Anatomy of a scandal: Don Imus spends years developing a talk radio career where his cranky, always-irritated demeanor turns into revenue gold for his employers; on one particular morning he makes a stupid, bigoted remark about a bunch of young, talented college athletes; a liberal watchdog-type website blasts the remark all over the internet, prompting the media to turn it into a firestorm; Imus makes a bunch of clumsy, cranky, always-irritated attempts to apologize; and before he can even begin to start serving his self-described “two week suspension with dignity”, he loses it all. First, his cable news employer cans him and then, his bread and butter, the radio network, says good-bye, I-Man.
A few good things have come out of this train wreck. Any time an issue isn’t split down predictable party lines, that’s a good thing. Liberal blowhards like Rosie O’Donnell and Bill Maher rushed to his defense while conservative blowhards like me agreed that Don Imus should probably lose his job.
I know that any of us who make a living in front of a microphone could invoke the, “There but for the grace of God” response. But once in awhile, it’s not hard to keep from defending the indefensible. Talk radio is an intimate medium. If we hosts are any good at it, our listeners know us. And it’s pretty doggone tough to listen to a cranky old man with a ridiculous-looking oversize cowboy hat perched on his head and know that when he watches an NCAA basketball team comprised of black students, the phrase “nappy-headed ho’s” even enters his mind. I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to something quacking and walking and looking like a duck and therefore probably being an actual duck.
Only a bigot would say what Imus said.
But what about the other bigots in this story? What happens to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton now? Does anyone really believe that they’re the moral arbiters when it comes to the subject of Don Imus? How many reporters will ever have the courage to ask Rev. Jesse Jackson how he could dare criticize “nappy-headed ho’s” when he has yet to apologize for calling New York City “Hymietown?”
And when is Rev. Al Sharpton going to apologize for ruining the life of an Upstate New York policeman who was falsely accused of rape by a lying scoundrel named Tawana Brawley?
Speaking of Tawana Brawley, how about today’s version of the same affair, a black stripper named Crystal Mangum who falsely accused those Duke Lacrosse players of rape? Why isn’t D.A. Mike Nifong joining Don Imus in unemployment?
I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. Heck, I don’t even really know if Don Imus should have been fired. I think so, but this isn’t a guy who suddenly came up with a slur like this one. He’s been doing it for years and just about every author, politician, TV personality and celebrity in America acted like Imus was their best buddy. Heck, John McCain wants to be President and he’s tone deaf enough to brag about going back on Imus’ show after the dust settled (and obviously before finding out that there wouldn’t be a show to return to).
I suppose one of the morals of this story is that when the media machine sets its sights on someone, that someone is pretty much finished. I don’t even think Imus can move into satellite radio, a place where plenty of foul-mouthed shock jocks wind up. With XM and Sirius planning to merge, the satellite radio industry needs all kinds of governmental approvals. You think any politician is going to sign off on a big merger if the merging companies feature Don Imus?
No, Mr. Imus is pretty much caput. Maybe he can retire to his palatial residence at his ranch for sick kids and ride horses and wear his big ol’ hat to his heart’s content, riding off into the sunset literally and figuratively.
After the media is through chewing Imus up and spitting him out, it’ll retreat for awhile until it finds another hapless prey. Then it’ll all start up again and we can watch in amazement as someone who seemed invincible comes crashing down in a fiery mess.
Like it or not, it’s become the American way.