Volume 76, Number 46 | April 11 - 17, 2007


It’s time to pull the plug on Imus
There’s comedy and then there’s callous insensitivity. The latter was recently displayed by radio “shock jock” Don Imus when he made ugly, inappropriate and blatantly racist comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team after their loss in the N.C.A.A. tournament championship game.

Although they lost the game, the Rutgers team can still bask in the glow of their exhilarating tournament run. These young women put themselves, and their school, on the map as an upstart basketball program to be reckoned with by the more established powerhouses. We don’t know all their individual stories, but it’s likely that more than one of these student/athletes overcame some tough odds to get where they are today.

Then along comes smug, nasty Imus who dumps on them in the crudest manner possible — in racist terms seemingly pulled from another century. How these words even found their way into his head, we’ll never know.

Imus provides valuable airtime to politicians and authors. Indeed, some politicians and publishers are even now saying Imus deserves yet another chance. But we agree with his employers, MSNBC and CBS radio, who have banned him from the air for two weeks. Furthermore, we agree with Al Sharpton and others who say it’s time to pull the plug on Imus for good.

Satire by the weak of the powerful is one thing. But when a rich, white guy like Imus decides to get his jollies by making shockingly racist comments about an overachieving bunch of young athletes who played their hearts out for the national championship, it’s gone too far.

It’s not the first time Imus has made slurs like this, nor the first time he’s had to apologize. But the sordidness of this latest incident really shows his true character. This man has zero sensitivity or common decency. He’s abusing, and polluting, the airwaves with his verbal garbage — and it’s now time for him, once and for all, to sign off.

O.K., so he’s done some good things for disabled and terminally ill kids of all races. But his comments about the Rutgers team show an underlying pathology and hatred that we don’t need to hear anymore. If he’s reinstated, we hope that the threatened boycotts will materialize and force his ouster.

Imus thought he could say anything on the air, no matter how hateful, and how bullying, and get away with it. Yes, free speech is protected, of course. But there’s a modicum of responsibility that, we feel, should accompany it when a medium like radio is being used. The Federal Communications Commission thinks so, too, as seen with Howard Stern, who fled to satellite radio after the F.C.C. fined his parent company millions of dollars for his on-air indecency.

Even more than indecency, though, Imus crossed a line of conscience. We’re sure there’s some space on the satellite for Imus, too. Those who find his hateful brand of humor funny can listen to him there.

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