably boring and politically correct.

Sissy Willis said...

Media Matters for America, that "liberal group whose sole purpose is rooting out and 'correcting conservative misinformation in the US media,'" would appear to have cut off its own nose. Imus was a facilitator not for conservatives but for liberal candidates and media "stars."

Al Maviva said...

Hah, Media Matters enforcing purity of thought, word and deed... whoda thunkit?

Maybe they'll get on that Atrios guy for calling his readers 'bitches.'

Now is that a slur on women or homosexuals, or is it a joke about prison rape?

C'mon MM, get after it!

Dan said...

Gerry - the "jigaboos" comment was a reference to the 1988 Spike Lee movie, "School Daze" (though Charles McCord erroneously stated that it was another Lee "joint," "Do The Right Thing.") See Media Matters website, http://mediamatters.org/items/200704040011

Palladian said...

"The fact is that Media Matters monitors all of the media. And they present the outrageous, racist, homophobic, and lies that are being told by the media on a daily basis."

If they monitor "all of the media", I'd assume that includes popular weblogs. So when will they be coming after your sorry hide for the outrageous, bigoted, offensive (and stupid) things you frequently say? Papa Soros, come save us from this pretend libertarian downtownlad!

wayne said...

While I do not appreciate Imus at all and I do think what he said was crappy, the appalling thing to me was that CBS and MSNBC are ran by such ball-less wonders. They should have never taken him off.

This kind of stuff only encourages that wormy little putz Kucinch and his "fairness doctrine" gestapo.

There should be a yearly national award for the person who can tell the Hymie-Hypocrite Jackson and Tawana Brawley-boy Sharpton to go screw themselves. Those two losers put the scum in scumbag.

The PC police are going to be the death of Western Civilization.

Wade_Garrett said...


Well, at least we're not exaggerating.

Invisible Man said...

Thanks Fin for hopefully enlightning people on a topic that while isn't pretty, is being used by people in a fashion that is just plain false. "Ho" is no different than slut or whore. It is used way to generally in a misogynistic fashion that I find deplorable, but it is a reference to a category of women not just women in general. You won't find any rapper calling Oprah, Condelezza, their sister, mother, friends or wife a ho. The fact is that even the most despicable rappers wouldn't have used that language to describe some college girls who represented themselves with class.

I'm fully against the use of that word but the fact is that the term is not synonymous with "black women" as some commentors seem to be alluding. The language in rap needs to be cleaned up, and I do hope that this becomes a teaching moment for that culture but many are making statements about issues and words that they don't seem to fully grasp.

Brian said...

Imus was a test case, particularly inasmuch as his MO was to kiss up to Frank Rich, NBC and Newsweek reporters, and other personalities of the left-leaning MSM. The same crew will go after Rush Limbaugh - they've been going after him, but they will now renew their efforts - and they will fail.

Rush has too many fans, and too many advertisers lined up. There are also many people attuned to the strategy of lies, who will point out the lies when they are told about Rush over the next few months.

Jeff said...

"vet66 - If I read you correctly, what you're saying is that you're jealous of the fact that black people get to say some racially insensitive words which, due to your whiteness, you cannot. What does that say about you?"
Actually Wade_Garrett, what he said was to point out the hypocrisy that
turns a deaf ear or is outraged by these sorts of comments based entirely on who says them. In other words, the outrage should remain constant. The fact you interpret this as jealously that the speaker is not allowed to make such statements brings up the question, What does that say about you?

Steven said...

Ah, yes, Media Liars for Propaganda. Founded by David Brock, who switched from conservative to liberal without changing tactics or his regard for the truth.

PatCA said...

Sounds to me that that one that the media really fears is Media Matters, not Imus. I never heard once that they originated the complaint.

Wouldn't it have been relevant to say "as reported by liberal media watchdog Media Matters" or words to that effect when reporting the episode? Guess they didn't want to be on MM's bad side, either.

fred said...

So much nonsense here. All; the silly remarks about liberals and the left.! Imus was (is) a pompous guy with a big mouth. It was the free market, the commercial part of it, that did him in. He has spat venom on gays, Jessz, the disabled, American Indians, feminists, and blacks. As a grad of Rutgers, I am glad he is gone. Never trust a guy that wears a cowboy hat indoors in New York!

Imus is pompous. May have read many books--big deal. He is like Hamas, you imply: yes, hamas does bad things but look at how they help out socially!

You listen to him? that is then your loss. I found him tedious, and nearly as bad as his lickspittle sideman, his buttboy.

One early interviewee reports that whenhe showed up, Imus was wering a gun in the studio...ah, 2nd amendment...a real cowboy. Somehow, with thelousy war in Iraq, Iran getting nukes, global warming and high gas prices, I suspect that there are more inportant issues that the Imus caper.

downtownlad said...

I see Palladian.

And can you name one of those offensive things?

Seems you just hate me, because I dare to call a spade a spade, and when I hear someone spouting off homophobic rants - I point out that those people are anti-gay bigots.

You prefer that gay people just cower in a corner and ignore those offensive remarks. I'm fine if you want to do that, but I won't be silenced.

And your calling me a "turd" the other day was someone supposed to NOT be offensive? It's funny - you think that your farts smell good. Well they don't.

downtownlad said...

Steven - Care to point out an example where Media Matters lied?

Just one example.

Because all they pretty much do is reprint what people said and point out how it's incorrect.

Just one example.

Chip Ahoy said...

This is the best I've seen yet on this awful story. Thanks for posting.

Yes, I'm all for the rehabilitation of Imus. Rehabilitation from his cud chewing, or gum, or whatever that is he's chewing that made him impossible to watch for longer than 5 minutes.

No, I don't want him gone. I rather Ryan Chiachiere and his activists friends who spend hours scouring radio and cable shows searching for damaging items be gone.

cfortin said...

I just watched Russett this morning, talking about Imus. I enjoyed Tim's appearance many times on the Imus show, and was thoroughly disgusted at the way he acted today, as if he barely knew the man. For years, he's "nice to see you Imus", "great work you're doing here", "thanks for having me on", and today, it like "who was that strange man who said the bad thing"

I don't think I'll be watching Russett anymore. I used to like his show, but today turned my stomach.

Gerry said...

Dan-- Didn't know that. I guess that speaks to the counter-argument that they were saying things that certain folks within the black culture say.

I think things just work better if no one goes down that path. Bernard or Spike Lee or anyone.

Gerry said...

Oh, wait. The world would be less filled with culture and less exciting without artists like Lee using jigaboo and like terms in their works.

Guess we are better off having folks like him using those terms, and with folks like Imus knowing better than trying to play that game.

johnstodder said...

I do hope that this becomes a teaching moment...

Nothing personal Invisible Man, but,


What decade is this?

I must be so out of step. I don't see this as an example of the PC police. I certainly don't see this as a "teaching moment" (or, as I remember it being called in Berkeley, a "teachable moment"). I hardly see any larger significance to it at all. This is about a radio personality, operating under an FCC license, who said something unacceptably offensive. The result would have been the same if Rush Limbaugh had said it, if Al Franken had said it, or if Bob Costas had said it. "Nappy-headed ho" might be tolerated on a CD, or on satellite radio, or cable TV, but not on the public airwaves. The phrase would end the candidacy of any aspirant to public office, and if a teacher was heard saying it, they would be fired immediately -- and you know how hard it is to fire a teacher. This would have ended the career of any broadcaster in 1957, 1987 or 2007.

He crossed the line and thus lost the privilege of using the public airwaves to sell advertising time. The deep-thinking, thumb-sucking and battle cries are so disproportionate. Like everyone says, I expect him to come back, but if he didn't, we'd forget about him in six months.

The Exalted said...

why all the hullabaloo over media matters?

is it because the facts have a liberal bias?

and ann, why do you definitively state that imus is a liberal? because you don't like him?

Gerry said...

I am guessing she thinks him a liberal because he generally takes liberal positions.

I am guessing you think he is not a liberal because he said something easily construed as being racist, which you think by definition makes him a conservative.

Hope that helps.

Donald Douglas said...

Great post! I read the Newsweek piece this afternoon as well. My thoughts were that Imus filled a perfect niche in the Washington media establishment. Look at all the hot-shot correspondents now cowering from the fallout, saying they were uncomfortable with the downside of the Imus repertoire, but enjoyed being hip with the in-crowd spotlight. Imus made a big mistake -- racially denigrating the wrong people (if it's ever okay to spew that filth, though the Newsweek piece made it seem okay to be called racial ephithets if it kept you on call as one of Imus' guests -- remember Howard Kurtz' admission). There's also the cult of victimology that's been reloaded with the episode. Now Sharpton and Jackson will have renewed credibility for the black community's victims' strategy. Time's also got its cover story this week on the Imus firing. I'll take a look at it tomorrow though. My copy of "The Departed" came by Netflix and I'm going to snuggle down and check it out. Plus, it's back to teaching tomorrow. Hope you had a nice vacation.

Chris said...

Media Matters for America is a Clinton front group designed to attack Republicans and enforce orthodoxy in the Democratic Party. They had been monitoring Imus closely for months because the Clintons wanted him out of the way. Folks over at RedState figure that their next target is Matthews.

It's more important for the Clintons to get rid of dissenting Dems than to attck conservative screamers.

Sloanasaurus said...

I am not sure how groups like Media Matters intend to take down Limbaugh, etc... Imus was brought down because his show had mainstream advertising. I am sure any sensitive advertiser pulled out from Limbaugh's show a long time ago. Ed's local bar and Grill is not going to pull out of Limbaugh's show because a bunch of media types in DC think he is a racist.

I wonder where Imus' advertisers will go. He had the 25-50 year old white male independent audience in his time slot. Where will these white male independents go? Michael Savage?

Thordaddy said...

Imus' biggest mistake was apologizing in the first place. What was he apologizing for exactly...?

Was he apologizing for a "racist" and "sexist" remark, totally "unprovoked" and entirely "reprehensible" against a group of "innocent" women?

Is this not the price of "equality?" Is it not judgemental, intolerant and totally unequal to apply such adjectives to this situation? Are liberals claiming that these woman are entitled to a traditional code of conduct?

I don't believe Imus has ever apologized to any of the other hundreds of individuals he's mocked and denigrated and yet it is demanded he apologize to these woman who are the recipients of generous taxpayers dollars that pay them to play sports and get a fine education to boot. Are these women both "equal" and superior to the rest of us?

Why must Imus apologize in a world where liberal hypocrites DEMAND totally "equality?"

Benjamin said...

Media Matters won't go after Limbaugh just yet...his following is too strong.

If anything, they'll target the next tier of talk radio: Michael Savage, Glenn Beck (never thought I'd be using their names in such close proximity), Sean Hannity, Laura Ingram, etc. These personalities are much more niche than Rush....which means they have fewer people willing to defend them.

Floridan said...

Part of the probelm is that Imus is kidding himself: he is full of shit. Or perhaps he's just deluding himself.

He is repeatedly claiming that he "is a good person," but I doubt good people refer to Gwen Ifill as a "cleaning lady," or Howard Kurtz as "that boner-nosed . . . beanie-wearing little Jew boy."

Just a joke? In what way is it funny?

So either Imus is a bigot (not a good person) or he is willing to purposefully use hateful language is make a buck (even less of a good person).

Not a good person pleading that he is a good person = full of shit.

USpace said...

Good one, Media Matters might someday regret taking down a platform where Democratic politicians have been able to reach the hard-to-reach white-male moderates and independents.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
create race wars

blow things out of proportion
thereby promoting yourself