Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"CBS Radio and NBC News needs to remove Don Imus from the airwaves. That is what needs to happen. Otherwise, it looks like profit and ratings rule over decency and justice." Al Roker

"I did a bad thing, but I'm a good person." "Our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far." Don Imus

What Imus and McGuirk said was patently stupid but what happens next is what's important. Should there be consequences for this behavior beyond the two week suspension? Should these old white guys be allowed to continue doing what they've been doing for years? What makes this event different? After all, Imus and McGuirk have a well documented history, a pattern as some have called it, of making stupid and offensive remarks.

"Here's what I've learned: that you can't make fun of everybody, because some people don't deserve it" said Imus. My sense is the offensive remarks struck a responsive chord not simply for what was said but because of the targets. The young women of Rutgers advancing against all odds was a Cinderella story. These ladies became targets because of their success and their color. To demean Black women is wrong and without excuse. To demean these champion student athletes, to diminish their achievement with an offensive attempt at humor, is clearly beyond the pale. They are simply not fair game for an Imus shredding. This time, Iman, you picked the wrong folks to trash.

Making matters ever more reprehensible is the Imus Walk of Shame. The groveling old white guy on tour. The "you people" remark during yesterday's Sharpton show. This morning's NBC appearance with Lauer and Sharpton. The "comedy" defense and the etymology argument (popular, pervasive "use" of Black slang by others), each serves to confirm Imus and his crew are tone deaf. Out of touch geezers. Imus has been sucked into that vortex that is the freak show. The story becomes nothing but sound bite and react, this is the Iman's "Howard Dean moment." B roll of the well managed Rutgers press conference with headshot of the old white guy. In all this mess it would appear the Rev Jackson owes an apology of his own to Alison Stewart. MSNBC is not all white, all day, all night.

Imus ignited his own firestorm. From his inept delay in offering a first apology to his overwrought repeat offender contrition to his off-topic reminders about all his years of good work and service to others. The ideal moment for him to have said "I'm an idiot, an old fool, an aging clown, it was a joke, get over it" has long passed. Where was management the day this happened? The talent said what they said, however producers, program directors and general managers are also culpable here. MSNBC and CBS Radio each have a stake. The lack of management acuity in prompting a quick and proper apology is eclipsed only by what appears to be management's ham-fisted involvement, if not boneheaded counsel, in the Walk of Shame. We have a talent issue here and a leadership issue as well.

Now that the ladies have agreed to a private meeting with Imus this story is far from over. The young champions will have their say.

It seems too much has been made about how Imus feels. The only feelings I care about are those of the young ladies. And before you tell me there's a "sticks and stones" lesson here let me stop you and suggest there's a much bigger opportunity here - an opportunity to teach and to educate. To move forward by setting an example, move forward by doing the right thing.

What is certain at this point is the Iman has become radioactive. P&G and Staples have pulled their advertising. Should he stay or should he go? Your comments welcome. My take tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

David excellent observations. Imus should be fired. He is past his prime and needs to be put out before he does any serious damage. What an interesting first day on the job Dan Mason is in for. Sarah