In the end, it was not about Imus. It was about us.
Are we really a better country because, after he was publicly whipped for 10 days as the worst kind of racist, with whom no decent person could associate, he was thrown off the air?
Cards on the table.
This writer works for MSNBC, has been on the Imus show scores of times, watches Imus every morning, and likes the show, the music and the guys: the I-Man, Bernie, Charles and Tom Bowman.
And Imus is among the best interviewers in our business. Not only does he read and follow the news closely, he listens and probes as well as any interviewer in America. Because he is a comic, people mistake how good a questioner he is.
Is "Imus in the Morning" outrageous? Over the top at times? Are things said every week, if not every day, where you say, "He's going too far"? Yeah. But outrageousness is part of the show, whether the skits are of "Teddy Kennedy," "Reverend Falwell," "Mayor Nagin" or "The Cardinal."
And when Imus called the Rutgers women's basketball team "tattooed ... nappy-headed ho's," he went over the top. The women deserved an apology. There was no cause, no call to use those terms. As Ann Coulter said, they were not fair game.
But Imus did apologize, again and again and again.
And lest we forget, these are athletes in their prime, the same age as young women in Iraq. They are not 5-year-old girls, and they are capable of brushing off an ignorant comment by a talk-show host who does not know them, or anything about them.
Who, after all, believed the slur was true? No one.
Compare, if you will, what was done to them -- a single nasty insult -- to the savage slanders for weeks on end of the Duke lacrosse team and the three players accused by a lying stripper of having gang-raped her at a frat party.
Duke faculty and talking heads took that occasion to vent their venom toward all white "jocks" on college campuses. Where are the demands for apologies from the talk-show hosts, guests, Duke faculty members and smear artists, all of whom bought into the lies about those Duke kids -- because the lies comported with their hateful view of America?
And hate is what this is all about.
While the remarks of Imus and Bernie about the Rutgers women were indefensible, they were more unthinking and stupid than vicious and malicious. But malice is the right word to describe the howls for their show to be canceled and them to be driven from the airwaves -- by phonies who endlessly prattle about the First Amendment.
The hypocrisy here was too thick to cut with a chainsaw.