My question for this edition:
Do you think that Don Imus should have been allowed to return to the radio airwaves following his dismissal last year?
And what do you think about the current controversy surrounding his remarks about Adam “Pacman” Jones? Do you believe his explanation about his motivation?
This is the exchange that took place during Imus’ WABC-AM program this past Monday, June 23, 2008, in response to a news report from Sportscaster Warner Wolf that Adam “Pacman” Jones, cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, was arrested a sixth time:
WOLF: Oh, defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones, recently signed by the Cowboys. Here’s a guy suspended all of 2007, following a shooting at a Vegas nightclub.
IMUS: Well, stuff happens. You’re in a nightclub, for God’s sake. What do you think’s going to happen in a nightclub? People are drinking, they’re doing drugs, there are women there, and people have guns. So there — go ahead.
WOLF: He’s also — he’s been arrested six times since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005.
IMUS: What color is he?
WOLF: He’s African-American.
IMUS: Oh, well, there you go. Now we know.
When Imus returned to the airwaves six months ago, I was disappointed. His disgusting pejorative commentary about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team may have shocked many Americans, but it came as no surprise to those of us who have been aware of his on-air antics for many years. I was among those who were delighted and relieved when CBS finally fired him — the punishment was appropriate to his ongoing pattern of conduct.
However, I gave Imus the benefit of the doubt after I heard him speak about meeting with the members of the basketball team and their coach, C. Vivian Stringer. He seemed genuinely moved and honestly contrite following his encounter with those talented young women and their accomplished leader. He claimed to have gained insight into how hurtful his words had been and, when he was given a second chance by WABC-AM six months ago, pledged to mend the wounds he inflicted with his racist and sexist commentary.
But his remark about Jones’ lengthy arrest record is alarming. Reverend Al Sharpton reacted quickly, stating: “I find the inference of his remark disturbing, because it plays into stereotypes. Any use of stereotypes is always counterproductive.”
Karith Foster, Imus’ co-host, immediately came to Imus’ defense, arguing that his comment must be understood “in context.” Wolf said: “[A]nybody that listens to the show knows that whether it’s a politician or an athlete or anyone, someone who’s obviously guilty, you joke and say, ‘Well, it must have been racism.’ I mean, it’s a joke. I mean, we all know that ‘Pacman’ is no model citizen. The guy’s been arrested and suspended. So it’s a joke.”
Given a day to formulate an explanation, Imus said on Tuesday, June 24, 2008, that “[t]he point was, in order to make a sarcastic point, I asked Wolf what color he was. What people should be outraged about is that they arrest blacks for no reason. I mean, there’s no reason to arrest this kid six times. Maybe he did something once, but everyone does something once.” He called the initial outrage over his remarks “ridiculous,” citing the fact that the staff of his new radio show is diverse, including an African-American producer and two African-American co-hosts, one male and one female.
As to the interpretation of his Monday commentary as bigoted, he asked rhetorically, “How insane would I have to be? What would I be thinking?”
I agree with one commentator’s assessment of Imus’ current status as a radio personality: He is “irrelevant.” He was, for many years, a powerful media voice with a large audience. Today, he may be back on the radio, but few people care. He suffered a huge “fall from grace” in 2007 from which he will never, in my opinion, recover. He is now incapable of achieving the level of success he once enjoyed.
Do I believe his explanation about his latest remarks? No, I think Don Imus is a bigot and his explanation transparent. I don’t listen to his radio program and never will because he has no credibility or believability. He had an extensive history of making inappropriate remarks about many different groups of people, but CBS chose to look the other way for many years. It was only when his comments about the Rutgers University players caught the attention of and angered so many people that CBS realized they could no longer ignore the elephant in the room and finally took action.
Stereotypes are the categorization of people as a result of preconceived notions or perceptions. Stereotyping another human being is the act of attributing certain assumed characteristics to him/her based upon his/her membership or perceived membership in a particular group of persons with shared qualities.
Imus has always employed stereotypes in order to get a laugh. Sadly, despite being given the kind of second chance that most people only dream about, he hasn’t changed. He’s not going to change, despite his protestations to the contrary.
And for that reason alone, I will never listen to him — or any other celebrity who engages in similar behavior. I don’t buy his explanation, as I think he slipped and once again revealed his true, bigoted view of the world. I am going on record as predicting that it won’t be the last time and, eventually, he will again lose his platform, with the only difference being that even fewer people will miss him than did the first time his program was silenced. It’s just a question of how long it takes.