Rich Lowry

Don Imus has to wonder where all his friends went. Just yesterday, his radio/TV show was the favorite venue of the journalistic and political elite, who delighted -- or pretended to delight -- in his ribald comments. Today, most of them appear shocked that Imus was ever given a show.

The unedifying Imus controversy is almost entirely a liberal conflagration, a perfect bonfire of the profanities: with journalists and politicians caught out ignoring their own standards of political correctness; with left-wing grievance-meisters doing their grim work on the mainstream media's favorite shockjock; with the culture of victimology running its ritualistic course. Armed only with the dubious loyalty of his frequent guests, Imus didn't stand a chance.

Calling the Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos," as Imus did, was, of course, appalling. But you have to feel a twinge of sympathy for him, given the suddenness with which rules that had never applied to him suddenly were brought down around his head. Perhaps if his corporate masters at MSNBC and CBS Radio had told him long ago that he shouldn't gratuitously insult people on the basis of their appearance, race or gender, he never would have made the comment in the first place.

But Imus brought buzzy programming to MSNBC every morning and millions of dollars to CBS, so it was offensiveness in a worthy cause (i.e., $). The talent at NBC and liberal journalists from every other outlet in the country were happy to chuckle along.

Impeccably liberal columnist Tom Oliphant had the misfortune to appear on Imus' show after the "nappy-headed" comment and before it was clear that Imus was on his way to being expelled from polite company. Oliphant excused the Imus remark as something that "can happen to anybody," and ended his appearance by saying that regular guests "have a moral obligation to stand up and say to you, 'Solidarity forever, pal.'"

So there you have it: Offensiveness now, offensiveness tomorrow, offensiveness forever. No liberal would make that kind of stand on behalf of anyone else. Imus got an exemption because his guests could feel as though they were part of the in-crowd and that they had done something wild and naughty by parleying with him.

Time magazine's Ana Marie Cox wrote an admirably honest piece explaining that she went on the show only "to earn my media-elite merit badge." But even those who already had their badges were eager guests. Cox cites New York Times columnist Frank Rich -- a great scourge of racism and sexism, real or imagined -- saying it is the only show where he could talk in more than soundbites. As if he had never heard of C-SPAN, PBS or NPR.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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