Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Rutgers Basketball Coach Says Racist Comments Were 'Despicable, Deplorable and Unconscionable'

Rutgers Coach Assails Imus' Comments

Rutgers Coach Calls Imus Comments 'Deplorable, Despicable and Unconscionable'

The Associated Press

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Rutgers women's basketball team will meet with embattled radio host Don Imus, and their coach on Tuesday called his comments "racist and sexists remarks that are deplorable, despicable and unconscionable."

Players stopped short of saying whether they thought Imus should be fired.

But forward Essence Carson said: "We have agreed to have a meeting with Mr. Don Imus."

Teammate Matee Ajavon said: "I could say that we honestly don't know what to expect from Don Imus and what we will plan on asking him is his reasons and how you could just say things that you have not put any thought to? Right now I can't really say if we have come to a conclusion of whether we will accept the apology. What I can say I think this meeting will be crucial for us, the state of New Jersey and everybody representing us."

Head coach C. Vivian Stringer said her players "are the best this nation has to offer, and we are so very fortunate to have them at Rutgers University. They are young ladies of class, distinction. They are articulate, they are gifted. They are God's representatives in every sense of the word."

Imus has been suspended for two weeks for calling the Rutgers female basketball players "nappy-headed hos."

"It's not about them (players) as black or nappy-headed. It's about us as a people," Stringer said. "When there is not equality for all, or when there has been denied equality for one, there has been denied equality for all."

She further said: "While they worked hard in the classroom and accomplished so much and used their gifts and talents, you know, to bring the smiles and the pride within this state in so many people, we had to experience racist and sexist remarks that are deplorable, despicable, and abominable and unconscionable. It hurts me."

NBC, CBS Suspends Racist Show For Two Weeks; FAIR Says Public Should Not Be Surprised


April 9, 2007— - Don Imus, the radio personality beset by a wave of criticism for racially insensitive remarks made on his "Imus in the Morning" program last week, took his effort to salvage his career into the camp of his most vocal critic today. Despite his overture, however, both NBC and CBS News announced that they would suspend their broadcasts of the show temporarily.

Imus accepted the challenge to appear on Rev. Al Sharpton's radio program, "The Al Sharpton Show" and announced that he was trying to meet with members of the Rutgers women's basketball team, the targets of his insulting comments.

Sharpton, who has called for Imus to be fired, was not satisfied and led a sharp exchange in which he pressed Imus to quit.

On his broadcast Wednesday, Imus said of the Rutgers womens team, who had just played in the NCAA championship game, "That's some nappy-headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that."

His on-air apology two days later has not quelled the controversy stirred by that remark. Rev. Jesse Jackson led a group of protesters in front of NBC's offices in Chicago today calling for Imus to be fired.

If that does not happen, Jackson said he would lead a boycott of all products that advertise on Imus' show.

On the NAACP Web site, Chairman Julian Bond says of Imus, "It is past time his employers took him off the air."

NBC will indeed take him off the air -- at least for a while. The company announced today it will suspend its simulcast of Imus' show for two weeks, beginning Monday, April 16. The broadcaster doesn't employ Imus, but its cable outlet MSNBC simulcasts Imus' program along with more than 70 radio stations around the country.

CBS Radio, Imus' employer, followed suit. It announced, shortly after NBC, that it would suspend its broadcast of the show for two weeks beginning April 16. Earlier, the network called his comments "completely inappropriate," but had no further comment on its decision to take Imus off the air.

Should Imus Remain On the Air?

The fact that Imus is still on the air five days after his remarks surprises some media observers.

USA Today sports columnist and ABC News consultant Christine Brennan told "Good Morning America", "It's really stunning to me in 2007 that you can say these things about African American women and keep your job."

But Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University says Imus remaining on the air is no mystery. His 30-year-old "Imus in the Morning" program is a ratings leader at MSNBC and an important property to CBS Radio.

Says Thompson, "There's a whole calculus to this. When it happens, management takes a look at what he can deliver, what they expect he can deliver in the future and, if they fire him, who do they put in that time slot? How do they come anywhere close to delivering that same audience?"

Still, though Imus has weathered the storm so far, Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs believes his career is severely damaged. Given that his show's popularity depends to some extent on regular appearances by newsmakers including presidential contenders, Felling wonders: "Do the politicians keep playing on his playground? Do they have to respond to outside pressures and boycott his program?"

Felling believes his prominent guests will stay away now. "He can stay on and enjoy a slow bleed or just turn in his 'thanks for the ride, folks' paperwork." That slow bleed may already have begun. Late today, baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, who is promoting two books, canceled an appearance on the show, according to his publicist, according to his publicist, John Maroon. "In light of recent remarks made on the program, Cal will not appear on the show as part of his national book tour," Maroon said.

History Suggests Zero Tolerence

Imus' comment about the Rutgers players conjures up past sports-related racial gaffes that have ended the careers of those who uttered them, however he has yet to suffer the fate history would suggest.

In 1987, Al Campanis -- then general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers -- appeared on ABC's Nightline. When host Ted Koppel asked why there were so few black managers in baseball, Campanis's reply, that blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager" stirred controversy and protests that quickly cost him his job with the Dodgers.

Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder's career as a CBS Sports commentator ended in January 1988 when he told a Washington NBC TV station that blacks are better at sports than whites because they are "bred to be the better athlete". He said this started during slavery when "the slave owner would breed this big black with this big black woman so he could have a big black kid."

Though he offered a "full heartfelt apology to all I have offended", CBS fired Snyder the next day.

Famed sportscaster Howard Cosell's career never recovered from a remark made during a Monday Night Football game in 1983 between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.

As Redskins receiver Alvin Garrett ran down the field, Cosell exclaimed "look at that little monkey run!" That Cosell had famously defended Muhammad Ali as a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam was not enough to save him from the wrath of viewers who thought him racist. Two months, later he was gone from ABC.

In October 2003, Rush Limbaugh had to resign his position as an ESPN commentator soon after he said that Donovan McNabb gets more favorable press attention than he should because "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well."

Looking back at this history, Thompson notes there used to be "zero tolerance for this sort of thing."

"Now we're in a period where the landscape has gotten so much more complicated," said Thompson. "You've got things like Chapelle's show, and South Park and hip hop music lyrics where things that were simply not acceptable in any context whatsoever have begun to infiltrate the culture in some contexts where they are acceptable."

Factor in Imus status as a "shock jock" whose job description, says Thompson, "is to occasionally do things that will almost but not quite get you fired", and you've got another reason why Imus may survive what Campanis, Snyder and Cosell could not.

Aside from the discomfiting changes in our culture that might allow Imus to survive this controversy, Matthew Felling says it raises a troubling and ominous question: "what sorts of behavior is going on on smaller market radio stations that don't get this sort of exposure and this amount of criticism?"


Action Alert

Racism Is to Be Expected From Don Imus: CBS, NBC, media pundits complicit in talk host's bigotry


In the wake of the latest racial slur broadcast on Don Imus' show, the question is not whether Imus is a racist—the man, after all, admitted to hiring one of his co-hosts to do "nigger jokes" (60 Minutes, 7/19/98)—but why CBS, NBC and top media pundits seem to feel no embarrassment over associating with his racism.

The Imus in the Morning radio show is aired on CBS-owned radio station WFAN, and is syndicated nationally by CBS-owned Westwood One. It is simulcast daily on MSNBC, a cable news channel in which GE subsidiary NBC Universal holds a controlling interest. Top media pundits like Tim Russert, Howard Fineman, Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd are frequent Imus guests. The show has also been a conduit for televised racism and other bigotry for years.

FAIR and others have documented numerous instances of Imus and his on-air colleagues expressing overt racism and other forms of bigotry. Imus himself has referred to African-American journalist Gwen Ifill as "a cleaning lady," to New York Times sports reporter Bill Rhoden as "quota hire" and to tennis player Amelie Mauresmo as "a big old lesbo." Imus called Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz a "boner-nosed... beanie-wearing Jewboy," referred to a disabled colleague as "the cripple," and to an Indian men's tennis duo as "Gunga Din and Sambo." In Imus' words, the New York Knicks are "chest-thumping pimps."

Imus' on again/off again sidekick Sid Rosenberg was temporarily fired in 2001 for calling tennis player Venus Williams an "animal" and remarking that the Williams sisters—Venus and her tennis player sister Serena—would more likely be featured in National Geographic than in Playboy. Rosenberg insisted to New York's Daily News (6/7/01) that his comments weren't racist, "just zoological." In 2004, MSNBC had to apologize when the rehired Rosenberg referred to Palestinians as "stinking animals."

In May 2005, MSNBC let Contessa Brewer out of her short stint as a news reader on Imus' morning show after Imus had made a daily game of crude personal attacks against her, calling her a pig, a skank, dumber than dirt and other similar felicities, all on air. MSNBC claimed they "expressed their displeasure" to the host (New York Post, 5/1/05), while noting that his "humor" was "often brilliant and provocative."

In his most recent racist outburst, on April 4, Imus called the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos," just moments after sidekick and executive producer Bernard McGuirk (the "nigger jokes" hire) called them "hard-core hos." The Rutgers team, which recently played in the national championship finals, is made up of eight African-American women and two white women.

On April 6, Imus issued an apology for the slur of the Rutgers team. It was the latest in a long line of apologies for bigotry on his show. Past apologies have served to take pressure off Imus, but haven't resulted in a change of behavior by the host or his colleagues.

Niether has Imus' history of bigotry dissuaded prominent journalists and pundits, more after publicity than principle, from appearing on Imus' show. Friday's show, in addition to Imus' apology, featured an interview with NBC's Meet the Press host Tim Russert.

In an exceptional report on April 9, New York Times reporter David Carr noted Imus' history of racism and the parade of media luminaries who have appeared on his show, who have rarely raised questions about the show's bigotry. Carr noted that, even in the aftermath of the latest Imus slurs, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas defended appearing on the show, explaining: "I am going on the show, though. I think if I didn't, it would be posturing. I have been going on the show for quite some time and he occasionally goes over the line."

It's time for CBS and NBC to acknowledge that Imus is unlikely to ever rein in his bigotry, that the crude and hateful insults are a key part of his routine: Like the cowboy hat, they provide an air of "edginess" to what is often otherwise a dull exercise in Beltway insider back-scratching.

A media company that chooses to run such a show has two choices: It can declare, explicitly or implicitly, that calling people "nappy-headed hos" and "beanie-wearing Jewboys" is an acceptable part of the national discussion. Or it can end its affiliation with said program.

The Russerts, Finemans and the like who elect to appear on Imus' show have a similar decision: Are you down with "nigger jokes" or aren't you?

ACTION: Contact Westwood One president Peter Kosann and MSNBC general manager Dan Abrams and ask whether, given the track record of empty apologies from Don Imus, their companies have any problems with the hateful slurs the talk host will predictably air in the near future.

General Manager
Dan Abrams
(201) 583-5000

Westwood One
Peter Kosann
President and Chief Executive Officer
(212) 641-2037


Pan-African News Wire said...

April 11, 2007

Imus Struggling to Retain Sway as a Franchise

New York Times

That Don Imus can be abrasive and offensive is undeniable, but he is also one of the most successful and influential pitchmen in the history of radio, if not broadcasting.

In the last few weeks, Mr. Imus has provided a forum for a Democratic presidential aspirant, Christopher J. Dodd, to announce his candidacy and promoted a book from Simon & Schuster (“Green This! Volume 1”) that his wife, Deirdre, wrote about cleaning products she conceived. He also pumped sales for a country singer, Martina McBride, and raised millions of dollars for an Army medical facility in Texas.

His program generates in excess of $20 million in annual revenue for CBS Radio, his primary employer, and his flagship New York station, WFAN, according to two people apprised of the show’s finances who spoke on condition of anonymity. When advertising revenue for affiliates and MSNBC, which simulcasts the program, is included, the figure exceeds $50 million.

But yesterday, the third day Mr. Imus spent asking for forgiveness for a racially disparaging remark about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, he demonstrated that the brand he was having the hardest time selling was his own.

His plea that the Rutgers team agree to hear his apology directly — a request he renewed yesterday during a live, combative interview on the “Today” program — was answered.

In a midday news conference at the Rutgers University athletic center in Piscataway, N.J., one player said that the team would soon meet privately with Mr. Imus.

Whether Mr. Imus can use the team’s gesture to help save his broadcasting career — he begins serving a two-week suspension on Monday — remains unclear. As CNN broadcast pictures of the players arrayed on a stage behind their coach, their faces long and at times streaked with tears, several prominent advertisers announced plans to distance themselves from the talk show host.

Staples, the office supply chain, as well as Miralus Healthcare, a pharmaceutical company that makes a headache medication called HeadOn, said yesterday that they had asked MSNBC to remove their advertising from the television simulcast of Mr. Imus’s radio program and run their commercials elsewhere.

Some advertisers had left the Imus program before last week’s remarks. AT&T stopped advertising in January, and General Motors stopped its radio ads (though it still broadcasts TV commercials with the simulcast.)

Procter & Gamble went a step further yesterday. It said that, for now, it had withdrawn all its advertising from MSNBC’s daytime schedule — a potential loss of more than $560,000 on an annual basis for the Imus simulcast alone, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

“We have to think first about our consumers,” said Jeannie Tharrington, a spokeswoman for the consumer products manufacturer,“so anyplace where our advertising appears that is offensive to our consumers is not acceptable to us.”

Procter & Gamble’s response underscored a delicate balance that has existed on “Imus in the Morning” for years. For those who have been the beneficiaries of Mr. Imus’s largess, putting a product or a cause in his hands is not unlike a spin of the roulette wheel. Sometimes, he will talk about someone after a thoughtful 12-minute interview of Senator John Kerry or Senator John McCain that is as substantive or illuminating as any on programs like “Meet the Press.”

Other times, he might sing a person’s praises after uttering an ill-considered remark or after a member of his supporting cast had done a scalding send-up of such regular targets as the embattled United States attorney general, Alberto Gonzales; the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin; or Cardinal Edward Egan of New York.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Bo Dietl, a former New York police detective who appears weekly on the program to plug his private security business. “I do the show because the power of that show is enormous. But I’ve also lost a lot of business for being on that show.”

That said, the program, which draws an estimated two million listeners and viewers each day, is lucrative for Mr. Imus’s bosses, which could well be what saves him.

It is also lucrative for Mr. Imus —he earns an estimated $10 million a year, and has signed a five-year contract extension — and, at least until recently, his show had provided a lift to any number of ventures.

That may be at least partly why many of those who have gained from their associations with Mr. Imus — whether politically, financially or through the abundant publicity —were sticking by him yesterday, as he continued to lament his dismissal of the Rutgers team, most of whose members are black, as “nappy-headed hos.”

On the campaign trail, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mr. McCain, two Republicans who have appeared on the program, said they found the comment wrong and offensive, but said they believed that Mr. Imus was sorry. Each said he intended to appear on the show again. “I called him a little while ago to talk to him about it personally,” Mr. Giuliani said. “And I believe that he understands he made a very big mistake.”

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Dodd issued statements criticizing Mr. Imus’s original remark, but sidestepped any question of whether they would go back on the show. Mr. Kerry noted his apology.

While expressing his disappointment in Mr. Imus’s remark about the Rutgers team, Peter Osnos, founder and editor at large of PublicAffairs books, said he hoped Mr. Imus would not lose his job — a punishment that the Rev. Al Sharpton, among others, has demanded.

“He’s not a philistine,” Mr. Osnos said. “He’s not a bigot. But he was a jerk.”

“I would prefer not to see him driven off the air,” added Mr. Osnos, who recently placed Mr. Kerry, co-author with his wife, Teresa, of “This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future” on Mr. Imus’s show.

Indeed, outside of rare berths on “Today” or more frequent but still difficult to place bookings on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” authors have access to few other broadcast arenas with the reach and influence of Mr. Imus.

In the wake of the firestorm over his remark, Mr. Imus has pledged to purge the most offensive humor from his program.

“In that spirit,” said Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House Inc., whose imprints include Random House, Doubleday, Crown and Knopf, “our publishers will also evaluate their future advertising commitments for the program.”

Similar internal discussions are under way elsewhere.

Lumber Liquidators, a hardwood flooring company in Virginia, said its agreement to sponsor portions of Mr. Imus’s radio show was coming up for renewal, after its initial year. Tom Sullivan, the company’s chairman and founder, said that as recently as a few weeks ago, its continued association with Mr. Imus would have been a sure thing. Now, he said, he was unsure.

“I’ve been thinking about it the last few days,” he said in a telephone interview. “My girlfriend is black and she said not to do it.”

Nonetheless, he said he might well extend the contract, at least partly because advertising on Mr. Imus’s program had brought him new business, especially from customers in the New York area with high incomes.

Ultimately, whether Mr. Imus returns to radio and television after his suspension — and if so for how long — could rest with advertisers like Mr. Sullivan, and of listeners.

“My bet is he survives,” said Larry Gerbrandt, senior vice president and media analyst for Nielsen Analytics. “I think it’s the principle here. You can’t let third parties decide corporate policy.”

He added, “If the notoriety pushes up his ratings, he could even come out ahead.”

If the calculation were purely financial, both CBS Radio and MSNBC would have strong incentive to keep the program.

Beyond the rights fee it pays to CBS Radio to simulcast the program — about $4 million a year — the MSNBC show costs the network only about $500,000 a year, which is a modest expense for a three-hour daily program. If the channel had to replace the show with three hours of regular news coverage, “it would cost far more money than that to produce” an MSNBC executive said.

And CBS Radio could little afford to lose Mr. Imus’s cash stream, as it continues to reel from both the defection of Howard Stern to Sirius Satellite Radio and the failure of its efforts to institute a standardized format (known as Jack-FM) across the country.

And yet Mr. Dietl, the former detective, said he worried about the appeal of an Imus program without humor.

“If you handcuff him and just take away the entertainment,” Mr. Dietl said, “it’ll just become like any other talk show.”

Bill Carter, Sarah Abruzzese, Jeff Leeds, Motoko Rich, Marc Santora, Louise Story, Sarah Wheaton and Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting.

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