Don Imus

I don’t know if you heard, but nationally known broadcaster that hosts a popular radio talk show called “Imus in the Morning”, Don Imus is in the news. He got into a little bit of trouble last week for comments he made about the Rutger women’s basketball team. If you hadn’t heard about it, here is how Wikpedia presents it (which I believe is pretty accurate):

On his "Imus In The Morning" show on 2007-04-04, Imus referred to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." [13] Imus initially dismissed the incident as "some idiot comment meant to be amusing"[14] but apologized on April 6, 2007 after hearing calls for his dismissal[15][16] and issued a statement on April 6:
"I want to take a moment to apologize for an insensitive and ill-conceived remark we made the other morning regarding the Rutgers women's basketball team, which lost to Tennessee in the NCAA championship game on Tuesday. It was completely inappropriate and we can understand why people were offended. Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid, and we are sorry."

Imus appeared on the Rev. Al Sharpton's syndicated radio talk show on Monday, April 9, 2007 to address the Rutgers controversy. He said, "Our agenda is to be funny and sometimes we go too far. And this time we went way too far. Here's what I've learned: that you can't make fun of everybody, because some people don't deserve it."[17]
Brian Williams announced on the April 9, 2007 broadcast of the NBC Nightly News that Imus will not be simulcasted on MSNBC beginning on April 16, 2007 for two weeks as a result of comments made about the Rutgers Women's Basketball team on the show. Imus has requested a meeting between him and the team.[5]
Also on April 9, 2007, CBS Radio, which owns the New York sports station that produces "Imus in the Morning," announced that it will, too, suspend Imus for two weeks.[18] The MSNBC and CBS Radio announcements came toward the end of a day in which the calls for Imus' dismissal grew louder, despite his pledge to curtail offensive remarks on his show.

This morning on the “Today” show, Matt Lauer did an excellent job grilling Imus about it and also had Rev. Al Sharpton on the show. Imus was uncomfortable when answering the questions concerning repeated behavior and whether or not his punishment was sufficient.

Sharpton still is calling for Imus’ dismissal. Sharpton’s view is that anything less promotes this kind of speech. When Lauer asked Sharpton about his Christian duty to forgive, the reverend said that forgiveness doesn’t mean that the person should not be punished severely.

I feel that I am uniquely qualified to comment on this topic. My job centers on promoting positive relationships between groups of people – particularly concerning race. I investigate discrimination cases and sponsor events that encourage race relations. I am also a devout Christian.

Imus messed up, but he also stepped up. He not only has shown contrition for his remarks, but he also willingly got torched on Sharpton’s radio program and has not backed down from any other program that wants to rake him over the coals. He also is trying to meet with the Rutgers women’s basketball team to apologize personally. I think that all this is worth something.

I also get tired of double standards with all this “race language” here in this country. It is tolerable for some people to make certain comments (in music, and black comedy shows), but not others. My opinion is that it is unacceptable for ANYONE to make such comments and the punishments should be consistent across the board. Unless Al Sharpton calls for boycotts of certain hip-hop artists, he shouldn’t be calling for the dismissal and/or boycott of Imus. There is no place for these kind of comments period. At least Imus is apologetic about it and is not avoiding responsibility.

As far as the Christian concept of forgiveness, Sharpton is way off. He says that forgiveness doesn’t mean that someone should not be punished. I agree to an extent, but I would also argue that a two week suspension and the series of grillings and facing up to his mistake IS punishment.

I also would argue that in the examples that Jesus gave of forgiveness, He never called for harsh or harsher punishment for offenders. The woman that was caught in adultery, Jesus (instead of calling for the Law’s appropriate punishment of stoning) forgave the woman and sent her on her way. On the cross, Jesus told the Father to forgive the people who were executing them. Forgiveness is pure and has no conditions.
Imus made a mistake and took his flippant attitude too far. People were offended. I just hope that if I make similar mistake (and some may think I am making it with this post), one comment wouldn’t cost me my livelihood.


chosha said...

I agree with the suspension, because media people have an influence over their audience and it's important for there to be a significant reaction on the part of the station in response. But I don't think he should lose his job. Otherwise what do apologies and changed behaviour mean? To me the 'losing your job' stage comes when you repeat the behaviour over and over and refuse to acknowledge your mistakes.

Jeff said...

Chosha, we are in agreement. You bring up an important point. If there is absolute punishment (in this case firing), then there can be no redemption. Redemption is the only thing that can give any mistake like this meaning.

Cathy said...

"..some may think I am making it with this post.."

I don't think your post is a mistake at all, and I agree with everything you said. I actually posted the same argument of "double standard" elsewhere, however you said it much more eloquently than I did. :D